Author: B.T. Polcari
When freshman year at the University of Alabama draws to a close, Sara Donovan finds herself grappling with the same old question—listen to her head or follow her heart. What she ends up doing is purchasing an Egyptian souvenir funerary mask, and after a mysterious phone call, she’s certain a ring of antiquities smugglers are operating in Tuscaloosa.
With finals never far from her mind and her return to ‘Bama hanging in the balance, she should be studying. Instead she launches her own investigation to prove her mask is indeed a stolen artifact, and not a cheap trinket. When it comes time to snoop, Sara is more than ready, or at least she was until a hot new teaching assistant moves in next door.
Suddenly she learns things are never as they seem. Ever.
Against My Better Judgement is a very entertaining and light-hearted cozy mystery that brings a sense of fun to the high crime world. I did not expect it to be as crazy and humorous as it turned out to be and it was a very pleasant surprise. The main character is a hot mess and it’s a roller coaster of a ride reading about her adventure trying to become a detective after she finds herself thrown in the middle. The entire tale will keep you guessing about how the mystery turns out and this story was truly surprising as it was a very fun read. It was refreshing to read a story set in Alabama as many stories do not feature this state. It gave the story the interesting Southern vibes and highlighted the city surrounding the university.
Sara Donovan is an out-of-state student at the University of Alabama studying to eventually go to business school. She has a huge interest in Egyptian artifacts and works in the city’s Egyptian museum as a part-time gift shop attendant. One day she orders an Egyptian funerary mask and has it shipped to the museum as she does not trust it to be delivered to the seedy neighborhood that she calls home. She believes it is just a cheap fun souvenir that will be a fun thing to include in her décor, but when she ends up spilling nail polish remover on it, the mask might be more than what it seems.
She decides that her mission is to unlock the mystery of the mask and to find out how it ended up in her possession. Becoming convinced that the mask could be part of an international smuggling ring for Egyptian artifacts; Sara makes herself the central investigator. As she is enrolled in Egyptology course, she decides the mystery of the mask and illegal smuggling are the perfect subjects for her final class dissertation. Not only does she decide to write this involved final paper/presentation, she is now solving a huge smuggling mystery, has to continue her part time job, and study for her upcoming final exams. This character really seemed to have a lot going on in this novel and it is very relatable to anyone, students and non-students alike, as everyone tries to balance multiple things at the same time.
The story is told from Sara’s perspective, so the reader gets to experience all the crazy inner monologues and thought processes that she experiences. Not only does she have tons of thoughts going on in her head at all times, she loves to have “conversations” with her dachshund Mauzzy. Along with her fun inner thoughts, Sara also happens to be a klutz and constantly seems to have a hard time keeping her phone from experiences tragedies. She has terrible judgement and seems to find herself in many messes both through her own making and by accident.
Things become even more complicated for Sara when the new Egyptology Teaching Assistant, Connor Reed moves in next door. Not only might he be involved in the smuggling ring, he also happens to be very cute and Sara develops a huge crush on him. Could he be truly involved or is it just a coincidence that some of the circumstances surrounding him seem suspicious? Sara finds herself struggling with this very question as she wants to believe the hot new neighbor could be a potential love interest and not an actual criminal.
Overall, the story flows really well. The writing keeps a good pace and the reader does not find that they become bored with the storyline. Instead, the reader keeps engaged as they try to figure out who is behind the smuggling ring and how the mask ended up in Sara’s possession. There are a lot of possible suspects and side characters to keep track of, but the author does a great job integrating them so it is not impossible to remember which character was which. This book does include some romance, but it is more subtle as the mystery takes center-stage in the story. It is a very fun story and I cannot wait to see what other types of mystery Sara and her doggie side-kick Mauzzy will try to solve in future novels!
**I give a special thank you to Netgalley, the publisher, The Wild Rose Press, and the author, B.T. Polcari for an ARC of this novel to read. The opinions expressed are completely my own.**