Tag Archives: historical mystery fiction

If You Liked . . . The Mistletoe Countess

31 Dec

My book club LOVED The Mistletoe Countess by Pepper Basham. It was the perfect book for a busy December. Besides it being a Christmas-y book, we enjoyed the historic setting, the marriage of convenience trope, and the amateur sleuthing instigated by Grace. It was a fun and oftentimes funny read. If you liked it too, here are a few book recommendations for your.

Historical Marriage of Convenience

More Than Words Can Say by Karen Witemeyer

After fulfilling a pledge to a dying friend, Zacharias Hamilton is finally free to live life on his own terms. No opportunities to disappoint those he cares about, just the quiet bachelor existence he’s always craved. Until fate snatches his freedom away once again when the baker of his favorite breakfast treat is railroaded by the city council. As hard as he tries to avoid getting involved, he can’t turn a blind eye to her predicament . . . or her adorable dimples. Abigail Kemp needs a man’s name on her bakery’s deed. A marriage of convenience seems the best solution . . . if it involves a man she can control. Not the stoic lumberman who oozes confidence without saying a word whenever he enters her shop. Control Zacharias Hamilton? She can’t even control her pulse when she’s around him. Once vows are spoken, Abigail’s troubles should be over. Yet threats to the bakery worsen, and darker dangers hound her sister. As trust grows between Zach and Abby, she finds she wants more than his rescue. She wants his heart.

Contemporary Marriage of Convenience

Practically Married by Karin Beery

Ashley Johnson moved to northern Michigan to finally meet her fiancé face-to-face, but she arrived in time to attend his funeral. With no home back in Ohio, she decides to stay in what would have been their house, except his cousin Russ lives there too, and Russ has never heard of Ashley. To complicate matters, her fiancé accidentally willed her the family farm house. Eager to please everyone and desperate to disappoint no one, she proposes a marriage of convenience that could solve her and Russ’ problems, if they can get past her aunt, his sisters, and an ex-girlfriend.

Sleuthing Duo

Rules of Murder by Julianna Deering

Introducing Drew Farthing. From the tip of his black Homburg hat to the crease in his cheviot trousers, he’s the epitome of a stylish 1930s English gentleman. His only problem? The body he just discovered. Drew Farthering loves a good mystery, although he generally expects to find it in the pages of a novel, not on the grounds of his country estate. With the help of beautiful and whip-smart Madeline Parker, a guest from America, Drew proposes to use the lessons he’s learned reading his mysteries to solve the crime. Before long, he realizes this is no lark, and no one at Farthering Place is who he or she appears to be — not the blackmailer, not the adulterer, not the embezzler and not even Drew himself. Trying hard to remain one step ahead of the killer — and trying harder to impress Madeline — Drew must decide how far to take this dangerous game.

Coming Soon!

The Cairo Curse by Pepper Basham (January 15, 2023)

Clue meets Indiana Jones with a fiction-loving twist only Grace Percy can provide.
 
Newlyweds Lord and Lady Astley have already experienced their fair-share of suspense, but when a honeymoon trip takes a detour to the mystical land of Egypt, not even Grace with her fiction-loving mind is prepared for the dangers in store. From an assortment of untrustworthy adventure-seekers to a newly discovered tomb with a murderous secret, Frederick and Grace must lean on each other to navigate their dangerous surroundings. As the suspects mount in an antiquities’ heist of ancient proportions, will Frederick and Grace’s attempts to solve the mystery lead to another death among the sands?
 
The Cairo’s Curse is a delightful sequel to The Mistletoe Countess by Pepper Basham in the Freddie and Grace Mystery series.

Book Review — Under A Veiled Moon

15 Dec

  • Title: Under a Veiled Moon 
  • Series: An Inspector Corravan Mystery (Book 2)
  • Author: Karen Odden
  • Genre: Historical Mystery, Detective Mystery, Victorian Mystery 
  • Publisher: ‎Crooked Lane Books (October 11, 2022)
  • Length: (336) pages
  • Format: Hardcover, eBook, & audiobook 
  • ISBN: 978-1639101191
  • Tour Dates: November 14 – December 19, 2022

In the tradition of C. S. Harris and Anne Perry, a fatal disaster on the Thames and a roiling political conflict set the stage for Karen Odden’s second Inspector Corravan historical mystery.

September 1878. One night, as the pleasure boat the Princess Alice makes her daily trip up the Thames, she collides with the Bywell Castle, a huge iron-hulled collier. The Princess Alice shears apart, throwing all 600 passengers into the river; only 130 survive. It is the worst maritime disaster London has ever seen, and early clues point to sabotage by the Irish Republican Brotherhood, who believe violence is the path to restoring Irish Home Rule. 
 
For Scotland Yard Inspector Michael Corravan, born in Ireland and adopted by the Irish Doyle family, the case presents a challenge. Accused by the Home Office of willfully disregarding the obvious conclusion and berated by his Irish friends for bowing to prejudice, Corravan doggedly pursues the truth, knowing that if the Princess Alice disaster is pinned on the IRB, hopes for Home Rule could be dashed forever.

Corrovan’s dilemma is compounded by Colin, the youngest Doyle, who has joined James McCabe’s Irish gang. As violence in Whitechapel rises, Corravan strikes a deal with McCabe to get Colin out of harm’s way. But unbeknownst to Corravan, Colin bears longstanding resentments against his adopted brother and scorns his help.
 
As the newspapers link the IRB to further accidents, London threatens to devolve into terror and chaos. With the help of his young colleague, the loyal Mr. Stiles, and his friend Belinda Gale, Corravan uncovers the harrowing truth—one that will shake his faith in his countrymen, the law, and himself.

ADVANCE PRAISE

  • “[An] exceptional sequel . . . Fans of Lyndsay Faye’s Gods of Gotham trilogy will be enthralled.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
  • “Victorian skulduggery with a heaping side of Irish troubles.” —Kirkus Reviews
  • “Charismatic police superintendent Michael Corravan is back in a gripping sequel about the mysterious sinking of the Princess Alice. Odden deftly weaves together English and Irish history, along with her detective’s own story, in a way that will keep readers flipping pages long into the night.” —Susan Elia MacNeal, New York Times bestselling author of Mother Daughter Traitor Spy and the Maggie Hope series.

AUTHOR INTERVIEW

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Karen Odden earned her Ph.D. in English from New York University and subsequently taught literature at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has contributed essays to numerous books and journals, written introductions for Victorian novels in the Barnes & Noble classics series and edited for the journal Victorian Literature and Culture (Cambridge UP). Her previous novels, also set in 1870s London, have won awards for historical fiction and mystery. A member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime and the recipient of a grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, Karen lives in Arizona with her family and her rescue beagle Rosy.

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My Impressions:

I am a big fan of mysteries in general and police procedurals in particular. Throw in an historical setting and I am hooked. And that’s just what Under A Veiled Moon by Karen Odden did — it drew me in and kept me turning the pages. Set in late 1800s London, the novel has a great sense of place. I felt the mean streets of Irish Whitechapel, the police offices of Wapping, and the genteel homes of Mayfair come to life, all within the astute descriptions given by the first person voice of Michael Corravan. Corravan is a very interesting and likable character. He successfully straddles the world in which he grew up and his position as a police detective. His insights and self-appraisal make him a very believable narrator in a story in which there is much deception and deceit. He is in on a number of investigations — murders, gang-related activity, and a ship accident. Are they related? You’ll have to read the book to find out! 😉 Corravan, one of the most well-drawn characters in a mystery that I have encountered in a long time, is thoughtful, intuitive, and struggles to remain impartial. The lack of high tech forensic science, this book is set in the 19th century after all, is very appealing. I love when a detective has to use his brain and instincts to solve a case. Under A Veiled Moon is the second of a series, but I didn’t have any trouble diving right in. It did make me want to go back and read book 1 though. I hope to do that soon. For those who read my blog regularly, this is a general market novel, but I found it generally a clean read. Corravan and his love interest, Belinda, have a bedroom scene, and there is a bit of language, mostly of the British slang and a few uses of God’s name as an oath. But I didn’t find any of that distracting from my enjoyment of the book. Overall, I would recommend Under A Veiled Moon for those who love a good mystery with some very interesting historical content.

Recommended.

Audience: Adults.

(Thanks to AustenProse for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Book Spotlight — Millstone of Doubt

3 Oct

A Bow Street Runner and a debutante in London Society use their skills to find the killer of a wealthy businessman, but the killer’s secrets aren’t the only ones they will uncover. 

Caught in the explosion of the Hammersmith Mill in London, Bow Street runner Daniel Swann rushes to help any survivors only to find the mill’s owner dead of an apparent gunshot–but no sign of the killer.
Even though the owner’s daughter, Agatha Montgomery, mourns his death, she may be the only one. It seems there are more than a few people with motive for murder. But Daniel can’t take this investigation slow and steady. Instead, he must dig through all the suspects as quickly as he can because the clock is ticking until his mysterious patronage–and his job as a runner–comes to an abrupt and painful end. It seems to Daniel that, like his earthly father, his heavenly Father has abandoned him.
Lady Juliette Thorndike is Agatha’s bosom friend and has the inside knowledge of the wealthy London ton to be invaluable to Daniel. She should be in a perfect position to help with the case. But when her trusted instructor in the art of spy craft orders her to stay out of the investigation, Lady Juliette obeys. That is, until circumstances intervene, and she drops right into the middle of the deadly pursuit.

When a dreadful accident ends in another death on the mill floor, Daniel discovers a connection to his murder case–and to his own secret past. Now he and Juliette are in a race to find the killer before his time runs out.

**************

EXCERPT

“This way.” Lifting his lapel to cover his mouth and nose, Daniel

made his way under a sagging beam toward the side of the warehouse that faced the river. Outside, a landing and a set of stairs hugged the side of the building, leading to a walkway over the waterwheel and the mill race that had been built to force water over the giant paddles. The wheel turned, but off balance, wobbling as if it had become disconnected from the shaft. Daniel gripped the railing, dizziness overtaking him as he looked down on the moving water.

Get hold of yourself, man. It won’t do for you to lose your head and need rescuing too. He steadied himself, refusing to show weakness in front of the viscount.

The walkway twisted around a corner and, though flat, felt as if it gained in elevation as the ground fell away beneath the supports. When Daniel navigated the water-splashed planks to the bend, his heart rate increased. He had no head for heights. On this side of the building, though the glass had been blown from the windows, no flames appeared. The villagers must be winning against the fire.

At the far end of the walkway, where it terminated against the stone wall, a man lay on his back, head and feet dangling, close to over- balancing and tipping into the river. As Daniel approached, the man stirred.

“Have a care. Don’t fall into the water.” Daniel touched his shoulder. “Easy . . . let me help you.” He put his hand under the man’s elbow and assisted him. “Slowly until you see if you’re injured.”

“What happened?” Grimaces accompanied every movement. “There was an explosion. Part of the mill is on fire, and you must have been knocked unconscious by the blast. Were you out here working on the wheel?”

The man blinked. “An explosion?” He put his hand to his head. “Working on the wheel? Of course, I wasn’t working on the wheel. I’m not a warehouseman.” He tried to straighten his waistcoat, which was too fine to belong to a laborer. “I’m an accountant. A man of numbers.”

Daniel studied the open window above them. “Then Someone was looking out for you, sir. You could have been blown into the water quite easily.” He pointed to the foaming water pouring off the water- wheel. “Let us get you to a less precarious spot.”

“You said it was an explosion?” The man groaned. “Mr. Montgomery was afraid of this, but I never thought they would do it. I thought it was all talk. Threats, nothing more.” The man remained rooted to the walkway, swaying slightly, squinting as if the sunlight reflecting off the water was too bright for his eyes.

Daniel’s attention sharpened. “Threats? Was someone threatening to do something like this?”

Nodding—and then wincing as if he regretted it—he spoke over the sound of the water rushing below. “Luddites. Anarchists. There was a message nailed to the door last week, and there have been others, letters. Mr. Montgomery was bringing in new methods, new machinery, which would increase the production of the mill while reducing the workforce needed to operate it.” Despite his lurching condition, the man paused to puff out his chest a bit and smooth his hair. “At my suggestion, of course. Mr. Montgomery relies upon me heavily for advice and direction in his business affairs.”

“What did the note say? Do you know who left it?” Daniel kept hold of the man’s elbow, but his detective’s curiosity took hold.

The man gripped the handrail and limped along the walkway. “I don’t know who wrote it, only that it promised retribution if we let workers go. It could have been anyone who works here or any of a dozen groups of rabble-rousers who are against progress.”

A hot coal of anger burned hard in Daniel’s gut. His initial hunch was confirmed. Violence to get attention. With no thought of the dam- age done to people and possessions. There would be no flour milled at this site for a long time, if ever again. Every man employed here was now without work. Every family who needed flour would have to find another source.

“Come. We’ll sort it out when we stand on firm ground.” Daniel handed the man up the steps to where Coatsworth waited and followed them both through the warehouse out into the street.

When they finally stood in the lane, Daniel asked, “Your name, sir?” He might prove a useful source of information as the investigation began.

“Mr. Earnshaw. Hubert Earnshaw. I am Mr. Montgomery’s accountant, both personal and business.” He didn’t seem to realize he had already told Daniel his occupation. “I had an appointment with Mr. Montgomery. The hallway from the milling floor was blocked by a cart that had overturned, and men were shoveling spilled flour. The air was thick with dust. I had to go around through the warehouse to enter from that direction. Mr. Coombe was there, carrying a toolbox . . . which is odd, because he doesn’t usually do manual labor. He’s the mill manager.”

“Mr. Earnshaw, where are the offices located? I need to find Montgomery.”

“The hallway to the left.” He pointed into the warehouse. “His office overlooks the race and wheel, though how he can stand the noise is beyond me. He says he likes the sight of the moving water.”

“Right. I’ll go back. Mr. Earnshaw, head that direction, and you’ll find people who can help you.” Daniel pointed up the lane toward where the Thorndike carriage sat at the far end. He caught sight of his cloak, still draped around Lady Juliette. She was bent over someone lying on the ground, and the red sash indicated the man next to her was Duke von Lowe.

Daniel shoved down the uncomfortable feeling in his chest at seeing them together and entered the warehouse once more.

Coatsworth, to his credit, followed Daniel back into the building, and this time they went deeper into the structure, entering the passage that must lead to the offices. At the far end of the stone hallway, shadows moved through the smoke and steam, pouring water on hot spots. Soot streaked the walls of the passageway. The machines and inner workings of the mill must have been destroyed, but perhaps the structure could be saved.

Montgomery would have a long task ahead of him to rebuild.

Two bodies lay in the hallway, strewn atop a pile of half-burned flour sacks that had spilled from a cart. This must be where they had been shoveling the flour Earnshaw mentioned. Daniel checked both men but found no sign of life. The blast must have sucked all the air out of the hallway and tossed them hard against the stone wall. He shook his head at the viscount and checked the office door opposite.

The top half of the door had once contained a glass window, but that opening now gaped. The rest of the door looked as if a sneeze would disintegrate it.

A blizzard of paper—some with charred edges—lay in drifts over every surface, and in the center of the room, sprawled like an abandoned rag doll, lay Mr. Montgomery.

Daniel rattled the door handle, surprised when the door remained firm. It was sturdier than he had thought. He reached through the broken glass to open it from the inside, but nothing happened. Feeling lower, he tried to locate the key, but only the keyhole met his fingertips. “Stand back,” he said to the viscount, who peered over Daniel’s shoulder before shouting “Garfield!” upon seeing Mr. Montgomery on the floor.

Daniel shoved him away, stepped back a pace, and raised his boot, kicking hard at the latch. Thankfully, the door splintered, rocketing open and thudding against the wall before listing on its hinges.

Coatsworth nearly ran Daniel over getting to Montgomery’s side. “Garfield.” He dropped to his knees and took the man’s hand, leaning over to press his ear to his chest.

“Is he alive?” Daniel squatted and touched Montgomery’s neck.

Nothing. He brushed aside some debris, and his hand stilled.

A perfectly round hole perforated Mr. Garfield Montgomery’s forehead.

He had not been pulped by the explosion. He had been shot.

***************

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Erica Vetsch is a New York Times best-selling author and ACFW Carol Award winner and has been a Romantic Times top pick for her previous books. She loves Jesus, history, romance, and watching sports. This transplanted Kansan now makes her home in Rochester, Minnesota.

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Book Review — A Lady’s Guide to Death And Deception

6 Sep

What is a spy willing to do when both her heart and her country are at risk?

Life changes once again for British spy Miss Mary Bennet when Napoleon Bonaparte escapes from the Isle of Elba. Mary quickly departs England for Brussels, the city where the Allied forces prepare for war against the French. But shortly after her arrival, one of the Duke of Wellington’s best officers is murdered, an event which threatens to break the delicate alliance between the Allies.

Investigating the murder forces Mary into precarious levels of espionage, role-playing, and deception with her new partner, Mr. Withrow-the nephew and heir of her prominent sponsor, and the spy with whom she’s often at odds. Together, they court danger and discovery as they play dual roles gathering intelligence for the British. But soon Mary realizes that her growing feelings towards Mr. Withrow put her heart in as much danger as her life. And then there’s another murder.

Mary will need to unmask the murderer before more people are killed, but can she do so and remain hidden in the background?

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********************

Katherine Cowley read Pride and Prejudice for the first time when she was ten years old, which started a lifelong obsession with Jane Austen. Her debut novel, The Secret Life of Miss Mary Bennet, was nominated for the Mary Higgins Clark Award. Her Mary Bennet spy series continues with the novels The True Confessions of a London Spy and The Lady’s Guide to Death and Deception. Katherine loves history, chocolate, traveling, and playing the piano, and she has taught writing classes at Western Michigan University. She lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan with her husband and three daughters.

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EXCLUSIVE AUTHOR INTERVIEW

My Impressions:

I am a sucker for anything Jane Austen. I especially love the variations of her novels in which supporting characters become the stars. Fun spin-offs, if you will. Katherine Cowley has created the perfect role for younger sister Mary Bennet in her Secret Life of Mary Bennet series. Mary a spy? How unexpected and thoroughly charming! I listened to the audiobook of The Lady’s Guide to Death And Deception, book 3 in the series, and was immediately swept up in the intrigue and mystery. The combination of old favorites (and not so favorites) from Pride And Prejudice and historical figures of the day made this book unputdownable. While staying true to Austen’s depiction of Mary, Cowley has certainly created a very grown-up version of Mary. I loved her prim and proper manners as she dons disguises, practices her shooting, and finds romance. This book is a must-read for Janeites! Even though it was book 3 of the series, I had no trouble following the plot or adjusting to this new side of Mary. I do, however, HAVE to read books 1 and 2 now! Thanks to Cowley for adding more to my TBR stack. 😉 I very much enjoyed the audiobook. The narrator was spot-on. The Lady’s Guide to Death And Deception is a highly recommended read or listen!

Highly Recommended.

Audience: Adults.

(Thanks to Austen Prose for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Top 10 Tuesday — Book Quote Freebie!

24 May

*****

I read all parts of a book. That’s right — the prologue, the afterword, even the copyright page 😉 . I also read epigraphs — any quotes that the author chooses to begin the story. Many authors choose scripture or a quote that gives some insight into what their book is all about. I like to keep them in mind as I delve into the stories. Today I am sharing those quotes from random books on my shelves. In the cases of the author using several quotes, I randomly chose just one. Lots of genres represented — enjoy!

For more bookish quotes, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

Top Epigraphs — Quotes That Authors Chose to Begin Their Stories

***************

Yet he commanded the skies above and opened the doors of heaven, and he rained down on them manna to eat and gave them the grain of heaven. Man ate of the bread of angels.

Psalm 78:23-25

*****

I speak of peace, while covert enmity

Under the smile of safety wounds the world

William Shakespeare, King Henry IV, Part 2

*****

“I once was lost, but now I am found, was blind, but now I see.”

John Newton

*****

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

John 15:5

*****

Love is not consolation. It is light.

Simone Weil

*****

Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.

Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

Psalm 82:3-4

*****

Loose yourself from the chains around your neck, O captive daughter of Zion.

Isaiah 52:2

*****

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39

*****

There’s a bit of magic in everything

And then some loss to even things out.

Lou Reed

*****

It is necessity and not pleasure that compels us.

Dante, The Inferno

Top 10 Tuesday — Mysteries I Still Haven’t Read

17 May

It is not a mystery why I have not read the books on my list yet. I cannot resist a shiny new book, even if I have a stack of others ahead of it. I refuse to believe that I have more books than time, though, so I continue to buy more and more. One day cannot get here fast enough. 😉 The books that I have chosen to confess are all mysteries — my very favorite genre. They at least have a fighting chance of being read. My list contains classic mysteries, cozy mysteries, historical mysteries — I read them all. And in the spirit of honesty, this list is just the tip of the iceberg. Let me know if you have read any. I need some motivation!

For more confessions, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

Top Mysteries I Haven’t Read Yet

( though they reside on my shelves)

The Boy Who Followed Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

The Cairo Brief by Fiona Veitch Smith

The Cat’s Pajamas by Gilbert Morris

The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Reverte

Enemy Action by Mike Hollow

Jane And The Twelve Days of Christmas by Stephanie Barron

The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler

Sidney Chambers And The Shadow of Death by James Runcie

The Sweetness at The Bottom of The Pie by Alan Bradley

The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett

Book Review: The Murder of Mr. Wickham

5 May

  • Title: The Murder of Mr. Wickham
  • Author: Claudia Gray
  • Genre: Historical Mystery, Cozy Mystery, Austenesque
  • Publisher: ‎Vintage (May 3, 2022)
  • Length: (400) pages
  • Format: Trade paperback, eBook, & audiobook 
  • ISBN: 978-0593313817

A summer house party turns into a thrilling whodunit when Jane Austen’s Mr. Wickham—one of literature’s most notorious villains—meets a sudden and suspicious end in this brilliantly imagined mystery featuring Austen’s leading literary characters.

The happily married Mr. Knightley and Emma are throwing a party at their country estate, bringing together distant relatives and new acquaintances—characters beloved by Jane Austen fans. Definitely not invited is Mr. Wickham, whose latest financial scheme has netted him an even broader array of enemies. As tempers flare and secrets are revealed, it’s clear that everyone would be happier if Mr. Wickham got his comeuppance. Yet they’re all shocked when Wickham turns up murdered—except, of course, for the killer hidden in their midst.

Nearly everyone at the house party is a suspect, so it falls to the party’s two youngest guests to solve the mystery: Juliet Tilney, the smart and resourceful daughter of Catherine and Henry, eager for adventure beyond Northanger Abbey; and Jonathan Darcy, the Darcys’ eldest son, whose adherence to propriety makes his father seem almost relaxed. In this tantalizing fusion of Austen and Christie, from New York Times bestselling author Claudia Gray, the unlikely pair must put aside their own poor first impressions and uncover the guilty party—before an innocent person is sentenced to hang. 

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Claudia Gray is the pseudonym of Amy Vincent. She is the writer of multiple young adult novels, including the Evernight series, the Firebird trilogy, and the Constellation trilogy. In addition, she’s written several Star Wars novels, such as Lost Stars and Bloodline. She makes her home in New Orleans with her husband Paul and assorted small dogs. 

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MY IMPRESSIONS:

For Jane Austen fans, The Murder of Mr. Wickham by Claudia Gray is a must read. Not only because one of the most odious of all literary characters meets his end, but because Gray gives the reader a credible look at what might have happened to Austen’s main characters after the curtain is drawn on their stories. Gray explores the what-ifs of Darcy and Elizabeth, Fanny and Edmund, Emma and Knightley, Marianne and Colonel Brandon, Anne and Captain Wentworth, as well as two original characters in Juliet Tilney and Jonathan Darcy. While the murder mystery is interesting with sufficient twists, turns, and surprises, the beyond-the-wedding stuff is great. However, the most interesting character of all is Jonathan Darcy, eldest son of Fitzwilliam and Elizabeth Darcy. I won’t disclose too much, but he decidedly does not fit into the standards of Regency England. His characterization is fascinating, especially through a Regency lens. Gray keeps her writing style true to Austen’s too. You will feel you are right back in Highbury with all your favorites.

Clever imagining of the later lives of the Austen characters all with Mr. Wickham’s murder — what more could a Janeite want? 😉 The Murder of Mr. Wickham is a recommended read.

Recommended.

Audience: Adults.

(Thanks to AustenProse for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

First Line Friday — The Murder of Mr. Wickham

15 Apr

I am a sucker for Jane Austen knock-offs or variations, as they are often called. When I found out there was a murder mystery with Mr. Wickham as the victim, I said yes, please! Claudia Gray has included a number of Austen’s characters from across her novels in The Murder of Mr. Wickham , and I cannot wait!

Here’s the first line:

The marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Knightley of Donwell Abbey had been a surprise to those who knew them best and not in the least surprising to those who knew them hardly at all.

A summer house party turns into a thrilling whodunit when Jane Austen’s Mr. Wickham—one of literature’s most notorious villains—meets a sudden and suspicious end in this brilliantly imagined mystery featuring Austen’s leading literary characters.

The happily married Mr. Knightley and Emma are throwing a party at their country estate, bringing together distant relatives and new acquaintances—characters beloved by Jane Austen fans. Definitely not invited is Mr. Wickham, whose latest financial scheme has netted him an even broader array of enemies. As tempers flare and secrets are revealed, it’s clear that everyone would be happier if Mr. Wickham got his comeuppance. Yet they’re all shocked when Wickham turns up murdered—except, of course, for the killer hidden in their midst. 

Nearly everyone at the house party is a suspect, so it falls to the party’s two youngest guests to solve the mystery: Juliet Tilney, the smart and resourceful daughter of Catherine and Henry, eager for adventure beyond Northanger Abbey; and Jonathan Darcy, the Darcys’ eldest son, whose adherence to propriety makes his father seem almost relaxed. In this tantalizing fusion of Austen and Christie, from New York Times bestselling author Claudia Gray, the unlikely pair must put aside their own poor first impressions and uncover the guilty party—before an innocent person is sentenced to hang. 

Book Review: Jane And The Year Without A Summer

17 Feb

May 1816: Jane Austen is feeling unwell, with an uneasy stomach, constant fatigue, rashes, fevers and aches. She attributes her poor condition to the stress of family burdens, which even the drafting of her latest manuscript—about a baronet’s daughter nursing a broken heart for a daring naval captain—cannot alleviate. Her apothecary recommends a trial of the curative waters at Cheltenham Spa, in Gloucestershire. Jane decides to use some of the profits earned from her last novel, Emma, and treat herself to a period of rest and reflection at the spa, in the company of her sister, Cassandra.
 
Cheltenham Spa hardly turns out to be the relaxing sojourn Jane and Cassandra envisaged, however. It is immediately obvious that other boarders at the guest house where the Misses Austen are staying have come to Cheltenham with stresses of their own—some of them deadly. But perhaps with Jane’s interference a terrible crime might be prevented. Set during the Year without a Summer, when the eruption of Mount Tambora in the South Pacific caused a volcanic winter that shrouded the entire planet for sixteen months, this fourteenth installment in Stephanie Barron’s critically acclaimed series brings a forgotten moment of Regency history to life.

Advance Praise

“Outstanding…Barron fans will hope Jane, who died in 1817, will be back for one more mystery.”— Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“No one conjures Austen’s voice like Stephanie Barron, and Jane and the Year Without a Summer is utterly pitch-perfect.”— Deanna Raybourn, bestselling author of the Veronica Speedwell Mysteries

“…a page-turning story, imbued with fascinating historical detail, a cast of beautifully realized characters, a pitch-perfect Jane Austen, and an intriguing mystery. Highly recommended.”— Syrie James, bestselling author of The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen 

Jane and the Year Without a Summer is absolute perfection. Stephanie Barron expertly weaves fact and fiction, crafting a story that is authentically Austen in its elegance, charm, and wit. The characters and setting will enchant you, and the mystery will keep you guessing to the last page. This Regency-set gem is truly a diamond of the first water.”— Mimi Matthews, USA Today bestselling author of The Siren of Sussex

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Francine Mathews was born in Binghamton, New York, the last of six girls. She attended Princeton and Stanford Universities, where she studied history, before going on to work as an intelligence analyst at the CIA. She wrote her first book in 1992 and left the Agency a year later. Since then, she has written twenty-five books, including five novels in the Merry Folger series (Death in the Off-Season, Death in Rough Water, Death in a Mood Indigo, Death in a Cold Hard Light, and Death on Nantucket) as well as the nationally bestselling Being a Jane Austen mystery series, which she writes under the penname, Stephanie Barron. She lives and works in Denver, Colorado.

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My Impressions:

It has been a while since I have read one of Stephanie Barron’s Regency mysteries featuring the intrepid Jane Austen as primary sleuth. What have I been waiting for? After reading Jane And The Year Without A Summer I have now successfully added many more books to my towering TBR pile. This mystery is excellent. The book finds Jane in her final years of life. Not a spoiler — anyone can read her biography. Feeling unwell, she and her sister Cassandra journey to the spa town of Cheltenham to take the waters. Upon taking rooms at a boarding house, Jane is privy to all kinds of inside knowledge about her fellow lodgers. With her keen observations, along with the help of a former acquaintance, Jane finds out whodunit. Barron really does capture Austen. The book is told in Jane’s first person voice and contains many of the phrases and references that Austen-philes will recognize. The culture of the watering hole of the day, with its visits to the theater, pump rooms, and assembly room is spot on. I felt like I was on the streets and in the sitting rooms of early 1880s England. The mystery kept me guessing until the end. It was a real treat to read a book that combines excellent storytelling with a credible portrayal of a beloved author. The book is a bit poignant for fans of Barron and Austen — it is evident that Jane’s adventures in crime-solving may soon come to an end. But with all the books I have yet to read, I know that I have many more pleasurable hours ahead of me.

Barron does Jane Austen justice — any one who loves Austen and the many variations of her works will enjoy Jane And The Year Without A Summer. I loved it and heartily recommend it!

Highly Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(Thanks to the publisher for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Book Review: Shadows of Swanford Abbey

24 Jan

I love a good mystery and I love a good romance set in Regency England. I got both in Shadows of Swanford Abbey by Julie Klassen. This book kept me guessing until the very end — another plus! Recommended.

Agatha Christie meets Jane Austen in this atmospheric Regency tale brimming with mystery, intrigue, and romance.

When Miss Rebecca Lane returns to her home village after a few years away, her brother begs for a favor: go to nearby Swanford Abbey and deliver his manuscript to an author staying there who could help him get published. Feeling responsible for her brother’s desperate state, she reluctantly agrees.

The medieval monastery turned grand hotel is rumored to be haunted. Once there, Rebecca begins noticing strange things, including a figure in a hooded black gown gliding silently through the abbey’s cloisters. For all its renovations and veneer of luxury, the ancient foundations seem to echo with whispers of the past–including her own. For there she encounters Sir Frederick–magistrate, widower, and former neighbor–who long ago broke her heart.

When the famous author is found murdered in the abbey, Sir Frederick begins questioning staff and guests and quickly discovers that several people held grudges against the man, including Miss Lane and her brother. Haunted by a painful betrayal in his past, Sir Frederick searches for answers but is torn between his growing feelings for Rebecca and his pursuit of the truth. For Miss Lane is clearly hiding something. . . .

Julie Klassen loves all things Jane—Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. She worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. Three of her novels have won the Christy Award for Historical Romance. She has also won the Minnesota Book Award, the Midwest Book Award, and Christian Retailing’s BEST Award. Julie is a graduate of the University of Illinois. She and her husband have two sons and live in St. Paul, Minnesota. Visit http://www.julieklassen.com and talesfromivyhill.com for more information.

My Impressions:

With nods to Agatha Christie and Jane Austen and other notable classic writers, Shadows of Swanford Abbey is a page-turning historical novel that has its own unique blend of mystery and romance. Julie Klassen has penned a very enjoyable book! The mystery, that I kept guessing at until the end, was what hooked me, but I loved the atmospheric setting and the likable characters. For Rebecca Lane, the return to her home village is filled with memories, mostly poignant, as she longs for better times and circumstances. A brother with issues keeps her on edge, while an old crush brings back feelings long buried. There is a great tension in this book, both in the romantic relationships and in the twisting mystery. I felt an urgency to find out whodunit and if Rebecca would get her happily-ever-after. This kept me reading and reading! Characters are not all they seem — enhancing the plot and giving readers some things to think about. There are themes of forgiveness, lost chances, and personal responsibility. Fans of the Regency era will enjoy the historical details. I especially liked learning about the legal rules of the day and the treatment of those with mental illness. Swanford Abbey provided its own character with hidden passages and ghosts — a great place to stage a murder. 😉 And for book nerds like me, the references to classic lit were fun.

Shadows of Swanford Abbey should appeal to a variety of readers with its historical, romantic, and mysterious plot threads. I heartily recommend it.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(Thanks to Bethany House Publishers for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)