Cover Image: On Good Authority

On Good Authority

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Member Reviews

3/5 stars

Thank you to Netgalley, the publishers, and Braina Una McGuckin for allowing me to read and review this book.

This was an interesting read. It was not my cup of tea though. There are a lot of trigger warnings for this book, mainly surrounding sexual assault and sexual harassment and child loss. Please check those out before reading. There are also demonstrations and talk of BDSM.

This is a historical thriller book. It is more suspenseful than thriller in my opinion. It has two time periods. The before, which is the main story line of this book. The after, which scattered throughout the book in the form of one letter from the main character to "friend."

It is well written and the main character is a strong, independent female. It touches on hard topics of the past and power dynamics of the time period. It is a good book, just not my type of book. However, that does not mean you should not pick up this book if it sounds interesting to you.

I originally had this book at a 2-2.5 star rating until the end. I really enjoyed the last quarter of the book, especially how it ended, which is what bumped up the rating.

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Briana Una McGuckin has outdone herself with her debut! After reading the synopsis, I knew I had to have an ARC, which she generously sent. I devoured the book while traveling, and the thick tension and delicious atmosphere made layovers and plane rides sail by.

The characters are well-drawn, the world is rich, the dialogue is engrossing. I could scarcely put this down once I started. If you enjoy Victorian gothic, suspense, dom/sub power dynamics, or all of the above, this is a MUST READ.

I particularly enjoyed the skillful way Briana portrayed positive versus negative sexual power plays. For me, this is a sterling example of kink in literature. Highly recommend this read!

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I had no idea what to expect going into this book. What I got was a beautifully written story of gothic suspense and romance.
Raised in a workhouse after her parents are arrested for a crime Marian works hard to raise out of that station in life becoming a lady's maid in a rich manor house. But the master of the house is not a nice person and when Marian becomes indebted to him he holds her relationship with Valentine (an old friend also working at the manor) over her. It all explodes when a murder occurs, leading to an epic conclusion.

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I found some difficulty placing the book in the right genre to share with my readers. Partly romance, partly erotica, partly dramatic, partly gothic. partly misplaced. It does each partly, but never fully commits anywhere.

The novel builds tension slowly, unravelling a story with themes of class distinction, manipulation, and survival, while trying to tie in relationship.

The climax of the story will intrigue many, while the ending may leave the reader flat.

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ON GOOD AUTHORITY is a tantalizing tale of upstairs-downstairs, manor house intrigue that crackles with desire and dread. Readers will be hard-pressed to put it down once they're caught in its grip.

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This is a book about bondage. Yes, it is somewhat about bondage like the cover shows, but it’s really about all sorts of bondage women could be bound in the time period this book is set in, especially when that bondage involves the will of men or the power of money.

The cover calls this “a novel of suspense”, but if you’re looking for some high-wire suspense thriller or suspense mystery, you’re looking in the wrong place. This is more of a low thrumming, steadily beating, pastoral sort of suspense novel. The gothic isolation and overall story of trying to undermine and find a way out of an untenable situation with an awful patriarchal overlord is a more quiet and furtive pursuit for a lady’s maid in the 1800s than in most other suspense novels you may read this year. And this is, indeed, a rather quiet book, despite its cover.

I like this book, though, because it’s so unassuming and has no pretenses. It simply is what it is: a historical fiction novel that brings us some suspense, some mystery, some romance, and lovely prose. The narrative isn’t heavy, which can be an issue with some historical novels set in this time period, nor is the dialogue melodramatic, which can also be an issue. The small details a frequent reader of historical fiction would notice have been neatly taken care of, as far as I can tell, which is something I always look at in reading HF. The characters are outstanding, and their moral dilemmas, as written, would be quite consistent with the social mores and conventions of the time. Sure, even the Victorians got a little spicy and liked more than a little slap and tickle, but only the rich and privileged would have had the freedom to express such feelings without consequence (because they would have been the only ones who could pay for loyal silence).

This book does have a non-linear timeline of sorts, too. The book has scenes set in the past, when two of the main characters are young and live in one of London’s workhouses, and then in the present as they work together at Valor Rise. There are also letters from the FMC to an anonymous receiver interspersed throughout the novel. I greatly enjoyed the scenes set at the workhouse, because I believe the past scenes greatly helped to inform the present scenes. In some books I believe a juxtaposed timeline like this is extraneous, but in this book I fully believe it works really well.

Overall, it’s an enjoyable page-turning novel. I greatly enjoyed it.

Thanks to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for granting me access to this novel.

File Under: Historical Fiction/Historical Romance/Historical Mystery/Historical Suspense/Romantic Suspense

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This is an engaging read. Marian is a complex, but ultimately likable, character I was happy to spend some time with, and the author does a great job building the atmosphere and tension throughout.

The relationship aspects are interesting. On one hand, Marian and Valentine share some interests in BDSM. However, she’s very resistant to her master’s efforts to abuse her and have his way with her. In that respect, this book draws a clear line about consent and lifestyle. What you consent to do with a romantic partner doesn’t give anyone else license to do the same to you. I will admit that the inference about the content initially made me think the book was going to head in some different directions, but no complaints.

In fact, this book has a solid plot and hides some things in plain sight to keep you guessing. There were unexpected twists along the way, and I genuinely thought the ending would go one direction for a while. Instead, it surprised me and for me, the ending elevated what was already a strong read.

The author’s done their homework about the time period and done a fantastic job immersing the reader in the historical setting. This works well, and the author also delved into some areas we rarely see in historical fiction, such as the homes where women and children went when their families fell on hard times. In that respect, parts of it are challenging and infuriating, because a bad harvest can put a man in jail and leave their family destitute. This book also looks at the abuses levied against servants by the upper class, which also doesn’t seem to happen often enough.

I definitely think anyone who likes historical romance will enjoy this. I also think it will appeal to historical mystery fans who don’t mind a strong romance theme throughout. 4 stars.

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This 1800 London, gothic type novel was a treat. Although there are some trigger warnings this story just flowed well. The characters were so likeable and full of life. For a debut novel I was splendidly surprised by how well it was written. I really liked Marian's character and how she stood up for herself even when she was just a lady's maid.

A really good read and an author to watch for sure!

Thank you Netgalley and Thomas & Mercer for the opportunity to read and review this ARC.

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Not the book for me. Unlikable characters doesn't bother me. But give me something to root for, some redeeming about them thats believable. The writing was disjointed, the story was disappointing, and I couldn't wait until the story was over. I wish the author future success, but this wasn't the story for me.


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On Good Authority by Briana Una McGuckin

Compelling twisted dark gothic suspense that I could not put down.

What I liked
* Marian Osley: eight years in a workhouse, loving daughter, lady’s maid hopeful about her new job in service but fearful soon, seamstress, good friends with Valentine in the workhouse
* Valentine Hobbs: workhouse for several years, orphaned young, works way up in service to footman status, good friend of Marian’s in the workhouse
* The way the childhood games Marian and Valentine played in the workhouse games were presented and the part they played in grounding them
* The strong enduring friendship between Marian and Valentine
* The dark oppressive dangerous feel of Valor Rise estate
* The ability to so dislike Wythe Bornholdt
* Feeling more than one thing about Diana Bornholdt
* Wishing Karma would eventually be dealt out as I hoped it would be
* Being drawn into the story and feeling part of it
* The plot, pacing, atmosphere, character development and overall writing
* The conclusion…and thinking about what happened after the last page
* Reading a new-to-me author that I truly enjoyed
* All of it really except…

What I didn’t like
* Who and what I was meant not to like
* Thinking about how unfair the class system of the times was and how little recourse was available to many with such a divide and discrepancy between the various levels

Did I enjoy this book? Yes
Would I read more by this author? Yes

Thank you to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for the ARC – This is my honest review.

5 Stars

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What a pleasant surprise this was. Gothic romance and suspense with a dash of kink. Very enjoyabe and surprising. Thank you netgalley and publisher for this arc in exchange of an honest review.

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I wasn't sure what to expect of this, given the advance notice of BDSM, but what I found was a gothic bodice ripper (literally) about Marian and Valentine who work for the evil Bornholdt and his wife. Marian and Valentine have been together since they met in a workhouse but their relationship is fraught because they are both used and abused by Bornholdt. The BDSM is not lurid but there's a fair amount of drama here. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. It's an interesting read.

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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the arc of "On Good Authority" by Briana Una McGuckin.

Marian has escaped the workhouse she has lived in for the majority of her life to become a lady's maid in the Bornholdt household. She is escaping her past for something much more comfortable, at least so she thinks. Upon meeting the master of the house his desire for her is made known and Marian does what she can do avoid him. When her childhood best friend, Valentine, appears suddenly everything takes a much more difficult turn.

I will say that reading this book now it was not what I was expecting it to be. Bornholdt was much more the villain than I was expecting from the blurb. However, the twisting of erotica, danger, romance, and life in historical England was captivating. For our two main characters their lives hang in the balance and they already know exactly how bad it can get and are desperately trying to keep themselves away from those situations. But learning that those they thought were good in childhood just have the power to make themselves seem good is much more difficult to comprehend.

I enjoyed the twists and turns though the ending felt a bit to drawn out, the time passing from one heightened event and the final one was a bit drawn out. Overall it read well and quickly and was enjoyable. I would have enjoyed if the author had found a way to keep the tension between Marian and Valentine later in the novel but I understand why it wasn't possible and continue the plot. It also would have been nice to have a final note about who the 'Friend' in the letters that Marian is writing was, while looking back I think I have figured it out but I am not entirely sure and would like the closure.

Overall an enjoyable few hours spent reading.

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McGuckin’s debut simmers with sensuality as it sweeps readers along through twists built on longing and deception wrapped in beautiful, lyrical prose. With many books delving into sexuality outside of societal norms, it’s refreshing to see the topic handled so well and with authenticity and sensitivity. Fans of Downton Abbey if the show included sexy scenes involving leather crops will devour this book with relish. Looking forward to reading whatever comes next from this new, exciting voice in gothic fiction.

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I had no idea what to expect going into this book. What I got was a beautifully written story of gothic suspense and romance.
Raised in a workhouse after her parents are arrested for a crime Marian works hard to raise out of that station in life becoming a lady's maid in a rich manor house. But the master of the house is not a nice person and when Marian becomes indebted to him he holds her relationship with Valentine (an old friend also working at the manor) over her. It all explodes when a murder occurs, leading to an epic conclusion.
An awesome first novel, McGuckin handles of sensitive topics such as BDSM, assault, abuse, death , to mention only a few, with sensitivity and dignity, bringing to the forefront the difference between consent and abuse, control and willingness and she does it with beautiful atmospheric almost lyrical prose!
I was captivated by her words and writing style, I look forward to seeing what her next novel will entail.
I highly recommend to all looking for an atmospheric gothic tale filled with just the right amount of hot, sensual scenes.
Thank you to the publishers at Thomas and Mercer and to Net Galley for the free ARC, I am leaving my honest review in return.

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With evocative phrases and atmospheric prose, Brianna McGuckin brings the reader into the lives of Marion and Valentine, servants in the employ of the Burnholts in the sprawling manor that is Valor Rise.
As children growing up in a poorhouse, Marion and Valentine cope with their anger and despair at their situation through children's games which become so much more. Separated when Valentine is sent to work for a wealthy family, Marion uses her inclination to do as she's told and becomes a talented dressmaker. Upon turning 18, Marion is sent to Valor Rise to be a lady's maid for the ailing Mrs. Bornholdt; the position being open due to the serial dalliances between the lecherous Mr. Bornholdt and previous servants. Fortune smiles on Marion when Valentine is sent to Valor Rise from a neighboring manor to replace an injured footman. The two shyly resume their friendship, eventually deepening their connection through the increasingly intense, consensual games they played so innocently as children. Misunderstandings between the two servants and the master and mistress of Valor Rise ensue, and deeply buried secrets are tragically revealed, culminating in a suspense-filled finale.
Brimming with gothic ambiance, On Good Authority is a twisty thriller, notable because of the intense bond between its main characters; an exceptional debut.

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I had the real honor to read On Good Authority, a beautiful story that's equally warm and thrilling. No wasted words and a powerful plot, but what really shook me were the real human connections and real human emotions, not least of all mine. I've discovered truths about myself I didn't know I was looking for. Well done, Briana!

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This had all of the components to be a seriously brilliant, but it fell a little bit short for me. Definitely felt immersed in that time period, but some parts felt really slow and just expected more.
Lots of potential and some lovely descriptions.

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I had high hopes for this book but it ultimately fell short.

I think the copy hypes this book up more than what it actually is. The kink element is in the forefront but it actually didn't feel that kinky to me. I also thought the conflict with the employer would be a lot more sinister than it was. I also had trouble caring about the protagonist. I never felt like I got to know her on a level that I prefer in reading fiction. She was never very clear to me.

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Excellent debut novel.

Birana Un McGuckin's first novel is a lush, gothic tale of Marian and Valentine. Children in poverty now grown into maid and footman. Unexpectedly reunited in the Bornholdt household, a place with dark secrets and dangers, the two begin a charged, BDSM-tinged relationship, before Master Bornholdt centers in on Marian.

No Gothic is complete without social commentary and and drawn lines meant to be crossed. This book has them in abundance. The terrible state of the era is presented in its full glory, while Marian struggles with he true desires. After having lost Valentine for so long, she believes herself wicked for her feelings, with a dangerous romance soon to blossom.

And said chemistry between them positively crackles on the page. McGuckin builds tension and dread through the novel, perfectly paced and brimming with themes of love, lust, secrets, repression and more. The prose is superb, the characters are well drawn and the secrets of the Bornholdts and exquisitely revealed. The novel lives by the feelings between Marian and Valentine, with things positively sizzling on page.

Emotionally charged and excellent debut.

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