Mystery with a good dose of humor
If you have been following this site for a while, you have probably figured out by now that I am kind of obsessed with mysteries. The mystery genre has seen a rise in recent years, actually.
However, sometimes you need a book that will combine the ‘whodunnit’ element with a more light-hearted tone. A good dose of humor always helps, too. Which is why today I wanted to introduce you to A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder.
Countess, rich and a widow at 27
Frances Wynn is just twenty seven.But she is already a widow of the Count of Harleigh. This means a lot of prestige, but also a lot of time spent in a boring large house with absolutely nothing to do. Which is why she decides to move out of the family estate and regain the control of her life. And that is when strange things begin to occur.
Just after moving out,she finds trouble at her door almost instantly. The police are investigating the death of her late husband again, a year after his death, suspecting foul play. Meanwhile, her brother-in-law will do everything he can in order to take control of her personal fortune. Amid all this hustle, Frances will also have to protect her younger sister, who has just arrived from New York.A series of both hilarious and mysterious happenings will ensue, creating an amusing and very interesting story.
Smart, funny, suspenseful
A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder is a smart, charming story that combines historical fiction with mystery. The story is filled with smart dialogue and funny internal monologue, thus making this a perfect and easy summer read. Frances was certainly an amusing character, keeping the reader good company. You will smirk, nod and laugh out loud while reading this!
This is a good recommendation for fans of mysteries and historical fiction. I also suspect Downton Abbey fans will be particularly thrilled!
Q&A with the author, Dianne Freeman
Talking to the author of a book you liked is always fun. I had the pleasure of asking Dianne Freeman some questions about this wonderful book. Are you ready? Here are her answers:
Is there something particular that draws you to the historical mystery genre?
I’ve always been something of a history buff particularly personal histories; how people lived their lives in different eras. I’ve also found the mystery genre to be something of a social commentary on a particular point in time, not just on crime and punishment, but on the people caught up in the crime or the solving of it.
Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple shows us how a crime can affect life in a quiet English village. Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man shows us what life was like during the final days of prohibition. Historical mystery makes for a fascinating glimpse of life in another time.
Historical fiction has been known to have its difficulties; mainly the research involved in writing for a particular era. How difficult was it to portray Victorian London, especially the British society?
This goes back to the “I love history” element of my chosen genre. I can spend hours steeping myself in history books, websites, museums, and my favourite—newspaper archives. As history goes, 1899 was not that long ago and research material is boundless. Biographies were an enjoyable education to life among the aristocracy and there’s always Debrett’s if I had a specific question about precedence or etiquette. Research is more of an indulgence for me than a chore.
The technology of the era was a little tricky in that it was developing rapidly but just because electric lighting, for example, was available, it wasn’t common in every household. The newspapers were helpful in showing me whether people flocked to a new innovation or shied away from it.
The mystery genre has always been loved, but in recent years it has experienced an even greater appreciation. What do you think it is about mystery books that draws the readers?
I think people are naturally drawn to a puzzle, or enigma. With a mystery novel we know the clues are right in front of us, and if we can only identify them among the red herrings, we can solve this puzzle. It’s very much like life.
“I think most women of the era simply lacked the opportunity not the spirit.”
Frances Wynn is a woman that seems very different from the majority of women of her era. She is quite the independent spirit. Did you base her character on someone you know?
I think most women of the era simply lacked the opportunity not the spirit. Frances stoically did her duty and suffered a loveless marriage with a stiff upper lip. Her widowhood and the fact that her father set aside funds for her, gave her an opportunity to live life by her own rules for the first time in her life. She was not about to pass up that chance.
Real American heiresses like Jennie Jerome, who later became Lady Randolph Churchill, or Mary Leiter, who became Baroness Curzon, had spines many women of today would admire. They championed causes, ran charities, and often carried a great deal of political influence (even though they couldn’t vote). The went after a goal and didn’t stop until they achieved it.
Frances is a bit of a conglomerate of all these women.
Frances is both intelligent and independent. However, as a reader, what I loved most about her was her sense of humor while reading her internal monologues and thoughts. What do you love most about this heroine?
I like her perseverance most. She doesn’t give up even if she has no idea what she’s doing, which is quite often. In such situations, a sense of humor does come in handy.
Which character did you enjoy writing about the most?
I have the strongest attachment to Frances, but I really enjoyed writing Aunt Hetty. She didn’t come into the story at all until the second draft. Originally Frances’ brother Alonzo travelled with Lily as chaperone, but he was just wrong for the role so older, wiser Aunt Hetty took over. I think she fits in much better.
When you started writing A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder did you already have a murderer in mind? Did you already know that the particular character had to be your culprit?
I did have a murderer in mind, but that changed as I wrote. I like to plot and outline before I write, but I also like to be flexible enough to change should inspiration strike.
Are we going to be seeing more of Frances and her adventures?
A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder is book one of the Countess of Harleigh Mysteries. Frances and her friends will be back in 2019 with A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder.
What is your own favorite mystery book?
I enjoy so many different mysteries for so many different reasons I could never choose just one. I love to read mysteries with series characters and some of my favourites are Anne Perry’s Charlotte and Thomas Pitt novels, Rhys Bowen’s Her Royal Spyness, and Alyssa Maxwell’s Gilded Newport Mysteries.
A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder is out now by Kensington Books. I would like to thank Mrs Freeman and Kensington Books for this interview. Don’t miss your chance on reading about Frances and her adventures!