Tag Archives: Regency fiction

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

PURCHASE LINKS

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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.)

Top 10 Tuesday — Most Recent Additions

11 Jan

2022 is in full swing and I have some new books that have hit my shelves! The following books are the newest to take up residence. Many are review books — NetGalley copies and ARCs, so you’ll see my impressions in the coming weeks. I have also included 2 cookbook/entertaining books that I received for Christmas and am having so much fun with! Yes, I do have interests outside of reading fiction. 😉 Hope you find one that piques your interest.

For more bloggers’ recent acquisitions, check out That Artsy Reader Girl.

Top Newly Acquired Books

A Heart Adrift by Laura Frantz

Jane And The Year Without Summer by Stephanie Barron

The Lady of Galway Manor by Jennifer Deibel

Life Flight by Lynette Eason

Malicious Intent by Lynn H. Blackburn

Medical Mystery by Richard Fabry

Shadows of Swanford Abbey by Julie Klassen

The Siren of Sussex by Mimi Matthews

Sunrise by Susan May Warren

Baker Bettie’s Better Baking Book by Kristen Hoffman

Spectacular Spreads by Maegan Brown

Book Review: The Debutante’s Code

13 Dec

Regency-era novel, The Debutante’s Code by Erica Vetsch is all about mystery and intrigue — think spies! There are two great main characters from different classes who feel the tug of attraction. Will they solve the crime(s) and discover love? You’ll just have to read the book!

Jane Austen meets Sherlock Holmes in this new Regency mystery series
 
Newly returned from finishing school, Lady Juliette Thorndike is ready to debut in London society. Due to her years away, she hasn’t spent much time with her parents, and sees them only as the flighty, dilettante couple the other nobles love.But when they disappear, she discovers she never really knew them at all. They’ve been living double lives as government spies–and they’re only the latest in a long history of espionage that is the family’s legacy.
 
Now Lady Juliette is determined to continue their work. Mentored by her uncle, she plunges into the dangerous world of spies. From the glittering ballrooms of London to the fox hunts, regattas, and soirees of country high society, she must chase down hidden clues, solve the mysterious code her parents left behind, and stay out of danger. All the while, she has to keep her endeavors a secret from her best friend and her suitors–not to mention the nosy, irritatingly handsome Bow Street runner, who suspects her of a daring theft.
 
Can Lady Juliette outwit her enemies and complete her parents’ last mission?
 
Best-selling author Erica Vetsch is back with a rollicking, exciting new series destined to be a hit with Regency readers who enjoy a touch of mystery in their love stories. Fans of Julie Klassen, Sarah Ladd, and Anne Perry will love the wit, action, and romance.
 
Click here to read an excerpt.

Erica Vetsch is a New York Times best-selling and ACFW Carol Award–winning author. She is a transplanted Kansan now living in Minnesota with her husband, who she claims is both her total opposite and soul mate.
 
Vetsch is the author of many novellas and novels, including the popular Serendipity & Secrets Regency series and the new Thorndike & Swann Regency Mystery series
 
Vetsch loves Jesus, history, romance, and sports. When she’s not writing fiction, she’s planning her next trip to a history museum and cheering on her Kansas Jayhawks and New Zealand All Blacks.
 
Learn more about Erica Vetsch and her books at www.ericavetsch.com. She can also be found on Facebook (@EricaVetschAuthor)Instagram (@EricaVetsch) and Pinterest (Erica Vetsch).

My Impressions:

I love a good mystery, and the Regency-era novel, The Debutante’s Code was a great reading choice. The book takes the reader from the ballrooms of the gentry to the seedy back alleys of the rookery, all while leading the characters on a merry chase to find out who the bad guys really are. The reader soon discovers there really are two avenues of investigation: the official police inquiry of stolen art work and murder led by Daniel Swann, and the shadowy world of international espionage which has reeled in Lady Juliette Thorndyke. The two cases are parallel and overlapping and include disguises, midnight break-ins, and more. I thoroughly enjoyed the mystery and the historical details that brought the era to life. Lady Juliette struggles with lies and truth, while Mr. Swann seeks to overcome feelings of abandonment on the eve of losing the patronage of his mysterious benefactor. The book is full of danger and adventure, and I suspected just about everyone. The case is solved, but the fates of the two main characters are left unfinished — more books to come. Yay!

For fans of the Regency time period and mystery fiction, The Debutante’s Code is perfect. Recommended!

Recommended.

Audience: Adults.

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

GIVEAWAY!

The winner will receive a Pride and Prejudice throw blanket from Litographs and a copy of The Debutante’s Code.  To enter the giveaway, click HERE.

First Line Friday — The Debutante’s Code

3 Dec

This weekend I have a historical mystery on the agenda. The Debutante’s Code is a Regency-era novel by Erica Vetsch. I look forward to some great reading. What are you reading this weekend?

Here’s the first line:

“If you lean out any farther, you’ll wind up in the drink.”

Jane Austen meets Sherlock Holmes in this new Regency mystery series

Newly returned from finishing school, Lady Juliette Thorndike is ready to debut in London society. Due to her years away, she hasn’t spent much time with her parents, and sees them only as the flighty, dilettante couple the other nobles love. But when they disappear, she discovers she never really knew them at all. They’ve been living double lives as government spies–and they’re only the latest in a long history of espionage that is the family’s legacy.

Now Lady Juliette is determined to continue their work. Mentored by her uncle, she plunges into the dangerous world of spy craft. From the glittering ballrooms of London to the fox hunts, regattas, and soirees of country high society, she must chase down hidden clues, solve the mysterious code her parents left behind, and stay out of danger. All the while, she has to keep her endeavors a secret from her best friend and her suitors–not to mention nosy, irritatingly handsome Bow Street runner Daniel Swann, who suspects her of a daring theft.

Can Lady Juliette outwit her enemies and complete her parents’ last mission? Or will it lead her to a terrible end?

Best-selling author Erica Vetsch is back with a rollicking, exciting new series destined to be a hit with Regency readers who enjoy a touch of mystery in their love stories. Fans of Julie Klassen, Sarah Ladd, and Anne Perry will love the wit, action, and romance. 

Best-selling, award-winning author Erica Vetsch loves Jesus, history, romance, and sports. She’s a transplanted Kansan now living in Minnesota, and she married her total opposite and soul mate! When she’s not writing fiction, she’s planning her next trip to a history museum and cheering on her Kansas Jayhawks and New Zealand All Blacks. You can connect with her at her website, http://www.ericavetsch.com where you can read about her books and sign up for her newsletter, and you can find her online at https://www.facebook.com/EricaVetschAuthor/ where she spends way too much time!

First Line Friday — The Barrister And The Letter of Marque

20 Aug

Happy Friday — it’s been a soggy and muggy week with Fred’s journey through the usually sunny South. But I am looking forward to some better conditions as I travel to my cabin in the mountains. Hopefully a lot of reading is on the horizon too!

This week I am featuring The Barrister And The Letter of Marque by Todd M. Johnson. I have loved his contemporary suspense, and this Regency-era mystery is up my alley too. Here’s the first line —

Early evening shadows blanketed the study lit only by desk candles and a sputtering fire in the hearth.

As a barrister in 1818 London, William Snopes has witnessed firsthand the danger of only the wealthy having their voices heard, and he’s a strong advocate who defends the poorer classes against the powerful. That changes the day a struggling heiress, Lady Madeleine Jameson, arrives at his door.

In a last-ditch effort to save her faltering estate, Lady Jameson invested in a merchant brig, the Padget. The ship was granted a rare privilege by the king’s regent: a Letter of Marque authorizing the captain to seize the cargo of French traders operating illegally in the Indian Sea. Yet when the Padget returns to London, her crew is met by soldiers ready to take possession of their goods and arrest the captain for piracy. And the Letter—the sole proof his actions were legal—has mysteriously vanished.

Moved by the lady’s distress, intrigued by the Letter, and goaded by an opposing solicitor, Snopes takes the case. But as he delves deeper into the mystery, he learns that the forces arrayed against Lady Jameson, and now himself, are even more perilous than he’d imagined.

Todd M. Johnson is the author of three legal thrillers: The Deposit Slip (2012), Critical Reaction(2013), and Fatal Trust (2017), and The Barrister and the Letter of Marque (2021), his first foray into historical mystery. He has been a practicing attorney for over 30 years, specializing as a trial lawyer. A graduate of Princeton University and the University of Minnesota Law School, he also taught for two years as adjunct professor of International Law and served as a US diplomat in Hong Kong. He lives outside Minneapolis, Minnesota, with his wife and daughter.

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Book Spotlight And Author Interview — The Barrister And The Letter of Marque

11 Aug
  • Title: The Barrister and the Letter of Marque: A Novel 
  • Author: Todd M. Johnson
  • Genre: Historical Mystery, Suspense, Inspirational Fiction 
  • Publisher: Bethany House Publishers (August 3, 2021)
  • Length: (416) pages
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-0764239137
  • Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-0764212369
  • eBook ASIN: B08LG91Y95
  • Audiobook ASIN: B0983VZ6XZ

BOOK DESCRIPTION

As a barrister in 1818 London, William Snopes has witnessed firsthand the danger of only the wealthy having their voices heard, and he’s a strong advocate who defends the poorer classes against the powerful. That changes the day a struggling heiress, Lady Madeleine Jameson, arrives at his door.

In a last-ditch effort to save her faltering estate, Lady Jameson invested in a merchant brig, the Padget. The ship was granted a rare privilege by the king’s regent: a Letter of Marque authorizing the captain to seize the cargo of French traders operating illegally in the Indian Sea. Yet when the Padget returns to London, her crew is met by soldiers ready to take possession of their goods and arrest the captain for piracy. And the Letter—-the sole proof his actions were legal—has mysteriously vanished.

Moved by the lady’s distress, intrigued by the Letter, and goaded by an opposing solicitor, Snopes takes the case. But as he delves deeper into the mystery, he learns that the forces arrayed against Lady Jameson, and now himself, are even more perilous than he’d imagined.

PURCHASE LINKS

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ADVANCE PRAISE

“Johnson debuts with a tense story of powerful interests teaming up to thwart a legal challenge in Georgian-era England…Johnson steeps his story in legal maneuvering, layers of intrigue, midnight chases, and even a hint of romance. While faith elements are subtle, this enthralling novel will appeal to fans of both legal thrillers and historical inspirationals.”— Publishers Weekly

“… a mystery worthy of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This richly historical and lively paced story has all the makings of a modern classic.”— Jocelyn Green, Christy Award-winning author of Shadows of the White City 

“At once atmospheric and gripping, Johnson’s latest is a luminous and refreshing new offering in inspirational historical fiction.”— Rachel McMillan, bestselling author of The London Restoration, and The Mozart Code

“A fascinating glimpse into a Regency London readers seldom see.”— Roseanna M. White, bestselling author of Edwardian fiction

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Todd M. Johnson is the author ofthree legal thrillers: The Deposit Slip (2012), Critical Reaction (2013), and Fatal Trust (2017), and The Barrister and the Letter of Marque (2021), his first foray into historical mystery. He has been a practicing attorney for over 30 years, specializing as a trial lawyer. A graduate of Princeton University and the University of Minnesota Law School, he also taught for two years as adjunct professor of International Law and served as a US diplomat in Hong Kong. He lives outside Minneapolis, Minnesota, with his wife and daughter.

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Q & A WITH TODD M. JOHNSON

Many authors say that they have always been a writer — making up stories as a child. When did you first become a writer?

Always been a writer? Could I convince you that I can still recall smuggling a pen and paper into my play pen and musing late into naptime on plot points drawn from my long road of experience?

Seriously, storytelling has been a long journey for me. From imaginary childhood friends to stories told to schoolmates, I started pretty early. I first began scribing when a good friend and I got together to write short stories in fifth grade or so, reading our finished works to one another over Cokes and cookies. (I wish I still had those stories, his and mine!) As I grew older, I continued writing fiction whenever I could convince a schoolteacher that a “short story” was an appropriate response to an assignment – like the rewrite I did of a chapter in A Separate Peace by John Knowles from ‘Finny’s’ perspective. In eighth grade, a teacher intern was excited enough about my writing that she volunteered to be my “agent”, setting me up in a classroom after school to write stories under her supervision. I’m sure she went on to be a marvelous teacher. Unfortunately, I hadn’t the patience to stick with it at that young age. 

I got away from writing after college, focusing on the more practical career path of law—only to return to the typewriter (now transformed into a keyboard) about twelve years ago when I realized the dream I’d always nurtured of being a novelist was getting away from me. That led to my fortunate intersection with Bethany House and my four novels (and more in the pipeline).   

Can you tell us a little about what inspired The Barrister and the Letter of Marque?

When I first landed with Bethany House, it was wisely suggested that I “write about what I knew”. As a longtime trial attorney, I dove first into writing contemporary legal mysteries, particularly in the courtroom (The Deposit Slip, Critical Reaction and Fatal Trust).  Each of those first three books were very exciting and rewarding to write. Except …

The fact is that I am nearly as passionate about history as I am about writing. Not only was history an emphasis in college, but historic non-fiction and fiction alike have been my “go to” reads ever since. My poor wife and children have long experienced my obsession as I careen off the road on car trips to catch the latest roadside historical marker (now “hysterical markers” in my family, a term suggested by an equally obsessive friend and history buff). 

The Barrister and the Letter of Marque was inspired by a desire to combine my passion for history with my abiding love of writing. That, along with my great love of Dickens and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and their writings about life in nineteenth century England. 

What does Marque mean? What other Regency lingo can you explain for us?

“Marque” was originally French for “Mars, God of War”.  The phrase “Letter of Marque” has, for centuries, described the device by which a sovereign granted power to a privateer captain (or merchant captain) to take ships of other nations as though the holder of the letter was part of the sovereign’s navy. In practice, it empowered those privateers to take foreign ships without the risk of being deemed a “pirate” – which would subject them to prosecution and hanging for their actions.  

The authority to grant such power continues to this day: it is, in fact, enshrined in the American Constitution, although an American Letter of Marque must be granted by the government. The Letter of Marque which appears in the opening pages of The Barrister and the Letter of Marque was drafted by me from an actual letter issued by the British Crown in the eighteenth century. 

A smattering of other examples of Regency lingo include:

Gaol:  The nineteenth century English spelling for “jail”.

Mulled wine: A favored drink in nineteenth century England (and much earlier), made by combining warmed red wine with sweeteners (sugar, oranges, maple syrup or honey) and adding cinnamon, cloves and/or anise.

Brag: A betting card game played in the Regency period England in which the players each receive three cards instead of the five cards typical of modern poker.

Hosteler: A person who took care of horses at an inn – not to be confused with an “hosteller”, originally a monk who cared for guests, but now a hotel manager.

 Can you share your thoughts on your hero and his challenges in the story?

The principal hero of The Barrister and the Letter of Marque is William Snopes, a barrister in his late thirties practicing in Regency Period London. Barrister Snopes came from money, power and privilege: his father was wealthy and a member of the House of Lords. 

But sadly, his father was also unprincipled, as revealed in the opening pages of the book – so much so that William was driven from home after his mother’s death, turning his back on the money and station he would otherwise have enjoyed. He channeled the resulting anger and revulsion into representing debtors and the lower classes who could not afford representation.

The challenges William faces in The Barrister are personal, professional and spiritual. William is asked to represent the imprisoned captain of a privateer who claims to have operated under a Letter of Marque from Regent Prince George, a letter which has disappeared. The captain and his cousin, Lady Madeleine Jameson, now in dire financial straits, are members of the very class from which barrister Snopes had retreated. Nonetheless, he is drawn to the case by the inequities in power between his potential clients and the forces arrayed against them – and the injustices they are suffering. As he goes deeper into the case, he is forced to examine his own methods in court which, while effective, edge a line of morality, ethics and propriety. How far will he go to save the captain and his cousin? What lines will he be willing to cross? 

I created William Snopes to be his “own man”, but the character is influenced by Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and the modern television barrister “Rumpole of the Bailey”. Like barrister Snopes, both characters were very creative and insightful, but also flawed and (like us all) hobbled in judging their own shortcomings.  

Why did you choose to write a historical mystery?

As I mentioned elsewhere, history is a great passion for me. Drawing from my own

courtroom experience, I thought it would be fascinating to follow a nineteenth century barrister as he not only fights to solve a mystery but struggles to prove a man’s innocence in the roughhewn courtrooms of the Regency Period – burdened by the knowledge that a man’s life, and the estate of a woman he admires, is at stake.   

What type of research did you pursue of Regency London and detectives during this era?

l read many books and more articles to prepare The Barrister, some of which I’ve

identified in a video I posted a few weeks ago.  There was much about the Regency Period (1811-1820) I wanted to master: social mores, cultural norms and expectations, the court and prison systems, the selection and training of barristers, clothing of the period, eating and entertaining, the Far East tea trade, the economy of post-Napoleonic War England, and more. I also needed to understand the geography of London two hundred years ago. To that end, I bought several map books about the roads, buildings and neighborhoods of Regency London. Finally, I researched some of the great personalities of the period who appear in the book, including Beau Brummell, Princess Charlotte, Regent Prince George, Admiral Nelson and many others. I even used contemporaneous documents and doctoral dissertations to calculate the likely cost of a merchant brig at the time, as well as the likely tonnage of tea that could be stored in its hold.     

One of my favorite resources was an autobiography of an early Victorian period barrister (a decade and a half after the Regency period). That barrister’s description of his early years living and practicing in London was absolute gold.  

As for detectives of the period, there were none with one notable exception: the Bow Street Runners. This was a group of crime fighters organized in the mid-eighteenth century to capture thieves and other criminals for a reward from the government and the victim. Operating until the 1830s, it was very successful – and featured in The Barrister.  

What do you want your readers to take away with them after finishing it.

My hope is that readers will be entertained and find William Snopes and his compatriots of the period to be complex, witty, interesting – and worthy of following in future adventures in Regency England. I also hope they will recognize the inspirational underpinning of the story and characters, as they grapple with and strive to overcome the discouragement of corruption and the imperfection of any system of justice.  

Readers always want to know what is next for an author. Do you have any works in progress you can share about?

I do. I am just finishing edits of an historic novel about Ernest Hemingway in

Cuba in the early 1960s, as he and a young girl he’s befriended are pursued by Cuban intelligence due to knowledge they’ve acquired of secret Russian missiles aimed at America. 

I have also commenced a sequel to The Barrister and the Letter of Marque featuring William Snopes and Lady Madeleine Jameson, with a working title The Barrister and the Mad Duchess.  

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Join the virtual book tour of THE BARRISTER AND THE LETTER OF MARQUE, Todd M. Johnson’s highly acclaimed historical mystery, August 2-15, 2021. Over twenty-five popular on-line influencers specializing in historical mystery, suspense, and inspirational fiction will join in the celebration of its release with an interview, spotlights, exclusive excerpts, and reviews of this new Regency-era novel set in London, England. 

TOUR SCHEDULE

Aug 02 The Readathon(Review)

Aug 02 From Pemberley to Milton(Excerpt)

Aug 02 Austenprose—A Jane Austen Blog(Review) 

Aug 03 Life of Literature(Review)

Aug 03 Captivated Reading(Spotlight)

Aug 04 Laura’s Reviews(Review)

Aug 04 The Green Mockingbird(Review) 

Aug 05 My Jane Austen Book Club(Spotlight)

Aug 05 Reading is My Superpower(Review) 

Aug 06 Among the Reads(Excerpt) 

Aug 06 The Blue Stocking (Review) 

Aug 07 Gwendalyn’s Books (Review) 

Aug 07 Reading with Emily (Review) 

Aug 08 Storeybook Reviews (Spotlight)

Aug 08 Rosanne E. Lortz (Review)

Aug 09 Heidi Reads (Excerpt)

Aug 09 Bookworm Lisa (Review) 

Aug 10 The Caffeinated Bibliophile (Spotlight)

Aug 10 Wishful Endings (Review) 

Aug 10 My Bookish Bliss (Review) 

Aug 11 By the Book (Interview)

Aug 11 A Bookish Way of Life (Review)

Aug 12 Books, Teacups, & Reviews (Review)

Aug 12 A Darn Good Read (Review) 

Aug 13 Fire & Ice (Review) 

Aug 14 The Lit Bitch (Spotlight)

Aug 14 The Book Diva Reads(Spotlight)

Aug 15 Vesper’s Place (Review) 

Top 10 Tuesday — Nature Covers

11 May

This week Top 10 Tuesday posts are featuring book covers that depict nature. As I was looking for books to include, I was surprised that I could find as many as I did. Most covers feature people. I chose books that depict a setting or key element of the story (some have people, others not). They span genres too.

Do you like book covers that feature nature?

For more Top Ten Tuesday fun, head over to That Artsy Reader Girl.

Top 10 Book Covers Featuring Nature

Blackberry Beach by Irene Hannon

Collision of Lies by Tom Threadgill

The Earl’s Lady Geologist by Alissa Baxter

The Escape by Lisa Harris

For The Love of Joy by Janet Ferguson

Mountain Laurel by Lori Benton

The Nature of Small Birds by Susie Finkbeiner

Present Danger by Elizabeth Goddard

Tidewater Bride by Laura Frantz

Under a Turquoise Sky by Lisa Carter