A Doll Factory is the location of this fascinating look at Victorian life through the eyes of both a budding feminist and a serial killer.
Iris is an aspiring artist painting doll faces at Mrs. Salter’s Doll Emporium in 1850s London. Mrs. Salter is a harsh taskmistress especially when in the throes of her legal drug addiction. Iris is by all accounts beautiful except for a skewed collarbone which never set correctly when broken during her youth.
Iris has a brief encounter with Silas, a taxidermist fascinated with “curiosities” such as Iris’. Silas becomes obsessed with Iris and vows to have her.
The Doll Factory has something for everyone. It is a romance, a mystery, and historical fiction. The best part is it is a story of a nascent feminist working against society’s beliefs of a woman’s place. I enjoyed this take on a Victorian serial killer thriller. I think you will too if you like historical fiction. 4 stars!
Thanks to Emily Bestler Books, Atria, and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for my honest review.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, New Books Tagged with: Aug 13 2019, serial killer, Victorian
The Girl with Sweetest Secret is an American brought over to London by her family to use their money to capture a title.
American Frances “Frankie” Bumgarten is surprised by a stranger in her family’s kitchen late at night. After almost braining the stranger with an old bread paddle, Frankie is embarrassed by her lack of a robe or any covering other than a thin nightgown. Frankie recognizes Reynard Boulton, aka the Fox, who is an heir to a Viscount and collects gossip as his trade. He is helping her Uncle Red return home from a long evening of gambling and drinking. The Fox has agreed to watch over Frankie and her sister in her brother-in-law’s absence so he was unable to use the gossip he acquired against Frankie and her family.
Later when the Fox and Frankie meet at a dance, they both feel a connection. Unfortunately, Frankie’s mother wants her to marry high in the aristocracy and a Prussian Duke is interested in her. When later, the Fox is almost ensnared in a family’s marriage trap, Frankie saves him from immediate shame. However, the Fox must have a duel with the family’s father. While Frankie, dressed as a boy, is watching, the duel is held. The action just escalates from there.
The Girl with Sweetest Secret is an action-packed and enjoyable Victorian historical romance. It is highly recommended for readers of that genre. 4 stars!
Thanks to Zebra Books and NetGalley for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
Posted in Historical Fiction, Romance Tagged with: Nov 27 2018, Victorian
A long-dead body is found in the captivating, and true, Lady in the Cellar.
In London in 1879, many people were looking to make their fortune by living together in boarding houses. In one, at Number 4 Euston Square, a well-to-do older woman’s body is found in the coal cellar. Her putrefied skeletal remains are clothed partially in silk along with a clothesline tied roughly around her neck. Though her time of death is years before, the London constabulary discovers through extremely thorough detective work her identity. The victim was Matilda Hacker. She was a wealthy heiress that never married. Despite being in her sixties, she dressed as a young girl. When her sister died, she seemed to have increasing mental issues. Convinced people were stalking her, she frequently used assumed names and moved around England. One such place she moved was Number 4 Euston Square.
I loved the great descriptions of how police work was done in England in 1879. Victorian England was a time of significant change in policing. Investigations were beginning to use the scientific method rather than intuition to solve crimes. The setting in London is vivid and makes the reader feel that they are there. However, the plot takes many wrong turns following what the police probably did at the time. It is disconcerting to spend fifty pages on a potential suspect only to have him eliminated in a few paragraphs. Also, the resolution was not what I expected. Some of my hesitancy in recommending Lady in the Cellar for its plot is perhaps my issue with being used to clear conclusions in fiction. I do recommend this book for writers setting their story in the same location and time. 3 stars!
Thanks to White Lion Publishing and NetGalley for granting my wish for an advance copy.
Posted in Historical Fiction, Mystery & Thrillers, Non-fiction Tagged with: Oct 30 2018, true crime, Victorian
A beguiling mystery, unique romance and dynamic characters make the Hollow of Fear a perfect readcation for female Sherlock Holmes fans.
Set in Victorian England, the Hollow of Fear follows Charlotte Holmes and Mrs. Watson. Looking for her half-brother, Charlotte runs into Moriarty’s handiwork. Also, when Lady Ingram turns up dead, Lord Ingram is suspected. Charlotte must find the real murderer to clear his name while her relationship with the Lord takes an unexpected turn.
The use of Victorian language and plot devices (hidden tunnels and a multitude of disguises) matches the original Holmes atmosphere well. I especially liked the unusual romantic dynamic between Charlotte and Lord Ingram. Despite swapping genders of some characters and a very 21st century feeling to Charlotte, the mystery felt like it belonged in the Sherlock Holmes canon. It definitely wasn’t easy for this armchair detective to solve.
This is my first book in the series. While understandable as a stand alone, I felt the tale would have been more enjoyable if I had read the two previous books first. Regardless, it is a solid 4 star read!
Thanks to the publisher, Berkeley, and Edelweiss+ for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review
Posted in Historical Fiction, Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: British, Oct 2 2018, Sherlock Holmes, Victorian
What Butterfly Conspiracy results in a woman’s death after a rare butterfly lands on her arm?
Merula is left by her mother at her family’s house as a baby five years after her mother’s escape from the rigid Victorian house’s rules. Luckily, Merula’s fascination with butterflies is supported by her Uncle Rupert.
In those sexist times, Merula’s rare butterfly, Attacus Atlas, must be displayed at a house party by the Royal Zoological Society as her Uncle’s work. When rich Lady Sophia drops dead after handling the rare butterfly, Uncle Rupert is arrested for murder. Merula is helped to escape the house party by Lord Raven Royston known for the public failure of his investments. The two search for the real how and why of Lady Sophia’s death while trying to stay one step before the police. The characters they meet are a treat.
Set in the same world as the Veronica Speedwell series, I enjoyed the self-effacing Merula’s world much better. The Butterfly Conspiracy is completely G rated which is more appropriate for the setting. Plus the mystery and the subtle romantic feeling between Merula and Royston seem more organic. I loved the twists leading up to the conclusion. I can’t wait for the next book in the Merriweather and Royston series.
This book is recommended for Veronica Speedwell fans as well as historical fiction fans that enjoy a good mystery or vice versa. 4 stars!
Thanks to Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Historical Fiction, Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: amateur detective, Aug 7 2018, Victorian