Dianne Freeman: A Bride’s Guide to Marriage and Murder

I knew from Dianne Freeman’s first book that this was a special series, and the subsequent books have done absolutely nothing to change my initial opinion.  In this installment, she manages to carry off the wedding of the main character without destroying the interest and tension in the novel.  I can think of other series where a wedding can prove to be a disaster for the characters and only one other historical series, Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily books, where that was not the case.  So, bravo to Ms. Freeman right off the bat, before I even got to the heart of the book (the wedding happens at the very beginning).

These books are nice historicals – set in 1900 London, the details of houses, clothing, social rank – all add to the stories.  But they are the back drop to Freeman’s true gift, which is assembling and telling a good mystery story.  Because of the time period the detecting has a golden age feel. There’s a small circle of suspects, and the fact the main character, Lady Frances and her now husband George, are amateur sleuths is completely believable as the police force was still kind of a work in progress.

The body that kicks off the murder mystery, Mr. Connor’s, is unfortunately found right next door, disrupting the tail end of the wedding as Frances’ brother Alonzo becomes an immediate suspect.  Frances and George put off their wedding trip to Cannes (in a Romanov villa no less, and I think I was as disappointed as they were) to help clear Alonzo.

Alonzo had been attempting to court the Connor’s daughter, but he is unfortunately being thwarted in this desire by an available future Marquis.  Penniless, but titled, an American heiress like Miss Connor is just the ticket as far as the future Marquis is concerned, and Miss Connor’s father apparently agreed.  Miss Connor herself seems to lean toward Alonzo.

There’s also a feud going on between the Connors and another wealthy American family, the Bainbridges.  Both patriarchs are aggressive and unpleasant – no one seems to be mourning Mr. Connor too much, least of all Mr. Bainbridge.  There’s plenty for Frances and George to unpack as they attempt to unravel the mystery.

Not only that, but they are supposed to be on their honeymoon, and at all hours of the day and night members of Frances’ family appear demanding her help or looking for her to call on someone (often the grieving widow Connor) to see what information she can glean.  Because George is serving as Alonzo’s legal advisor, he’s able to extract some information from the police, and between the two of them – especially with Frances’ excellent deductive reasoning skills – they are of course able to eventually solve the murder.

Freeman’s tone is light and often funny, and she has a truly deft hand with character, from her mainstays down to some sidebar characters in this outing, thugs named Sidney and Archie, who make a couple of appearances and further the storyline when they do appear.  They were the cherries on this particularly delicious cupcake.  I very much hope they make a return appearance.

I am also awaiting the honeymoon.  I know it won’t go smoothly, but I am sure it will be a happy one.  Frances and George are that rare couple in literature that work in sync, are happy together, and make the stories better by simply being a unit.  These books are funny, well plotted, and filled with characters I have grown to love.