Now, I am all for a Regency romance – I find them easy to escape into with the repressed emotions, unrequited love, and misunderstandings over accidental eavesdropping – it’s all great. And while Within These Gilded Halls has a lot of this, it gets a little muddled with the addition of the murder mystery and treasure hunt.
And after quite a meandering narrative for most of the book, a lot happens in the last 25% that wasn’t particularly unexpected. All of the twists and surprises happened at the end, although I don’t think it was supposed to feel like that. Because there was so much going on, Phoebe and Graham would get excited to tell each other about one development but then get distracted by another aspect of the story – ‘hey, I found the next clue in the treasure hunt, oh wow you’re carrying a pistol, yes I’m worried about your safety with a killer on the loose do you know how to shoot? Quick shooting demonstration, oh he’s so close to me, oh yeah, I have feelings for him – oh yeah, forgot about the treasure hunt clue I was going to tell you about.’ That’s not me being hyperbolic, it’s a synopsis of an actual scene in the book.
The characters are interesting, but there’s little growth or development. Most of them are as they appear, yet Phoebe always seems so surprised when someone she didn’t trust does something untrustworthy. Besides this, I couldn’t get behind the romance – while it wasn’t instalove, it went from zero to a hundred very quickly.
Within These Gilded Halls didn’t entirely transport me to the regency era, and the narrative was a little messy, leading to an overall average read.