In Dianne Freeman’s charming Victorian-era mystery series, Frances Wynn, the American-born Countess of Harleigh, finds her sister’s wedding threatened by a vow of vengeance.
London is known for its bustle and intrigues, but the sedate English countryside can host—or hide—any number of secrets. Frances, the widowed Countess of Harleigh, needs a venue for her sister Lily’s imminent wedding, away from prying eyes. Risings, George Hazleton’s family estate in Hampshire, is a perfect choice, and soon Frances, her beloved George, and other guests have gathered to enjoy the usual country pursuits—shooting, horse riding, and romantic interludes in secluded gardens.
But the bucolic setting harbors a menace, and it’s not simply the arrival of Frances’s socially ambitious mother. Above and below stairs, mysterious accidents befall guests and staff alike. Before long, Frances suspects these “accidents” are deliberate, and fears that the intended victim is Lily’s fiancé, Leo. Frances’s mother is unimpressed by Lily’s groom-to-be and would much prefer that Lily find an aristocratic husband, just as Frances did. But now that Frances has found happiness with George—a man who loves her for much more than her dowry—she heartily approves of Lily’s choice. If she can just keep the couple safe from villains and meddling mamas.
As Frances and George search for the culprit among the assembled family, friends, and servants, more victims fall prey to the mayhem. Mishaps become full-blooded murder, and it seems that no one is safe. And unless Frances can quickly flush out the culprit, the peal of wedding bells may give way to another funeral toll…
I have done a lot of exploring new series in the recent past and I am excited to say that this is my first adventure into the world of Frances Wynn and the Countess of Harleigh mystery series! I love a good cozy mystery with a historical backdrop. Since this is the third book in the series, there had been significant character development in earlier books, but I didn’t find that I felt lost. I felt that the author provided enough information for me to jump right in with this as a standalone. Of course, I would encourage anyone to begin with the first book to fully appreciate the characters and world, but jumping in here would be perfectly acceptable.
As a long-time fan of the juxtaposition between the ‘upstairs’ and ‘downstairs’ in the Victorian era, I found this book to be exceedingly interesting with the plot developing in both settings. Though Frances is of the upstairs crowd, she has just as much respect for the downstairs tragedies as those that take place in her world. I found this compassion to be a central point in the story. The reader will pick up on and appreciate the detailed research the author surely undertook to ensure that the book had an air of historical accuracy. There were no out of place elements and the language used by the characters was fantastically period accurate!
Some novels can fall into the category of having so much danger that it seems highly unrealistic, but I found this book to have the right balance between ‘accidents’, danger, and realistic events that would probably have occurred if this had happened at a real Victorian era estate. This can oftentimes be a fine line to walk, but this author has done that beautifully! This is the perfect book to open on a rainy day with a nice cup of tea and a biscuit! Clocking in at around 300 pages, it was a fairly fast paced book with plenty of intrigue to keep the reader hooked. I loved the mystery and the plot development throughout!
I would recommend this to fans of cozy mysteries and those who enjoy a good historical mystery novel as well! A healthy dose of whodunit mixed with a strong female lead make this book a must read historical mystery! Thank you to Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, the publisher, and Dianne Freeman for having me along for this tour and providing a copy for me to read. All thoughts and opinions are my own! Looking forward to more from the Countess of Harleigh!
About the Author
Dianne Freeman is a life-long book lover who left the world of corporate finance to pursue her passion for writing. After co-authoring the non-fiction book, Haunted Highway, The Spirits of Route 66, she realized her true love was fiction, historical mystery in particular. She also realized she didn’t like winter very much so now she and her husband pursue the endless summer by splitting their time between Michigan and Arizona. She’s been nominated for an Agatha and the prestigious Mary Higgins Clark Award, and won the 2019 Lefty Award for Best Debut Mystery.