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The Theory of the Leisure Class (Modern Library Classics)
Thorstein Veblen, Alan Wolfe
Coronets and Steel - Sherwood Smith Aurelia Kim Murray hunts for her grandmother's past, hoping to find some clue to breaking her grandmother's depression. While searching Europe for clues, she feels like she's being watched. A strange encounter at the ballet proves to her that in fact, she is. And thus Kim gets swept up into an adventure of mistaken identity, supernatural happenings, and all the balls and swashbuckling her romantic heart could desire.

Although I liked the twists on the Ruritania tale, this story didn't do it for me. First off, it was hard to shake the feeling that Kim was constantly missing or forgetting to follow up on obvious clues. She took an absurdly long time to investigate the monk who married her grandmother, even though many of plots hinge on her mother's legitimacy. She continued to trust her Aunt Sisi long after I would have (from their very first meeting Sisi proves herself a snake), and long after everyone very obviously tries to warn her about her aunt's motives. She casually asks questions about ghosts and vampires, but never digs any deeper, even though everyone is afraid of vampires and ghosts are constantly giving her clues. In the end, it requires two chapters of Nat and Alex infodumping every single thing to Kim before she gets what's been going on. Secondly, Kim's romantic life frustrated me. I have no idea why Alex OR Tony is attractive to her, since neither of them tell her anything personal about themselves, and they kidnap, threaten, withhold information, etc. I particularly hated the scene where Tony is in the midst of kidnapping Kim (AGAIN) and Kim is like, oooh, his rock hard body and his kisses are so sexy! No. Plus, I really disliked Kim deciding to take Alex's choice out of his hands and fleeing Dobrenica. If she actually cared about and respected him, she would have talked it out. I am sick to death of characters making high-handed decisions for their love interest and calling it an honorable sacrifice. She is otherwise a fairly sensible girl, so in addition to being annoyingly silly her stubborn attraction to these two secretive men just seemed weird. And third of all, Dobrenica seems like a weirdly unproblematized version of Ruritania. The lower classes worship and respect the worthies in the upper classes, have all sorts of superstitions, basic technology doesn't work there, etc. I expected more from an author who usually deconstructs so many fantasy tropes.