Mad Miss Mimic

272p. Penguin/Razorbill. Jan. 2017. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9780143192374.
Gr 9 Up—In 1872 England, beautiful and wealthy 17-year-old Leonora Somerville is dutifully seeking a suitable husband under her older sister's critical eye. Leonora's speech is flawed by a stutter and sudden, startling, fluent outbursts of another's voice. Her peculiar disorder frightens others but intrigues handsome Francis Thornfax, the business partner of Leonora's brother-in-law, Dr. Dewhurst. Despite Leonora's attraction to Thornfax, she has questions about his secretive opium import business, the experimental "charity" treatments given to the poor by Dr. Dewhurst, and the fatal explosions in London credited to the pro-opium terrorist Black Glove. Gradually, Leonora learns the truth from enigmatic Tom Rampling, an apprentice to Dr. Dewhurst, who has feelings for her. Leonora's often self-imposed silence makes her an astute observer and narrator. Her strange mimicry outbursts erupt when she is stressed and metaphorically can't find her own voice. However, late in the narrative, her mimicry disorder vanishes with surprisingly little acknowledgement or resolution. Though the romantic elements are predictable, readers will appreciate the spunky heroine, the Dickensian cast of characters, the interesting historic references to 19th-century opium use, and the action-filled plot.
VERDICT Romance fans will enjoy Leonora's high-society lifestyle, her conflicted attraction to rich Thornfax and poor Tom, and her willingness to take risks to uncover the truth. A fine additional purchase for romantic historical fiction shelves in medium to large collections.

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