The cover and title were so cute that it wasn't a huge shock (although it was a disappointment) to find that the prose was much too precious for my taste. However, my main complaint was that Low has no feel for Victorian society and its mores, and clearly didn't bother to do any research. Probably she's read a couple of romances set during the 19th century and "knows" that people had coming-out parties and cared about their reputations. And wore fancy dresses, of course. That's the main point of setting novels in the past, right? The clothes? The attitudes and behaviors of the characters were totally anachronistic*, especially the interactions of individuals of differing classes and genders. No way would a police constable grab by the arm and groundlessly accuse of a crime an aristocrat with an important ministerial position and powerful connections. Not that a 20-year-old would really have such a position! This careless inaccuracy is particularly disappointing in a woman who has a PhD and lists herself in her bio as "teacher."
I wish I wasn't so bothered by this sort of issue, because I did want to see Petronella save Nearly Everyone. She seemed nice enough, even though her character was a little bland. I can see the appeal of this for tween girls who are imagining themselves in Petronella's shoes, having pretty dresses and a cute crush and a staunch best friend. The mystery is not scary or intense or complex.
*I wouldn't call them exactly contemporary, either, though. They actually felt vaguely... 1950s, maybe? Actually, I could see this entire book working really well transposed to the 50s! The cutesy sort of teasing way of flirting, the gendered-but-not-so-restricted behavior, the cops hassling the teens. Petronella could wear a poodle skirt! Jack could have a hot rod! And the bug-eating uncle is already reminiscent of the cheesy 1950s sci-fi films, with their ray guns and giant insects. It could be awesome! I'm guessing from her bio that Low was at least born in the 50s and probably has a good feel for that time.