Wicked Widow (Vanza, # 3)

Wicked Widow (Vanza, # 3) - Amanda Quick 2.5-3 starsThis book reminded me a lot of the 2nd book, but with a different couple. While Artemas and Madeline are very different people than Edison and Emma, the banter between them, the chemistry between them, and the whole employer-employee thing was much the same.The ghost part of the story and the mystery involved was different, and that was more compelling than the relationship between Artemas and Maddie. Somehow, I didn't feel the heat between them like with Edison and Emma. Not sure why...The Vanza part of the tale was more revealed, but it still seems fantastic - probably because we still know so little about it. The author gives us dribs and drabs of the Strategies, the stealth, and the fighting techniques. I suppose she wants to keep it mysterious by not giving too much away; but it almost backfires, at least with me.However, there is a brief mention of Edison in this book. Madeline originally wanted to hire Edison, because he was supposedly the best (next possible Vanza Master); but she "settled" for Artemas, because Edison had taken his new bride (Emma) on a honeymoon tour. Later, Artemas remarks that he'll send something to the Isle of V on one of Edison's ships. So we intimate from those brief mentions that Artemas and Edison know one another through Vanza.But here's the thing: Vanza is supposed to be about suppressing strong emotion, yet Artemas is all about revenge and vengeance for a wrong done to his lover 5 years ago. Not that she didn't deserve to be avenged, it's just that Vanza supposedly helps one master that sort of thing. Artemas seems too emotional to be much good at Vanza, IMO. We never learn if he left the "circle" as Edison did or if Artemas supposedly still practiced. We never learn who Artemas' master was. I'm not sure if it matters, but it does seem as if this part of the tale is left out - and that leaves a hole... how can we really know who Artemas is if we don't know those answers?Madeline's father was Vanza, as was her grandfather. But again, I'm not sure if her father was a master or not; I *think* so, because I think that's what her husband, Deveridge, was after - the inner-circle knowledge that he thought Madeline's father had about Vanza. And her father did know a lot, but it seems what he knew was information collected about each Vanza member - their darkest secrets. It's never really clear why, except that Lorring (the previous Grandest Master of Vanza in England) appointed her father to keep the record. We know Lorring wasn't all good from the previous book, so one has to wonder about his reasons for wanting those records.Nonetheless, Madeline's father also taught her much about Vanza, even though it was supposed to be for men only. Most importantly, he taught her how to read the ancient language of Vanza; Madeline has just come into possession of a small bound book that she's deciphering from Vanza to English. But we don't learn much more about the book until the end - we only know that it must be significant somehow.The point of all of this is that Madeline wants to hire Artemas to find out if her husband is really dead or even if he's haunting her. She doesn't admit to shooting him that night, despite his questions. And no one really knows for sure. But Madeline is frightened and plagued by nightmares of that night. Other Vanza members seem to be encountering her husband's ghost, too. The description of the ghost is vague, but there's just enough detail and just enough that the ghost knows and hints about that neither Artemas nor Madeline can say it's definitely not her husband.What I do love that's different about this book is Artemas' associates - Zachary and his Eyes and Ears - a group of street urchins who are paid to see and hear what's going on and report back to Artemas through Zach. Artemas pays them enough that these street urchins don't need to pickpocket or do other things to survive and get thrown into jail for. And one of the street urchins plays an important role in the story.Overall, this book's mystery is compelling, and I enjoyed Madeline's aunt Bernice and Artemas' man Henry. I especially liked their little romance, even though we didn't witness much or even hear much about it - we just know that it was. And Artemas' revenge for Caroline does happen, just not the way that he intended. I realize that's supposed to be the key to Artemas, and I know it, I just wasn't convinced. Just as I wasn't completely convinced that he and Madeline were really that passionate about one another. Something just didn't click, but I am happy for them both. I simply wasn't as engaged in this affair as I have been in previous Amanda Quick books and stories.