Tangled Webs by Lee Bross
Rating: 4 Stars
Series: Tangled Webs #1
Release Date: June 23, 2015
Goodreads synopsis:London, 1725. Everybody has a secret. Lady A will keep yours—for a price. This sumptuous, scandalous YA novel is wickedly addictive.
Lady A is the most notorious blackmailer in the city. With just a mask and a gown to disguise her, she sweeps into lavish balls and exclusive events collecting the most valuable currency in 1725 London—secrets.
But leading a double life isn't easy. By day Lady A is just a sixteen-year-old girl named Arista who lives in fear of her abusive master, Bones, and passes herself off as a boy to move safely through the squalor of London's slums. When Bones attempts to dispose of his pawn forever, Arista is rescued by the last person she expects: Jonathan Wild, the infamous Thief Taker General who moves seamlessly between the city's criminal underworld and its most elite upper circles. Arista partners with Wild on her own terms in the hopes of saving enough money to buy passage out of London.
Everything changes when she meets Graeden Sinclair, the son of a wealthy merchant. Grae has traveled the world, has seen the exotic lands Arista has longed to escape to her whole life, and he loves Arista for who she is—not for what she can do for him. Being with Grae gives something Arista something precious that she swore off long ago: hope. He has promised to help Arista escape the life of crime that has claimed her since she was a child. But can you ever truly escape the past?
*I received this ARC from Meghann @ Becoming Books as a guest reviewer, so this review was originally posted on Becoming Books!*
This is literally the first non-fantasy YA novel I've read in months! I actually can't remember the last time I read a book without any fantasy elements, so I was curious to see whether I'd like Tangled Webs, which is sort of a historical fiction. The book is set in 18th century London, where an orphan girl named Arista navigates the London social scene as a notorious blackmailer. The premise is interesting and certainly unique, but it was a bit slow at first and actually took me several days to finish it. It got really good in the last quarter of the novel, which is probably a little too late but nevertheless boosted the rating. I actually started tearing up the last two chapters because of a certain someone, which I absolutely did not expect with this novel. That just goes to show that Lee Bross does an excellent job making readers fall in love with the characters.
I was under the impression that there would be a love triangle, but Arista and the reader both knew that there was only one guy for her from the very start and that was great. I don't mind love triangles too much, but it was consistent with her character; Arista isn't one to dilly dally. I didn't care for the romance as much as I did the story since I didn't find it too believable. Since this is set in the early 18th century, the fast paced nature of Arista and Grae's relationship is probably normal, but to me, it just went way too fast and I would have liked to see more development.
As for the characters, Lee did a wonderful job developing all of them and it was nice to see a strong supporting cast. Although some of the decisions Arista made were frustrating, I didn't hold it against her. Grae is an absolutely sweetheart and is someone you just want to protect and hug all the time. Nic is also very well developed and multi-dimensional and by the end, he probably became one of my favorite characters in this story. However, I thought that Lee could have done a better job with Bones, the villain. The best villain is one that readers can almost sympathize with, but this guy is downright hateful with absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever; I hated him right until the end. Wild was much more interesting and multi-dimensional, though.
Overall, this was a good book for me to get off the fantasy track (though the next book I read will still probably be fantasy haha), and reminded me of why I enjoy reading YA historical fiction. It appears to be a series, but I thought it ended nicely the way it did and I still would have been satisfied had this been a standalone.