The Lost Letter by Mimi Matthews #amreading #BookReview

 

Lost Letter

Here is a classic tale of love lost and ensuing misfortune. Paralleling the situation in the tale of Beauty and the Beast, the heroine, Sylvia Stafford finds herself in a stately manor house where the Earl of Radcliffe, badly injured in the Indian rebellion, hides himself away from society so no-one can see his facial scars.

But Miss Stafford had originally met the Earl 3 years earlier in London, when he was Colonel Sebastian Conrad. There had been flirtation, the exchange of kisses and he had taken a lock of her hair as a keepsake. Since then, her circumstances had changed dramatically. Her father, losing all his money at the gaming tables, committed suicide. Penniless and alone, Sylvia had accepted a position as Governess with a family in Cheapside and Sebastian had not contacted her.

Sylvia Stafford is a determined, proud, young lady of 25. She carries out her teaching duties enthusiastically and will not demean herself for the sake of money. Sebastian now believes that she is a fortune hunter, despite the efforts of his sister, Lady Julia Harker, to bring the two together.

Mimi Matthews writing reflects her deep academic knowledge of Victorian social history, subtly making every action and speech believable. Much of the story is told through conversations between the two protagonists and this engages the reader with their personalities and a wish for their happiness. The essence of this thwarted romance was deceit and misunderstanding and they extricate themselves from this in a credible way. I found myself rooting for Sylvia and enjoying every moment of this delightful novel.

The Lost Letter will be published on September 19th and can be preordered on Amazon

Mimi Matthews

Mimi Matthews is the author of The Pug Who Bit Napoleon: Animal Tales of the 18th and 19th Centuries (to be released by Pen and Sword Books in November 2017) and A Victorian Lady’s Guide to Fashion and Beauty (to be released by Pen and Sword Books in 2018).  She researches and writes on all aspects of nineteenth century history—from animals, art, and etiquette to fashion, beauty, feminism, and law.  Her scrupulously cited articles have been published on various academic and history sites, including the Victorian Web and the Journal of Victorian Culture, and are also syndicated weekly at Bust Magazine.

When not writing historical non-fiction, Mimi authors exquisitely proper Victorian romance novels with dark, brooding heroes and intelligent, pragmatic heroines.  She is a member of Romance Writers of America, The Beau Monde, Savvy Authors, and English Historical Fiction Authors, and is currently represented by Serendipity Literary Agency in New York. Her debut Victorian romance The Lost Letter will be released in September 2017.

In her other life, Mimi is an attorney with both a Juris Doctor and a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature.  She resides in California with her family—which includes an Andalusian dressage horse, two Shelties, and two Siamese cats.

https://www.mimimatthews.com/

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Who Killed Constable Cock?: A Victorian True Crime Murder Case by Angela Buckley #BookRelease

Who Killed

 The mystery of who killed Constable Cock is Angela Buckley’s second Victorian Supersleuth Investigation. It describes a murder which occurred on the night of August 1st 1876 in the Manchester suburb of Chorlton-cum-Hardy. While patrolling his beat, Constable Cock was suddenly shot in the chest and although there were witnesses close by no-one could tell where the bullet came from.

Using newspaper reports and evidence presented in court, Angela has pieced together what happened. Although only 21, Nicholas Cock had already lived a varied life and was an extremely conscientious police officer. This had caused to him have enemies and Superintendent Brent of the Manchester Constabulary believed he knew the culprit. But proving guilt was not so easy. Reading this book gives us a window into Victorian life, meeting respectable people, burglars and the unfortunate. The availability of firearms made a policeman, bearing only a staff, vulnerable but provided clues as to whom the perpetrator might be.

The delight of Angela Buckley’s books are the aptly worded chapter titles, such as “A Murder of a Dastardly Character,” and each are followed by well-chosen quotes as in Chapter 4:

“Take nothing on its looks; take everything on evidence. There’s no better rule.” from Great Expectations.

Every aspect of the investigation is described and once the case is complete using thorough, though mainly circumstantial evidence, it would seem there was nothing more to report but there is an incredible twist in the tale. In a revelation which would be difficult to believe in fiction, we meet the colourful character of Charlie Peace and the case is turned upon its head.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in social history but also those who enjoy a good detective story with a fascinating conclusion.

Murder once more on the streets of Victorian London

I’m reviewing another Victorian murder mystery today. It’s written in an entirely different style but is another 5 star book.

Seamstress

The Pre-Raphaelite Seamstress by Amita Murray

The prologue of this Victorian mystery describes the bloody scene within a gentleman’s carriage on the streets of London through the eyes of his murderer but we must wait until the denouement of the story for all to be revealed.

We meet instead, seamstress Rachel Faraday, not surprisingly often mistaken for a whore, on her way to the house of a new client, Mrs March and her handsome, but annoying brother Harry Twyfold. It would seem to be the introduction to a conventional romance but it is not so simple. Rachel is compelled to investigating the murder which has occurred, to prevent injustice and free an innocent man.

Rachel is not only a seamstress, but also an artist who paints her own fabrics. She meets Dante Gabriel Rosetti who gives her lessons while she tries to resist his charms. Her life becomes complicated and at times unbearable and she puts herself in great danger by risking a tête-à-tête with the lecherous George Norland and then by following a suspect through the squalor of the Southwark lanes.

This unpredictable story sweeps us through Pre-Raphaelite exhibitions, Rosetti’s studio, Rachel’s lower middle class home shared with friends and the abject poverty among the wharves lining the Thames. Rachel has a complicated personality; an independent, artistic lady of 27 who at times is driven to despair. But when all seems impossible and she has risked all, there is a solution with the aid of loyal friends and a suggestion of future happiness and a further book.

This unusual book rewards any reader who enjoys a Victorian setting and its constant twists of plot increase the mystery of the murderer’s identity.

Diamonds and Dust by Carol Hedges

Diamonds

“Diamonds and Dust” plunges straight in to the murky night of Victorian London and a dastardly murder. The early descriptive paragraphs of the misty dark river and alleyways, written in the present tense, take you straight to the London of, “Bleak House,” and you are quickly caught up in the mystery and fear.

Eighteen year old Josephine King is left with the task of solving the murder of her recently discovered guardian and uncle in an inhospitable environment, summoning the strength of character she acquired from years living in an orphanage. Her unlikely allies are a brothel-keeper and a ragged crossing sweeper called Oi.

As the police make no progress, Josephine discovers that the murder may be connected to a collection of valuable jewels. There are incredible headlines in the newspapers of, “A Fearful monstrous Hound striking terror,” and no-one feels safe on the streets at night.

While Josephine puts herself at risk, striving to discover the murderer, Isabella Thorpe, a tragic acquaintance, fights to maintain her sanity, destined to be given in marriage to a depraved bully.

Every scene is filled with period detail, painting a picture of the surroundings without detracting from the fast-moving plot. In one delightful vignette Josephine even meets Charles Dickens though she is not impressed by him!

The characters, such as Pennyworth Candy and Trafalgar Moggs, have such perfect names and in this moral tale all receive their just deserts as the result of two determined women, even if the police take all the credit.

An Independent Woman by Frances Evesham

IndependentFrom the first few lines of, “An Independent Woman,” I knew that I would enjoy this book. The scene of a poor area of London is set, the clothing is of the Victorian era and Philomena, the heroine has our sympathy as she is already threatened by an evil foe.

The fast moving plot involves Philomena’s need to escape. Disguising herself and taking only a tiny portrait of an unknown woman, she boards one of the open-topped railway carriages bound for a new life in Bristol. But there is a dramatic change of circumstances when the train crashes in the Berkshire countryside. Philomena finds herself in the upstairs, downstairs world of Lord Thatcham, tempted by the hint of passion but convinced that she must escape once again.

The tortured soul of Hugh, Lord Thatcham is complex yet believable. His feelings of guilt and duty are at odds with his need for love and his interest in, “modern,” technology. Philomena also has a dark secret which she believes denies her any chance of happiness. Yet they share a common enemy who could unite them or dash their hopes for ever.

This beautifully written story contains all the ingredients for a successful historical romance, including separation and misunderstanding. The minor characters are warm or evil and the historical details accurate and particularly interesting. A thoroughly good read.

Rosie's Book Review team 1