A special #HistoricalMondays Guest Post | feat. the Countess of Harleigh Mysteries by Dianne Freeman

Posted Monday, 17 August, 2020 by jorielov , , , , , , 2 Comments

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Hallo, Hallo dear hearts!

I was hoping to share my ruminations about the third Countess of Harleigh novel with you today, however, the truth of it is I have been reading at a far slower pace recently due to having 3x migraines in 3 weeks and nearly succumbing to a fourth this past weekend. It takes quite a bit out of me to transition out of these more severe migraines (what I refer to as supernovas) and despite my earnest intentions to read on the schedules of my blog tours, sometimes I fall a bit short, which is why I’m going to be featuring a lovely Guest Post by Ms Freeman today and share my review with you about this delightful third novel during my latest #CrimeFicFridays review on the 21st which is the final day of the tour.

I should also mention, I originally was going to interview Ms Freeman about this latest release and tie it back together with the previous two installments as I had previously interviewed her during the first blog tour I hosted of hers wherein I discovered this most charmingly intriguing character and found a wicked new Cosy Historical Mystery series in which to love devouring! I loved this series so dearly much that I also had her as a guest author on my chat @SatBookChat!

However, after having a clustering of severe migraines I simply ran out of time to gather my thoughts and put forth a conversation which would honour the series. I was thankful Ms Freeman didn’t mind switching to a guest post and this topic was one of her choosing. When I read the essay I was quite charmed and think you will be too because it discusses the curious manners of ‘house parties’ and what was keenly interesting is how *structured!* and *regulated!* they were despite the illusion that it was a causal get together amongst friends!

I look forward to sharing more with you at the close of the week but for now, if this is your first introduction to the series, I hope it will whet a thirst of interest to begin reading the stories!

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On why I love reading this series:

A Lady's Guide to Gossip and Murder by Dianne Freeman

Rather immediately, I found myself drawn into the life of Frances – not just because her husband was a cad and a louse of a husband but because of how Ms Freeman endeared us to champion her cause as a woman exiting her mourning period and getting on with her life! It was quite horrid for women in the 19th Century – still attached to that tradition of wearing dearly depressing hues of black and grey (in different increments which were rather strictly enforced!) for at least a year after becoming widowed. It was only then, where she could ‘re-emerge’ into her colours and start to make her presence more widely known in society. How those women managed it, I’ll never know not – as in the case of Frances, it most have truly become a chore knowing her her husband departed his life! Oyy, vie such a rat!

Her in-laws were quite typical – only out for themselves, more concerned with the affairs relating to their estate and less enthused to even entertain a thought of concern over Frances. For her benefit, she was made of stronger stock than they would have believed and she took her daughter (Rose) and herself off to the city to carve out their future elsewhere from the throes of the Harleigh family and the responsibilities therein. Freeman gave you such a hearty and joyful introduction to her character – part of her antics reminded me of why I have such cheeky joy in reading the Anna Blanc series and part of the exchanges also reminded me of my recent over the Discreet Detective Agency – there is something to be said for well-timed satire and humour in the Cosy Historical Mysteries your reading! The appeal of course is being able to burst into giggles alongside the allure of moving deeper into the context of the building mystery!

Of course, not all is ill for Frances – she has enough resources within her means to purchase a least outright for a house which still has eighty years to be lived inside! Imagine? She might have sparse furnishings and staff but something told me her and Rose would thrive here rather than having stayed on with the relatives at the estate. One of my favourite moments is when she bribes one of the maids not to spoilt her news by giving her the chance to make haste and away with her once she moves out. It was a ploy to cover-up the fact she had a bit of a rebellious nature inside her to where she did not like to leave things to fate if there was a loophole round the unknown! Smartly written, Freeman keeps you entertained from one chapter to the next to where it is just a delight to overhear what Frances will say next and what her next actions might be which become the new concerns of the family she’s left behind!

As fate continued to give Frances more headaches than smiles, you had to give it to her – she chose to set her attitude on the positive and despite the arduous circumstances alighting towards her at an alarming speed of haste from her brother-in-law, Frances wouldn’t let her resolve falter. There was much more at stake than inconvenient delays in the normality of her life – no, she simply turnt her chin up with a strength she might not have entirely felt but one which would see her through with the kindness of her friends. This was another instance where you could see how lovely it was for her to have Fiona in her life – the kind of huckleberry friend everyone needs and is blessed to have found.

Part of the joy of reading this series are the layers of etiquette permeating into the fabric of the story-line – fitting for this debut of the series itself as it lends a certain view of the absurdity of tradition these lords and ladies were put through when their era was in its heyday! All the confining points of societal regulations and the fact, you couldn’t just remove yourself from the obligations as that would be lent to scandal and gossip; Freeman takes you through the motions of how frivolous the ton can be and how determined you must become to outwit them all the same! Frances shows this by her unwavering belief that if you lead with strength and a resolve to overcome whatever befalls you, society will either a) move on to the next lead story or b) forget you completely; which I felt was her preference. Frances wasn’t the kind who welcomed notoriety – quite the opposite, I believed she wanted to live a more ordinary life without all the pops and poms of the elevated class.

I was endeared to the plot long before I caught-on to the mysterious events happening in the background – for me, this series is wickedly driven by its characters – specifically everyone related into the  personal orbit and sphere of Frances! You can’t help but feel caught inside her life – seeing how even the most ordinary of lives can suddenly become a feast of trouble yet with a sturdy circle of friends and family; any obstacle can surely become defeated! I must admit, by the time I unearthed the actual crime and the person behind it – I was quite somber! I hadn’t expected the villain in the story to be whom they were as I was expecting it be someone else completely! The way in which Freeman related those finer details of the whys and hows lead me to believe the rest of this series is going to be as charmingly cosy to read as its debut!

-quoted from my review of A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder

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A special #HistoricalMondays Guest Post | feat. the Countess of Harleigh Mysteries by Dianne FreemanA Lady's Guide to Mischief and Murder
Subtitle: A Countess of Harleigh Mystery
by Dianne Freeman
Source: Author via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

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…

Genres: Historical Fiction, Cosy Historical Mystery, Amateur Detective

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9781496716934

Also by this author: A Lady's Guide to Gossip and Murder, A Lady's Guide to Etiquette and Murder, A Lady's Guide to Gossip and Murder (Author Interview)

Also in this series: A Lady's Guide to Gossip and Murder, A Lady's Guide to Etiquette and Murder

Published by Kensington Books

on 28th July, 2020

Format: Paperback ARC

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The Countess of Harleigh Mysteries:

A Lady's Guide to Gossip and Murder by Dianne FreemanA Lady's Guide to Etiquette and Murder by Dianne FreemanA Lady's Guide to Mischief and Murder by Dianne Freeman

A Lady’s Guide to Gossip & Murder (book one) | see also review

A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette & Murder (book two) | see also review

A Lady’s Guide to Mischief & Murder (book three)

Published by: Kensington Books (@KensingtonBooks)

Converse via: #CosyMystery OR #Cosy #HistoricalMystery
and #CountessOfHarleighMystery

Available Formats: Paperback, Audiobook and Ebook

For those on Scribd: Happily the first two audiobooks of this series are available!

About Dianne Freeman

Dianne Freeman

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.

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Victorian Country House Parties
a guest feature by Dianne Freeman

Stately Country homes have been part of the British culture for centuries and for just as long, British men have been gathering at one manor or another to work out battle plans, political campaigns, or business ventures. It wasn’t until the late 18th century that these gatherings took on a more social aspect; attended by both gentlemen and ladies. By the Victorian era, the onset of railways made travel from London to one’s country home a simple matter, and the house party became a staple of the autumn and winter months.

The twelfth of August marked the beginning of shooting season, but with the first few weeks reserved for family members, September marked the beginning of the shooting parties.  Though some parties could be quite large, more often the hosts invited five guns (men) and seven ladies. The assumption was that at least two gentlemen would be invited from neighboring estates to even out the numbers. Though some house parties could last a week or longer, most shooting parties were “Saturday to Mondays.”

Ladies rarely joined in the shooting themselves, but often accompanied the men out to the field and joined the shooters at luncheon. In the afternoon the hostess might have planned activities such as a ride to a neighboring town for some shopping, a trip to a local bazaar or flower show, or a game of croquet or tennis. Often, she simply lets her guest choose their own activities, making horses available if they wished to ride, newspapers or books if they preferred to read, and of course extensive grounds for long rambles.

In addition to the above activities, eating and changing one’s clothes took up much of the ladies’ time. A morning gown would do for breakfast, usually served between nine and half past ten. The fare would be laid out on a sideboard and included a large assortment; breads, muffins, eggs, meats, fish, fruits, tea, coffee, and cocoa. Luncheon might be taken with the gentlemen in the form of a picnic, requiring a walking gown, sturdy shoes, and a hat to keep the sun off one’s face. Afternoon tea, whether served indoors or out, meant another change into something less structured and with more delicate footwear.

As relaxed and casual as the days were, the traditional rituals of dining were still observed. Formal attire was expected. Everyone gathered before dinner in the drawing room and processed to the dining room according to rank. Afterward, the more informal atmosphere returned and guests retired to a drawing room or saloon for cards, charades and other games, music, or even an impromptu dance. Gambling was very popular—baccarat at the beginning of the era and bridge toward the end and into the Edwardian era.

Coincidentally, about the same time house parties grew in popularity, arranged marriages were falling from favor. This is not to say prominent families allowed their heirs and daughters to marry anyone they chose, but rather that they now had to engineer opportunities for their offspring to meet the right sort. London balls or receptions were good venues for striking up an acquaintance, but the relaxed atmosphere of the country house party was the perfect setting to seal the deal.

As you can imagine, planning and organizing one of these house parties could produce a great deal of anxiety. With so many people to house, feed, and entertain, the potential for trouble was everywhere. I couldn’t resist using this setting for A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Murder. After all, at a house party anything could happen—and so much could go wrong.

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I’ll readily admit, the concept of the house parties was one I have enjoyed reading throughout my stay in the eras in which I love to disappear inside whilst reading Historical Fiction. However, I hadn’t realised quite to the extent of what the rules were therein or how regulated the time was for the participants of the parties! In some regards, it felt a bit more restrictive than I had first imagined and of course, I suppose my love of the house party previously might have been co-dependent upon how each writer had chosen to write about them – however, if the full rules were in place it was very much a structured affair wherein each moment is not only on the ‘clock’ but there is a rule about what both men and women were allowed to do!

I found this essay wicked fascinating as it removes our presumptions about the traditional house party or the variant of interpretation we’ve surmised through the stories we’ve read and it gives a more clearer viewing of what they involved, how you would spend your hours and in the case of having to change clothes – I am unsure how anyone managed to go to one of those things without a series of trunks! Laughs.

I did find it interesting how there was a shift in the upper society to move away from arranged marriages and make the agreements between families a bit more causal than they had been previously. They still had the same outcome but they had a flexibility that was not otherwise known ahead of time. I can’t even imagine what it was like for the girls to go through the ‘Season’ and either to be brushed aside by someone else or to have the leftover picks by those who had already said ‘no’. I would imagine it was a test of will and nerve and of course, obligation of duty to one’s family. I know very few could marry for love but I had hoped (as I read a lot of these Romances) more had grown in love than had grown distant in their marriage.

What a lovely purview into the Countess of Harleigh Mysteries but also into the era in which the Mysteries are writ alive by Ms Freeman! I hope you have enjoyed this glimpse into this world and perhaps might take up residence in the series.

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In closing,… a look at how much I loved the second novel ahead of reading the third:

A Lady's Guide to Etiquette and Murder by Dianne Freeman

Each installment is like a primer of how to behave and carry yourself through the trials of life any sane Victorian lady would want to impart to the next generation! Especially if they find themselves in compromising situations which are not as readily easy to disclose to authorities such as Frances found herself properly pickled several times over in the first story. What is keenly imperative of course is how to keep one’s measure of confidence in such a state of unrest. Frances excels at making lemonade out of lemons and of sticking true to her own gumption whenever life chooses to through a wench into her ability to remain independent of her deceased husband’s family.

The one character I had forgotten to single out last time was Inspector Delaney! He’s this charming bloke of an investigator whom much to the contrary of what you would expect of him, has an affection for Frances as he respects her more than he ever suspected her of any wrong-doing in the past! I felt he views Frances on equal footing – an equal in which he can debate the merits of which direction to take an investigation whilst he is readily implored by what her own mind reveals whenever they are in a full discussion over such matters. Both are known for their discretion and their alacrity in situations which make make having tact trickier. What I liked about my straight-off is how direct and to the point he is but he allows you to have a bit of a say in what you feel might be equally as relevant to what he has broached forward. In short, he’s a curious fellow who happens to like keeping company with Frances as I felt he found her to be slighted in both life and marriage but truly applauded her abilities to see the positives in life and not become bogged down in the negatives as they arise. The fact he’s a doting father and blissful husband to his wife puts their friendship in good esteem and order.

Poor, dear Frances! Whenever she intends to be helpful to the Inspector, she twists herself into another pickle of a situation instead! The ways she sees the people in her life and the ways the law sees them are not entirely on the same ledger half the time but in this instance, is the further shock of having realised that when you start to mettle into people’s personal affairs, it is best to thoroughly know of them rather than just on the causal surface! Inspector Delaney of course was more than willing to remind her that sometimes a person’s truer nature is hidden from everyone and is not meant to be a reflection of their own faults for not noticing it but rather an ominous warning to be cautious about the friendships you keep.

I love how Freeman has characterised young Rose – despite still being in the early years of her girlhood – she has this fierceness of independence insider her that I noticed surprises her Mum at each turn! Especially how keen she is to learn how to jump and take her horsemanship to the next levels – though in that, Frances cannot say too much as she ought to have known how passionate about this sport Rose had become as soon as she had bought the drapery fabric! Ha! I felt Rose was a strong compliment to Frances – however, knowing that, I believe its Frances who isn’t quite prepared for a daughter who is so closely similar to her mother! She should have realised she would be raising a slightly unconventional young woman knowing full well how she lives her own life, too!

Aside from Frances and Mr Hazelton, my third favourite character is actually Aunt Hetty! She has a smart mind and an appetite for business! Her sequences are such a cunning show of how women in the past might have had the clarity of mind to tackle business affairs but they weren’t given the power to use that knowledge as they are today. Aunt Hetty is a strong compliment to both Frances and Lily; she provides the assurances of age and wisdom whilst she helps Frances understand the finer points of the intrigues she’s working through as her mind is naturally investigative and deductive. I love seeing how Aunt Hetty sees things but also how she tries to etch out some well-placed advice in Frances. She’s such a cornerstone to Frances world, I am hoping that she will remain throughout the series as she adds quite a bit to the continuity and the enjoyment of Frances inner circle!

Again, for me – the crime took the backseat – it is the fuller scope of Frances, her family and her close-knit friendship circle who continue to draw me into the installments. The crimes are jolly good fun to follow – as they become more intricate than you’d expect out of a Cosy, a credit to the kind I was used to reading from Dame Christie – where the yarn of the crime is as enticing as the life of Miss Marple! Not that Frances is of that certain age – but her life is quite settled and she has a joy about her that someone older would usually feel than of a woman her age recently widowed still in the prime of life itself. Frances doesn’t put on airs, which I love about her and she has a deeper appreciation for what is most important in life – I think that is what won me over straight-off, how she’s not your typical heroine and how even her life is quite extraordinary when you consider the fuller circumstances of it.

I know one thing – I can’t wait for the third installment of this series because we were left on such a blissful cliffhanger between Frances and Mr Hazelton! I am sure it won’t be concluded in the third novel either – as Ms Freeman could carry this one for quite a long while or even until the conclusion of the series, but I simply am cheering for them! You can’t read this series and not find Frances and Hazelton such a perfect fit for one another – he challenges her and she invigorates him! They are such a winning pair and just seeing how they match off each other is pure folly! I definitely left this story with a heart full of mirth and a smile full of laughter!

There is a causal familiarity within the series – almost as if Freeman had pondered about this series to such a heightened degree of continuous thought – by the time she put the story down to paper, the whole cast and setting simply emerged just as you’d expect it to be as if they were components of a real story and not set in a fictional world against the London Season. Freeman has a clear vision of where she wants you to enter this world but in the background, despite the touches of familiar sights for this era in History what makes it a charming Cosy is how she digs closer to Frances and truly envelopes you into her internal world. You get to see Frances in her day-to-day adventures – whilst she attempts to sort out her in-laws, the balance of her own family and the musings of mumhood. All of that equals a rather lovely experience to read as you tuck closer to Frances just as she is starting to emerge into the next chapter of her life.

-quoted from my review of A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder

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This blog tour is courtesy of:

Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours - HFVBTFollow the Virtual Road Map

as you visit others participating:

As this particular one has a bookaway along the route:

A Lady's Guide to Mischief and Murder blog tour banner provided by HFVBT and is used with permission. I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary!

Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst readers who gravitate towards the same stories to read. Bookish conversations are always welcome!

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{SOURCES: Book covers for “A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder”, “A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder”, “A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Murder” , book synopsis, author biography, author photograph of Dianne Freeman, the tour host badge and HFVBTs badge were all provided by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours and used with permission. Post dividers and My Thoughts badge by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets were embedded due to codes provided by Twitter. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: Guest Post Topics banner and the Comment Box Banner.}

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Monday, 17 August, 2020 by jorielov in 19th Century, Amateur Detective, Author Guest Post (their topic), Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host, Cosy Historical Mystery, Crime Fiction, England, Historical Fiction, Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours, Indie Author, Jorie Loves A Story Features, Lady Detective Fiction, London, Scribd, the Victorian era

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2 responses to “A special #HistoricalMondays Guest Post | feat. the Countess of Harleigh Mysteries by Dianne Freeman

    • You’re most welcome, Ms Bruno!

      I had such a lot of fun writing this to showcase the series and her beautifully crafted Guest Post. She really took us into those house parties and broke down how they were organised with such keen insight it made you thankful you lived these many centuries forward in time!

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