Cover Image: A Lark's Flight

A Lark's Flight

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Well it is certainly different. Verity is a master of disguise with multiple personalities to pick from. That is rather fun. But I found my mind wandering as I read. Didn't love it, didn't hate it.

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I received an EARC and began the book without realizing it is book 2 in 1 series and is also connected to a second series, all of which I plan to read as I loved the character of Verity Lark.
Verity is a unique character who grew up in an orphanage and has managed to make a career as a journalist and gossip columnist. The dialogue is witty, especially in scenes where Verity disguises herself as various characters to help solve mysteries. I highly recommend this book and do plan to read more of Messina's books.

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Thank you so much to NetGalley and Lynn Messina for providing me with a complimentary digital ARC for A Lark’s Flight coming out June 2, 2023. The honest opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Verity Lark is England's most unshakable gossip and the London Daily Gazette's most dogged reporter. She loves a great challenge, which is why she refuses Colson Hardwicke's offer of lower employment.

She has more important things to do — figuring out why Hardwicke is interested in the radical reformer. During her previous talk with him, he had shown himself to be the superior tactician, and she is determined to even the playing field. Proving that the radical reformer is an escaped fugitive is one way. Saving the country from a Luddite insurrection is another.

But when Verity comes across a dead man in a lowdown boarding house, the competition suddenly stops being a game. There is more going on than she had ever imagined, and as she struggles to untangle Hardwicke's web of machinations, she is forced to wonder if she has been used all along.

I haven’t actually read the first book, so it took a little time getting into the story. I personally enjoy more dialogue and this story had more description. It was a little difficult to get to know the characters’ personalities through the description for me. I would’ve liked to see more insight into their motives. The second half of the book did pick up a lot more for me and I enjoyed it a lot.

I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys regency mysteries!

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Latest entry in the Verity Lark series. this was a fun read with a serious side focused on labor issues. The dialogue was sharp and entertaining, and the characters - especially some of the minor but extremely memorable characters - were well-drawn. I think I slightly prefer this series to the author's companion series featuring Beatrice Hyde-Clare - there are fewer lengthy internal monologues. A very enjoyable book and I look forward to the next in the series, Thanks to #NetGalley for the ARC.

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Verity Lark or Robert Lark or Twaddle strike again. Verity Lark is the illegitimate daughter of a famous courtesan who became a duchess. Babies are inconvenient for courtesans so Verity was dumped at a horrible orphanage as a newborn. Now in her 30’s, Verity has survived a very rough Regency England childhood and now thrives under the guise of her fictitious brother Robert, a successful investigative reporter, and Twaddle-Thum, an infamous gossip reporter, both writing for the London Gazette published by her lifelong friend and fellow orphan Frederick Somerset Reade. Verity is brilliant, resourceful and competitive. In addition to her secret identities, she is also the half sister on the Duke of Kesgrave. Kesgrave knows nothing about her and their shared, deceased hated and selfish mother. These two characters, along with Kesgrave’s wife Bea are crossovers from Messina’s other series…the wonderful Beatrice Hyde-Clare mysteries. In this book, some questions are answered in both series. Please read both…they are great.
In the first book of the Verity series, A Lark’s Tale, we also meet Lord Colton Hardwick, the disinherited second son of the Marquess of Ware. Who may be a wastrel or a talented investigator or something more intriguing. There may be sparks between them or an ego driving competition. This time, Hardwick asks Verity to work on an investigation of radicals (although they seem reasonable to modern readers) and Luddite’s threatening the status quo. Verity thinks Colson’s offer of assignment is trivial and a condescending affront to her skills. Let the games begin….

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A Lark’s Flight by Lynn Messina is the second installment in the Verity Lark Mystery series. The story takes place in 1816 London and is set in the universe of the Beatrice Hyde-Clare saga and runs parallel to it with many overlapping incidents, mentions and characters. I have to admit I have not read either the first part of this series or any in the Beatrice Hyde Clare series. I went in blind and I loved it. Though it will be more enjoyable to read the series in order, it is not a necessity. Having said that, I will be reading the author's prior work as her characters were really interesting and after so much mention of Her Outrageousness, I’m quite intrigued with her and the Duke of Kesgrave.

Summary- The plot follows Verity Lark who is a smart, stubborn, cunning, confident and a shrewd reporter and found her employment in Journalism by donning the aliases of Robert Lark, a serious and respectable reporter and Mr. Twaddle-Thum, the gossip columnist whose main target has always been the Duchess of Kesgrave which he dubbed as ‘Her Outrageousness’ and her benign affairs. She is profoundly competent in her job but when Colson Hardwicke compliments her so (after a job in book 1) and asked her to be his aide and play the part of a giggling sister for his investigation she takes offense and refuses him while deciding on taking the case nonetheless by herself just so to let him know that she is not only astoundingly competent but actually superior than him in intellect. What follows is a simple yet very entertaining investigation but when Verity found a man murdered in a rundown boarding house, things take an interesting and more serious turn and lands her in between an Insurrectionist rebellion.

My thoughts- I really like the author’s writing style which is witty as well as very straight. Her characters are delightfully interesting and I personally really liked Delphine and Mrs. Buglehorn. The banter between Delphine and Verity was perfect and humorous. It was really fun watching her don so many personalities during her investigation and was proof of how good she was at her job. Her mind worked in so many ways and the way she comes to a conclusion is so very fascinating to watch. Verity’s confusion of her feelings for Hardwicke were pretty evident by her inner dialogues.

“Giving Colon Hardwicke a compliment, it appeared , was just beyond her reach”

“Just because she did not value his admiration did not mean she did not want it”

Although she was quite frustrating at instances where she was adamant in finding an ulterior motive in everything Hardwicke did even when his appreciation for her was plain in sight.
Verity’s wittiness, her razor sharp intellect and her oh-so-many humorous personalities has left me definitely wanting for more. I would love to see the Duke, Duchess, Verity and Hardwicke working together and hope the author will grace us with that next.

Thank you NetGalley and The Book Whisperer for providing me with an ARC of the book in exchange for an honest review.

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This was absolutely delightful. The plot was well-paced and captivating from start to finish. The characters were charming and witty. I highly recommend this fun and quick read! Many thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for the advanced copy of the book.

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This second volume in the series is slightly better than the first. The story meanders a bit in the beginning and takes awhile to get to the point. It doesn't become a murder mystery until about the halfway mark. Then I couldn't put it down. There's a lot of repetition of Bea's adventures. Verity's story also happens simultaneously with Bea's latest investigation. Verity seems to figure things out though so if you don't want to be spoiled with even a guess, go ahead and read Bea's story and skim over those passages in Verity's. All the labor history and reform society business was also a bit confusing at first. The information is summarized and repeated later so it makes more sense. I worked in a textile mill museum so I'm quite familiar with the stocking frame and poor working conditions. It's kind of sad that it took a good century and a half to achieve the things people in this book are asking for and they're still fighting the fight for a better life. This plot is very current.

I'm still not sure I like Verity. She's so incredibly stubborn and independent that she fully believes that Hardwicke is playing some kind of elaborate game of chess with her. He has manipulated her but I'm not sure he did it on purpose and I don't think he's doing what she thinks he is. She can't admit that she's attracted to him and that he might be attracted to her based on intellect. Verity is prickly without reason. She has Freddie and Delphine to be her family. Freddie is her male alter ego, ready to change the world with his newspaper and Delphine's sweet nature keeps Verity alive. Verity also seems to have a vendetta against her brother for no good reason. He's only just discovered her existence. She wouldn't have inherited anything anyway even if she was legitimate and the daughter of the Duke. She seems to take delight in teasing him and felt prepared to both feel sorry for him yet gloat when he married a dull Society beauty. I don't know why she's so shocked by Bea's exploits because hers are even zanier!

I love a good rogue and Hardwicke is no exception. I don't think he's playing chess with Verity though. I get the impression he's involved in something he can't tell her about. The government is so very hush hush at this time. He's hinted there's more to him than Verity realizes and I also think he's falling in love with her. She seems him as an adversary but I don't think he sees himself that way. His last speech made me swoon!

Personally I think Hardwicke and Verity are both wrong about Fitch. I see Fitch as an opportunist. I think he's both an informer AND a reformer. He claims to be for non-violent resistance which is great but I bet he ran at the first sign of violence up north and informed on his fellow reformers. I wouldn't be surprised if he has a history of doing such a thing. I can't think why Verity wouldn't think of that. Fitch seems nice enough. He's genial, kind and passionate. He's a great speaker and gets people to hand over their meager wages to join the cause. His sister is rather silly and lacks intelligence. She's not perceptive enough to see through Verity's disguise and prattles on and on. What she reveals is quite surprising, yet not entirely. What mystery is afoot here? There's something going on Verity can't see.

The mystery is tied to an uprising in the north last Christmas and the Luddite movement. Luddites were not opposed to machines, they were opposed to the exploitation of the workers who were treated like machines. (Workers were known as "hands" and when the machines wear out, the owners got new ones. When the workers wore out, the owners did the same.) I know that story well and am very familiar with the stocking frame they smashed! The leaders of the uprising were rounded up and executed for the crime of wanting a better life. No evidence suggests they were violent. (See Peterloo Massacre) Some members are still at large with a bounty on their heads. Verity believes Mr. Fitch might be one of them. Which one is he: Vane, Horne or Pocock? What about Mr. Smith? I think he is the labor leader and Fitch is a poseur and Smith is out to get Fitch.

Who are the next suspects Verity must investigate? Mr. Lemon seemed cranky when printing up handbills. He's suspicious of new people and doesn't want to give away information for free. Mr. Ossenford and Mr. Dircks are the prime suspects. What cause do they have to meet with a wealthy stocking merchant? A-ha! I knew it. Someone or several someones are poseurs. I think they were paid to inform on the rebels and cause trouble. Mr. Ossenford is not very nice and he's cranky, while Mr. Dircks is a bit of an idiot. He'll save his own skin and rat someone else out if you push him hard enough. I think Verity isn't pushing hard enough! Mr. Winthrop seems nice enough but a little selfish. He makes some good points, if Verity's story were true. Mr. Davidge is a klutzy idiot who can't do anything right. I feel bad for him though! Dylan Morton is a sad, angry drunk; disillusioned and possibly dangerous. Disillusionment leads men to behave recklessly and he's really angry at everyone and the world. Morton has a bad temper. I would guess that he could and would kill a man in cold blood. Clemmon Miller is a petty thief, in trouble a lot for thievery. He's lazy and doesn't seem like he could be a murderer.

Mr. Smith's landlady, Mrs. Buglehorn, is quite the character. She takes penny pinching to the extreme, charging her boarders fees for every little thing, like tea cups and for NOT doing things like coming to breakfast or being late with rent. Her cavalier reaction to finding a dead body in her boarding house is surprising. I quite like her even though she's horrible and I hope she's not the murderer. The timing doesn't quite fit.

Mr. Kingsley, an under-secretary at Whitehall, is a moron. He is quick to threaten Verity (in disguise) and shut down whatever it is she isn't seeing. She thought she was handing him a suspect and instead ended up with another mystery. Under-Secretary Grint is more fair and willing to listen yet he too sees violent rebellion and insurrection around the corner when nothing of the sort is going on! Neither of them talk to each other of course. One thing I've learned from my historical mysteries is that government departments never ever talk to each other about what's going on and are often working towards the same goal separately with different tactics! I'd love it if Lord Sidmouth were a fictional character who would get his comeuppance for being a truly horrible human being, but alas, the Home Secretary, was an evil conservative politician who was so completely against the idea of reform that he manufactured excuses to murder innocent people and pass draconian laws that prevented working class people from getting ahead.

Mrs. Chaffey, the orphan asylum matron, is wonderful. Endlessly cheerful even in the face of adversity, she appreciates all the help she can get and sees the glass as half full. She knows there are endless structural problems with the building and the best SHE can do is see to the emotional well-being of the children and make sure they are educated too. I like her a lot.

I hope this isn't the end of the Beatrice Hyde-Clare series. I want to see Verity and Bea team up and run circles around the men. I think the Duke could keep up but Hardwicke will need time to get used to them and catch up. It would be a lot of fun for the four of them to investigate together.

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Have you ever tried to untangle a particularly complicated series of knots in the chain of a favorite necklace? There are times when you aren't sure you're making any progress, moments when you think you've made progress just to find out the knot you've just loosed is setting up another one to take hold, times when you worry that you'll never wear your necklace again, and then there is that wonderful moment when you realize you see the route to the end of your task. That moment is almost more rewarding than actually putting that necklace on.

That is the experience of reading A Lark's Flight by Lynn Messina. To be fair, that's the experience of reading every book by Lynn Messina. They are complex, layered mysteries, thick with internal dialogue, and are absolutely delightful.

This second book in Verity Lark's series has the heroine diving into a murder investigation that intersects with an investigation of insurrectionists that her potential love interest, Colson Hardwicke, is pursuing. Colson is fascinated by Verity, but in the potentially beautiful moments where he tells her of his esteem, she deflects. Verity can't fathom that this man is giving her authentic compliments. These little moments, where she's on the cusp of trusting him, are bittersweet. She's so close to letting him in, but her past, including a childhood spent in a miserable orphanage, has her misconstruing his words into challenges or veiled insults.

At the same time, we have a promise of an interaction with Damien, Duke of Kesgrave, and Verity's brother right in the prologue. Anyone who has read the Beatrice Hyde-Clare series in which Damien sleuths with his wife will delight as the timelines of the two series come together after running parallel for two books.

If one does jump into Lynn Messina's universe with this book or this series, I can't help but hope the urge to read her other series will be followed.

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Verity on the trail!

What joy it is to make Verity Lark’s acquaintance again. Shrewd, with an Holmsian intellect, an ingrained sense of honor, and able to think every way which on a problem. No straight lines for this woman. Working incognito using three major personas there’s newspaper gossip columnist, Mr. Twaddle-Thum, as a serious writer masquerading as her non existent brother, Robert Lark. Holding these together plus being herself is incredible.
When Colson Hargreaves throws down the gauntlet, (or at least that’s how Verity sees it )by inelegantly asking her to spy on an Arnold Fitch for him just using her“girlish laugh,” Verity is incensed into action. She refuses Colson but determines to investigate secretly without knowing. When she presented her information he would know her abilities,
This leads her to a reform movement which consisted of the Blanketerring movement and the Yarwellians protesting over machinery taking away people’s livelihood, and an involvement with a murder. All the while Verity is searching for evidence of Arnold Fitch’s involvement under the auspices of the Home Office spying against the Movement in these matters and simultaneously managing to enlarge his own coffers. And then there’s the Duke of Kesgrave! Now Verity had always known they shared a mother, the courtesan Duchess La Reina, but the Duke was unaware of Verity’s existence. Happenstance or something else’s leads the Duke and Duchess to Fortescue’s Asylum for Pauper Children, just as Verity is exiting. Mr Twaddle-Thum inside Verity’s head composes various scenarios for what might be. But for Verity,
“It was utterly bewildering, his presence at Fortescue’s, the way he had suddenly appeared, like Banquo at the banquet, an inexplicable figure, so ghostly and strange. In all her imaginings, she had never pictured him there, in the shadow of that crumbling old pile of stones she used to call home…
But for Damien, Due of Kesgrave, it’s a different type of mystery,
Damien “assured himself again that the woman whom he had seen on this very threshold a few days before was not his sister. The resemblance was only a coincidence or—and he considered this prospect to be the more likely one—a mistake on his part.” Still Damien is disturbed enough to keep searching.
Verity’s alter egos are on their job, Twaddle-Thum and Robert Lark. Not to mention her 101 other useful, often hilarious and frustrating disguises
Her ability to make herself into someone else, from a less than respectable boarding house madam to a footman or intrepid business man is breathtaking. I’m thoroughly besotted with Verity.
The link with the Duke and Duchess of Kesgrave is becoming even more fascinating.
I left her with a whole lot of suppositions about what could be and I’m definitely wanting more.

A Book Whisperer ARC via NetGalley.
Many thanks to the author and publisher.
Please note: Quotes taken from an advanced reading copy maybe subject to change
(Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.)

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I was thrilled when I saw A Lark’s Flight on NetGalley - thank you for the advanced reader’s copy.

I really enjoy Lynn Messina’s writing - it is always very clever and this did not disappoint. This is a great read and goes by fast. I could not stop until I knew.

I enjoy Verity Lark as much as I enjoy Bea. I hope there will be more to this series. I’m rooting for the whole family!

I just reviewed A Lark's Flight by Lynn Messina. #ALarksFlight #NetGalley

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