Book Review: The Bluestocking Girl (The Von Strassenberg Saga, #2) by Gwenn Wright

The BlueStocking Girl (The Von Strassenberg Saga, #2)The BlueStocking Girl by Gwenn Wright

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Summary:   1896: The saga continues as young, headstrong Maria Smythe leaves her childhood home to pursue an education at a prestigious ladies' college. Little does she suspect how sheltered her life has been, the dark secrets her father has kept or the imminent danger she now faces. 2010: Being home in St. Louis stirs up memories William Drexler III would rather forget. Haunted by disturbing nightmares he struggles through his days, trying to forget Rocky while attempting to discover the reason behind his family's involvement with the Demures and von Strassenbergs. As he begins to unravel the mystery he finds that sometimes the truth is more dangerous than the lie.

If it weren't for William Drexler III (who for some reason, is not called Will or Tripp by anyone) & his family's backstory, I would not have made it through. I quite liked William in the first installment & was glad to find he would be taking us forward this time. Learning about what ails his psyche was a good time. The courtship of his parents & what became of his mother were all bits that added to figuring out who William is. And we got to see more of Abbie. I was glad of that because from the brief intro to her character in Filter, I'd hoped (& thought) that there was a story there. She's more a peer of William even though he's drawn to Rocky. And after Rocky-the-Wishy-Washy in Filter, I was happy to see William stick to what he said & extricate himself from the "complication" that their relationship was turning into. That's not a total slam to Rocky, she's had a lot going on & needs time to sort herself out. She can seek out William after she's a little more settled. Anyway, I was still left with wanting to know more about what makes William, The Second, tick. I imagine there's more to come on that front & the whole Drexler situation as we proceed through the saga & given how this book ended, there had better be!

Now for what I didn't like. Maria Smythe! Not since Bella Swan have I so wanted to tell a girl to shut up! I did not like her. I tried & then I decided that she wasn't doing enough for me to try so hard. Her voice was irritating & her constant derision & condescension for anyone who wasn't what she thought was exactly worthy wore on me fairly early. She never seemed interested in helping anyone to see her point of view, she'd already decided they weren't worth the energy. Self-involved much, Maria? She spent the vast majority of the book making the point that Henrietta & Katie are basically twits & have never been on her side (hence the reinforcement of she & Viktor against the world) & then when things go sideways, she's all "two more of the five people I've cherished most in life are now gone from my life too". She never sounded like she cherished them one bit so I didn't believe it & didn't empathize. I also didn't believe the one time Maria mentions that she & Katie though different, had always been the best of allies. It does not coalesce with anything else she tells us about her sister & their relationship throughout the entire book & didn't ring true. Honestly, I feel badly that Maria is Katherine's legacy. Katherine deserved better.

And then there's Viktor. I so loved him in Filter & this time around I found that I didn't like him very much. I wanted to give Viktor the benefit of the doubt but honestly, so much of what happened to he & Katherine in Filter was due to secrets being kept & his desire to "shelter & protect". We all know how badly that ended the first time so, that he was once again in that wheelhouse put me off. I understand it's a complex situation but it's been eighteen or so years & he's had plenty of time for reflection & introspection to have identified where things went wrong & what could have been a better course. Why he didn't display any growth in this way is beyond me. He had sense enough to be cautious & give Maria the chance to be a modern woman who is able to make her own way in the world but no clarity on giving her information that he knows may make the difference in her safety & possible survival from the horror that is Klaus von Strassenberg. WHAT?!!

Then there's Viktor's obvious disdain for Henrietta, (who I will freely admit was a pill in Filter) & his own daughter. Apparently Henrietta didn't grow one iota in the eighteen years that have elapsed either. Not after having been on the run with Viktor & baby Maria in the initial days of their escape in Filter or ever after. By all accounts, she is still only concerned with balls, money & marrying well & is living vicariously through her daughter Katie now. None of the tragedy of Katherine's life has made any lasting impression on her though she's been in necessary but self-imposed exile from the Demure family, lo these many years & is on board with Viktor's escape plan should they ever need to employ it. Again... WHAT?! Maybe this is to justify Viktor's dismissive tone with her & their daughter but I didn't like it. It felt like he scorned his own daughter for not being Katherine's & lavished all his attention & effort on Maria. When the guy is dying & all his thoughts revolve solely around Maria & none on how his own progeny will fare after his demise,<.spoiler> I don't have a lot of sympathy to dole out. Sorry.

The little of Henrietta & Katie we actually get to witness is at the very end & I didn't think either of them was so terrible. It is possible to like clothes, shoes & parties & still be a capable woman. Maybe it's written so black & white because the characters are on the cusp of changing society but it gets tedious to have such myopically deep sides drawn by narrative characters. As to Katie, I found lots of empathy for this fourteen year old girl in the brief time we see her near the end. She didn't need a lot of time to make me care & honestly, I was relieved that we finally get the answer to the Drexler association. I hope to see her again in future installments.

All in all, I gave this 4 out of 5 stars because I still very much like the story & have grown attached to some of the characters. There were fewer typos & errors in this Kindle version than in the first, so that was welcome. It could still do with a bit of clean up but it's a lot better. I look forward to the next installment & hope to see the characters grow & evolve. I would like less mention of eye color & physical size with the characters we already know. If it's mentioned once for new characters, readers should pick up on the significance at this point in the saga & it just becomes repetitive annoyance, especially when the character is going on about their own physical traits (see: Maria). The mysteries are still unfolding & we're at quite a cliffhanger so I'm very interested in how it all works out.

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