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A Peculiar Combination by Ashley Weaver – ARC Review!

A Peculiar Combination

Electra McDonnell has always known that the way she and her family earn their living is slightly outside of the law. Breaking into the homes of the rich and picking the locks on their safes may not be condoned by British law enforcement, but World War II is in full swing, Ellie’s cousins Colm and Toby are off fighting against Hitler, and Uncle Mick’s more honorable business as a locksmith can’t pay the bills any more.

So when Uncle Mick receives a tip about a safe full of jewels in the empty house of a wealthy family, he and Ellie can’t resist. All goes as planned–until the pair are caught redhanded. Ellie expects them to be taken straight to prison, but instead they are delivered to a large townhouse, where government official Major Ramsey is waiting with an offer: either Ellie agrees to help him break into a safe and retrieve blueprints that will be critical to the British war effort, before they can be delivered to a German spy, or he turns her over to the police.

Ellie doesn’t care for the Major’s imperious manner, but she has no choice, and besides, she’s eager to do her bit for king and country. She may be a thief, but she’s no coward. When she and the Major break into the house in question, they find instead the purported German spy dead on the floor, the safe already open and empty. Soon, Ellie and Major Ramsey are forced to put aside their differences to unmask the double-agent, as they try to stop allied plans falling into German hands.

My Review.

I received a copy of the book from the publisher and can confirm all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Ellie McDonnell is used to living on the wrong side of the law, but when attempting to break into a seemingly empty house one night Ellie and her Uncle end up collared. They are given a simple decision; Help the government break into the house or someone thought to be a Nazi sympathiser or go to Prison. As much as Ellie might resent being cajoled into the job, as well as her disdain for the person they will be working with, she know’s one quick and easy job is better than Prison. Only when they get to the house instead of finding the papers they were looking for they find a dead body m, and Ellie quickly finds herself being dragged deeper into the conspiracy, but not everyone is who they seem & the spy could be closer to home than they think.

I loved this book, it was such a light and humorous read and the perfect palate cleanser after reading a lot of heavy and dark fantasy. Ellie was a fantastic POV to read from, she is a girl who could easily fit into the refined life of upper London, but also one I wouldn’t want to take on in a fight. She is used to being revered and appreciated for her skill in the ‘family business’ so is slightly put out when the Major see’s her as nothing more than a criminal. She is resilient and whip smart, as well as incredibly witty and self deprecating.

Though the book is told solely through Ellie’s POV we do get introduced to a host of side characters, some of which I think will be ‘main players’ in the series to come, from Ellie’s Uncle Mick, their housekeeper Nacy, Ellie’s cousin Colm and childhood friend/potential sweetheart Felix, but my favourite by far was Major Ramsey. He starts off the book as an extremely rigid, by the book kind of fellow ( and tbh he kinds of ends in the same way) but through the story we get to see Ellie slowly breaking down walls he seems to have spent years building up. He first see’s Ellie as simply a means to an end, but the more time they spend together, the more he see’s how incredibly smart she is and how useful she could be to the war effort.

This was an incredibly fast paced read, and if I hadn’t been buddy reading I think I could have easily polished it off in one sitting. Though there are plenty of action scenes, there is also a lot of introspection, something that wouldn’t have worked as well had Ellie not been such a brilliant pov to read from. I got big Agent Carter style vibes from her, someone who doesn’t want to be treated differently because she is a woman, as well as being unafraid to put herself into the path of danger. It also meant that even though the book was set in WWII, an obviously dark time in London’s history, the author manages to bring a levity to the story and I didn’t feel bogged down in the war like I have done in similar style books. That’s not the say the war, and the realities of it aren’t mentioned, just that through Ellie’s eyes it doesn’t seem all doomy and gloomy.

Now, there is a love triangle, and I’m not the biggest fan of them myself but this was written well. One because Ellie is incredibly strong and outspoken, so basically no man has any say in how she lives her life, but also because it didn’t overshadow the plot. The romance in this book was minimal, there were some ‘steamy’ for the times moments, but most of it was focused on the case at hand. We do see Ellie comparing the two suitors in her head which make’s for some entertaining and humorous reading because they couldn’t be less alike, and I am definitely interested to see how it is dealt with in future books ( I know who I’m rooting for.)

The actual plot of the book was relatively tied up at the end, although there were plenty of unanswered questions that I hope will be brought up in book two. There are one or two plots twists that add flow to the story, but in general with the pace being as fast as it was, and with Ellie’s pov being as light and humorous, I found this to be an incredibly easy read, one that I wholeheartedly enjoyed, and I will definitely be keeping my eye out for the next instalment.

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