Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear - A Look at the Maisie Dobbs Series

Once upon a time I heard about a historical mystery series that took place after WWI. I was intrigued to find it centred around a strong, female character that had been a nurse during the war and was a private investigator after the war. I knew I was going to have to check it out. So, I ordered book 1. I was not impressed. I was almost bored. It was not an amazing start to a series and that made me sad. I wanted to love Maisie and get caught up in her world. I didn't entirely forget her, though. In 2009 I rejoined the library and one of the first things I did was get book two in the series: Birds of a Feather. The series just sounded like my thing and I wasn't about to give-up so easily. I didn't feel it necessary to run out and buy the entire series, but that is why libraries are so great. Birds of a Feather was SO MUCH better than book 1. Winspear really came into her own and I started to get interested in the characters and the story-lines. I had found a historical fiction mystery series that worked for me.

In 2009 I read all of the books that were available through the library and then I received a review copy of the newest book. That started me collecting the ones that I had read for free through the library. Suddenly I did want to own all the books. Maisie has captured my reading heart and I look forward to a new book every year. I always pre-order and hug when the book actually arrives. (According to Winspear's website Maisie appeared in 2003, so this is actually her 10th year of capturing readers hearts. And, Leaving Everything Most Loved is book 10. You have to love a writer that can put out a new book in a series every year.) While I was a bit slow in joining the Maisie bandwagon I still can appreciate her longevity and hope that Winspear continues the series for a while, but also goes out with a bang.

Let's look at the characters shall we? First up is Maisie, of course. The young main heroine of our tales. Let's be frank. She bothers me at times. She can be a bit too perfect and things can work out just a bit too perfectly for her. This is not to say that bad things don't happen, but she is a bit too squeaky clean at times. This is also the probably I have with Bess Crawford from Charles Todd's historical mystery series. The women do not have to be saints. It doesn't give them enough dimensions. People are not perfect all the time. While this doesn't detract from my enjoyment of the series necessarily, it does make me annoyed at times. If it bothered me too much I wouldn't still be with the series 10 books later. In a lot of ways it is the secondary characters that make the books for me. Is that a sad fact? I really enjoy Billy Beale for example. He is Maisie's assistant and was injured during the war. Winspear makes the time to give him a compelling backstory and I just enjoy the way that he interacts with people. It makes for an enjoyable character. I feel bad for him, too. He has had some bad luck in life.

Then there is Maurice. It is because of his relationship with Maisie that she was even able to become the investigator she is today. I really enjoyed seeing his character grow in the books. He was a bit mysterious at times and it was nice to get some glimpses into the man of mystery. A series of books centred around him would be very interesting. He has lived a varied life and it would be interesting to see more of his past. He was like a second father to Maisie even though Frankie Dobbs is very much alive and beloved by his daughter. He is a quieter character and is usually involved in quieter scenes when we see him. In a way even though he is not front and centre you really get a taste of who he is without that being necessary. Other characters include Lady Rowan Compton, Maisie's former employer, who I love and would love to learn more about. There is also her son, James, who was mostly absent from the earlier books and has more of a presence in the later books. I enjoy him.

Another enjoyable character from the series is Priscilla. She is Maisie's very larger than life friend. Not to mention the exact opposite of Maisie. It makes for a most interesting contrast at times. Maybe she will one day rub off on her friend? She does try. That just leaves Detective Inspector Richard Stratton and Simon Lynch. The detective crosses paths with Maisie often because of her cases. He quite admires Maisie, but the feeling is not returned. Even the detective has time for a back story because we know he is a widower and has a young son. I enjoy secondary characters that are three-dimensional. As to Simon, he is more of a presence than anything else. He was Maisie's first love and was injured during WWI. She still goes to visit him sometimes and there are moments where there are flashbacks to the way things were, but sadly his present character doesn't have the ability to become more central to the story. He is damaged in body and mind. It's a shame.

This brings us to book 10 in the series. There has been a lot of things that needed to be addressed and this book starts a new chapter in Maisie's life. It makes her rethink some of the things that have been happening. I think it is a very important book to the series. The problem with later books in the series is it is so hard to review them without ruining so many things. That is why I decided to go about this post as an overview of the entire series instead of rambling about one specific book. I have to at least mention the latest book, though. I continue to enjoy the series and will be waiting for book 11 to be hot off the presses. Maisie is a character that definitely grows on you and I really want to see what happens for her next. And, because the secondary characters have stories, too, I want to see what happens for them.

Also, I really enjoy the covers to this series.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours and Harper Collins for allowing me the chance to read the newest book in the series and participate in the tour.


  1. Awesome post, Kelly! I'm embarrassed to admit my ignorance, but while I've heard of this series I really didn't know anything beyond that they were mysteries. And for some reason I thought this was an older series. I *must* stop making assumptions like that! Anyway, you've definitely piqued my interest...and it's really good to know that I need to stick it out even if the first one doesn't grab me.

  2. I enjoyed the first book in the series but it didn't blow me away. I'm still looking forward to continuing though - it seems like Maisie's story just gets better and better!

    Thanks for being a part of the tour.

  3. I am glad to finally be on the Maisie bandwagon! I think I am up to book 5 now and enjoying the series a lot.

  4. Priscilla sounds like a great character, especially in contrast to Maisie.

    Also, I love being caught up on a series and then when the next book comes out, it's just like Christmas, only better than Christmas for my book loving soul. :)

  5. I've only read A Lesson in Secrets, but I want to go back and read the series from the beginning. Glad to know that you think it gets better and better.


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