The annual return of Lady Emily – wherever she may journey – is always something to celebrate. In this outing, Tasha Alexander’s 16th, Lady Emily and the dashing Colin have chosen to accompany Colin’s mother on a trip down the Nile. The host, Lord Deeley, is an admirer of Lady Hargreaves, Colin’s mother, as well as an old friend, and joining the expedition is Colin’s daughter Kat. Emily has a slightly prickly relationship with both women, one she tries very hard to set right.
Murder at the Serpentine Bridge is the sixth installment in Andrea Penrose’s Wrexford and Sloane Regency mystery series. As the book opens, in 1814, the two protagonists, the Earl of Wrexford and Lady Charlotte Sloane, are a newly married couple, and Charlotte is trying to get used to life as a countess, while inwardly rebelling against the restrictions of Regency high society.
Wrexford is a man of science, a brilliant chemist, who relies on logic and deductive reasoning to solve crimes. Charlotte is a satirical cartoonist who uses the pseudonym A.J. Quill. She had eloped with her drawing teacher when she was very young, and scandalized her family. Now that her first husband is dead and she is married to Wrexford, she is finally accepted back into polite society. In contrast to Wrexford, she uses her intuition and artist’s eye to solve murders. The two complement each other very well. At first I wondered if the series would not be as compelling now that the two of them are married, but I am happy to say I was wrong. Wrexford and Charlotte make a great couple, and the witty dialogue which was a strength of the earlier novels is still there.
In her Maggie Hope series, Susan MacNeal has seemed to be more and more interested in the US side of the outbreak of WWII (see The Hollywood Spy, 2021). In this novel, a standalone, she pursues that interest, creating a terrifying account of Nazism in America in 1940. Her central characters, mother and daughter Vi and Veronica, kick off the action with Veronica’s graduation from Hunter College in New York. Veronica is looking forward to an internship at Mademoiselle magazine, but thanks to an unfortunate turn of events the internship is rescinded. She and her mother, along with her Pasadena based Uncle Walter (in town for her graduation from Hunter) make plans to move to California. Uncle Walter is willing to let the women live in his beach house.
Amanda Flower’s charming historical mystery is set in the household of Emily Dickinson and her family around 1855. The main character is not Emily herself (though she is a strong second) but the new maid in the Dickinson household, Willa Noble. One of the more fascinating aspects of this novel is Flower’s simple ability to put the reader into a different mindset. Willa, who has always been poor, is grateful for the work and for a roof over her head. Her simple expectations are so different from the highly enlarged expectations of the early 21st century.
Sometimes all it takes is a small change in point of view to make a huge difference. Vanessa Riley’s lively historical mystery set in 1806 London sets itself apart from the several other Regency historicals out there at the moment, simply by creating a black main character. At the time the black population in London numbered up to 20,000, out of a population of about one million. They were referred to as Blackamoors and included Africans and East and West Indians. (Riley’s notes at the back of the book are invaluable.)
This series goes from strength to strength. Set in just post WWII London, Iris Sparks and Gwen Bainbridge run The Right Sort, a marriage bureau (apparently something that existed at the time). Iris worked in intelligence during the war, and Gwen, a daughter of privilege, is a bereaved widow who lives with her in-laws and young son as they have had her declared mentally incompetent. The two find solace and purpose in running a business together, and my only actual quibble with this book was that there was really none of the marriage bureau in the plot (or very little).
I am a huge fan of Nev March’s first book in this series, Murder in Old Bombay, but I am a little sad she moved her main characters and newlyweds Jim Agnihotri and Diana Framji from Bombay to Boston. They are wonderful, vivid characters with an interesting relationship, and in many ways this is Diana’s book, while the first book belonged to Jim. As the book opens Jim is letting Diana know that he’s heading to Chicago on a job – he works for the Dupree detective agency – and that he’ll be gone awhile. That’s really all she knows.
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).
This charming first in a series has some kissing cousins – it bears a resemblance to Dianne Freeman’s Lady Harleigh series and to Darcie Wilde’s Rosalind Thorne books. Set in the same time period, 1830’s Britain, this book has a vivid, fast paced story telling style that makes it difficult to put down. Young Lady Caroline Morton has been disgraced by her father’s bankruptcy and suicide, so she’s left her aunt’s household and is – gasp – earning a wage as the companion of Mrs. Frogerton, a forthright, wealthy widow who is sending her daughter, Dorothy, out into the wilds of the London “season.”
This is not a mystery, but an historical novel by the talented Juliet Blackwell, who has two cozy series to her credit as well as several novels. This novel is set in a now very familiar time period: WWII. Blackwell’s story takes place in occupied France, and she has a slightly different and original twist to her story. The main characters are Capucine, a fan maker, and her estranged daughter, Mathilde. The two live lives that haven’t intersected much, but this is not only the story of Mathilde’s growth from a callow, privileged young woman into something much more, but the story of Capucine, a true flapper in every way, who is now being held prisoner by the Nazis on the top floor of a Paris department store.