Acquired Book(s) By:I have been hosting blog tours and reviews for Simon & Schuster off and on for nearly a year now. I’ve had the joy of discovering their stories through Contemporary and Historical narratives whilst happily finding a lot of their authors are writing the kinds of stories which keep me engaged and rooted in their narratives.
This time round – it was a Historical Suspense novel and series which whet a thirst of interest to be reading as it is rooted in my love of Agatha Christie – this series puts Dame Christie in the driving seat of the sleuth rather than one of her characters and I have a propensity for seeking out these kinds of mysteries. Previously, I gave the Jane Austen mysteries my attention and there have been a few others over the years where living persons are the ‘sleuths’ who tuck us into their worlds. I find it a bit fascinating how living history is now a foundation for Mysteries, Suspense & Thrillers – as it extends my love of Biographical Historical Fiction.
I received a complimentary copy of “Death in a Desert Land” from the publisher Atria Books (an imprint of Simon & Schuster) in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
Ahead of reading “Death in a Desert Land” I also borrowed copies of the first two novels in this series: “A Talent for Murder” and “A Different Kind of Evil” from my local library which I happily shared ruminations about on this post for my personal edification and for continuing to share my bookish life with my readers. I was not obligated to do so in other words and felt it was beneficial to sharing my joy of the series.
Why I didn’t cosy into A Talent for Murder:
I do appreciate following the vision of a series from the beginning of how an author pens the stories – however, in this particular case, I didn’t find an easy entrance into A Talent for Murder – in effect, I found it hard to adjust to the writing style and find a compelling reason to read it. It was written in a rather brisk fashion and although the premise was a curious one – how Agatha Christie would go from writing to sleuthing was a strong component of why I wanted to read the story as a precursor to reading the second volume of the series and then, the recently released third Death in a Desert Land – I mused, perhaps this series might follow suit of a previously read Historical Romance series.
I am finding recently there are certain series which benefit from skipping over the first few volumes in exchange for the latest release. This did not used to be the case for me – I would generally find myself smitten by the first novel of a series in-progress and have a lot of good folly to follow through with the installments leading into the newest one being released – until, I’ve found that sometimes series grow more appealling with age than they do with their first entries into the rhythm of their stories.
Two series prior to this one worked this way for me recently – as soon as I picked up Death in a Desert Land, I found a different voice within it. A different method of delivery in the narrative and because of that – I found myself about to cosy into this story far easier than my first attempts within A Talent for Murder. Thereby, despite my personal preferences to read series in sequential order, there are apparently a few series out there which benefit me to skip round and find the installments which suit me best to be reading. You might have noted I borrowed the second novel in this series but opted instead to read the third.
This suited me as what initially had drawn my interest into reading the Agatha Christie series is by having a life-long pursuit of the author’s collective works. My favourite stories are those of Miss Marple even if in recent years I’ve had a glimpse of Poirot and have taken a firm liking to his quirky ways of sleuthing – there is still a stronghold of appreciation on my behalf for Marple. I dearly had hoped to find entrance into this series as I was most keen to discover how Christie would be presented as an independent sleuth and how that would counter to the image and impression I had of her previously.
Fresh from solving the gruesome murder of a British agent in the Canary Islands, mystery writer Agatha Christie receives a letter from a family who believes their late daughter met with foul play. Before Gertrude Bell overdosed on sleeping medication, she was a prominent archaeologist, recovering ancient treasures in the Middle East. Found near her body was a letter claiming that Bell was being followed and to complicate things further, Bell was competing with another archeologist, Mrs. Woolley, for the rights to artifacts of immense value.
Christie travels to far-off Persia, where she meets the enigmatic Mrs. Woolley as she is working on a big and potentially valuable discovery. Temperamental but brilliant, Mrs. Woolley quickly charms Christie but when she does not hide her disdain for the recently deceased Miss Bell, Christie doesn’t know whether to trust her—or if Bell’s killer is just clever enough to hide in plain sight.
as well as #HistoricalMystery + #HistFic #Mysteries
About Andrew Wilson
Andrew Wilson is an award-winning journalist and author. His work has appeared in a wide variety of publications including the Guardian, the Washington Post, the Sunday Times, and the Smithsonian Magazine. He is the author of four acclaimed biographies, a book about the survivors of the Titanic, and the novels, The Lying Tongue, A Talent for Murder, A Different Kind of Evil, Death in a Desert Land.
Photo Credit: Johnny Ring
Location Courtesy of Royal Institute of British Architecture
After launching this lovely new feature of mine during [Autumn, 2018] it is a pleasure of joy to continue to bring #SaturdaysAreBookish as a compliment focus of my Twitter chat @SatBookChat. If you see the chat icon at the top of my blog (header bar) you can click over to visit with us. The complimentary showcases on my blog will reflect the diversity of stories, authors and publishers I would be featuring on the chat itself. As at the root and heart of the chat are the stories I am reading which compliment the conversations.
#SaturdaysAreBookish throughout  will be featuring the Romance & Women’s Fiction authors I am discovering to read across genre and point of interest. Every Saturday will feature a different author who writes either Romance or Women’s Fiction – the stories I am reading might simply inspire the topics in the forthcoming chats or they might be directly connected to the current guest author.
I am excited about where new guests and new stories will lay down the foundation of inspiring the topics, the conversations and the bookish recommendations towards promoting Romance & Women’s Fiction. Here’s a lovely New Year full of new authors and their stories to celebrate!
Acquired Book By:
I am a regular tour hostess for blog tours via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours whereupon I am thankful to have been able to host such a diverse breadth of stories, authors and wonderful guest features since I became a hostess! HFVBTs is one of the very first touring companies I started working with as a 1st Year Book Blogger – uniting my love and passion with Historical Fiction and the lovely sub-genres inside which I love devouring.
It has been a wicked fantastical journey into the heart of the historic past, wherein I’ve been blessed truly by discovering new timescapes, new living realities of the persons who once lived (ie. Biographical Historical Fiction) inasmuch as itched my healthy appetite for Cosy Historical Mysteries! If there is a #HistRom out there it is generally a beloved favourite and I love soaking into a wicked wonderful work of Historical Fiction where you feel the beauty of the historic world, the depth of the characters and the joyfulness in which the historical novelists brought everything to light in such a lovingly diverse palette of portraiture of the eras we become time travellers through their stories.
As this blog tour features a new Cosy Historical Mystery author I hadn’t yet read, I requested the first novel in the series to read in tandem with the latest release. I was blessed by the publisher to receive both novels in order to understand the continuity and sequencing of the Countess of Harleigh Mysteries series. Thereby I received a complimentary ARC copy of “A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder” and a complimentary copy of “A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder” direct from the publisher St. Martin’s Press, in exchange for honest reviews. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
On why this series appealled to me:
There are two things I truly enjoy: Historical stories & Cosy Mysteries – when you find a serial which combines these two loves of my mine – you find yourself in the happy niche of *Cosy Historical Mysteries!* A discovery I made as a book blogger – wherein, authors are anchouring their Cosies into the historic past – moving us through different centuries of interest and giving us a wicked brilliant Historical Mystery to boot!
The main reason I wanted to read this series is because I liked the charm of it – a woman who was being encouraged to fit within high society & yet find herself not willing nor ready to take-on the duties that come with widowhood. She is quite the remarkable character – independent by nature & elevated to a certain seat of formality by the death of her husband, Frances has to re-invent herself & still be in a position of honour to raise her young daughter, Rose.
What I love most about Cosy Historical Mysteries though is the truer sense of how we can move through time but still find a happy place to reside whilst the amateur sleuths tackle their most curious cases and how each of us as readers find new authors to follow & lovely new series to capture our attention. These truly are my favourites to find and I am thankful that they haven’t yet gone out of style with the novelists who are endeavouring to write them!
I decided to play honour to the cover art – purple for the colour itself and a cheeky nod to how addictive Cosy Historical Mysteries are to me as a reader – you just can’t eat one of these French cookies without feeling the desire to grab more – and that is how Cosies are for me in this branch of the genre – once I settle myself into one installment, I can’t remove myself until I fetch after more and feel truly rooted in the author’s vision for her series!
my review of a lady’s guide to etiquette & murder:
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!
If it weren’t such a serious moment for Frances, you could giggle a bit more about it – as she recounted her discovery of her late husband and the goings-on shortly thereafter, you could tell she had a strong reason for not wishing to be next of doors to Mr Hazelton! And, yet, as life would have it – the things one wants and the things which happen to live a blight on a path towards newfound happiness are not entirely equal. Though I must admit, what was charming about this part of the story is how willingly she was helped by Hazelton and how he hadn’t broached the subject of that night since it occurred! Made you wonder – was her need of his services that night just a cheeky clever way of placing them on each other’s paths to where they could interact more down the road rather than of the concerns she had if he would hold it over her for a reason not yet known?
When Fi enters into the scene, you start to see Frances in her own element – as would be the case when your round your best friend who knows you better than you know yourself! Fiona surprisingly is the sister to Mr Hazelton – which I felt was a good bit of drama ontop of the fact the investigation into the death of her husband was becoming re-examined! Felt fitting in one regard but also entirely terrifying on the other hand as what could they find a full twelvemonths later? It left a curious note in your mind as you watched Frances continuing to build her life in the city. Curiously her mother seems to have found herself in wont of her daughter’s assistance in attempting to have a second daughter of the family wed to the London aristocracy. I, was in full agreement with Frances – wasn’t one marriage good enough? I was just thankful she had Rose – of all the grief she’d been put through, having a daughter of her own seemed to be the only bright light in her life especially as she was constantly attempting to be a better mother to her child than her Mum was to her growing up.
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.
As Lily becomes more convinced of her mother’s reasoning for sending her off to London (to fetch a husband!) the more protective Frances feels to guide her off that goal. For Frances learnt the hard way about what hard choices mean to a young woman whose caught up in the innocence of wanting to wed a man but without the proportional insight into what can go wrong if you act too impulsively and do not research a man’s character the level of knowing exactly what might be in your future if you were to wed. You felt for Frances in that scene – of wanting to be the sister who could spare another the same kind of misery she had faced herself but with the knowledge that despite her earnest hopes of doing that, it was truly left to Lily to take her counsel to heart and adhere to it.
What an incredible find in Mr Hazelton! Not only can this bloke handle himself under pressure but he continues to amaze me how much he will go to lengths to help Frances! Of course, in the back of mind, I was quite aware of the fact he could be smitten with her – as whom else would do all the tasks asked of him and on such short notice? It isn’t even the most typical of duties to be asked and yet, here his Hazelton – willing, able and happily lending his hand to Frances whenever she needs him, no qualms or questions asked! If anything, he is also her guiding sound board of advice – as sometimes she struggles to balance her own thoughts with the logic needed to re-assess things that are happening just outside her own control. He never fails to make me smile in other words because he’s such an easy-going bloke!
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!
How far will some go to safeguard a secret? In the latest novel in Dianne Freeman’s witty and delightful historical mystery series, the adventurous Countess Harleigh finds out…
Though American by birth, Frances Wynn, the now-widowed Countess of Harleigh, has adapted admirably to the quirks and traditions of the British aristocracy. On August twelfth each year, otherwise known as the Glorious Twelfth, most members of the upper class retire to their country estates for grouse-shooting season. Frances has little interest in hunting—for birds or a second husband—and is expecting to spend a quiet few months in London with her almost-engaged sister, Lily, until the throng returns.
Instead, she’s immersed in a shocking mystery when a friend, Mary Archer, is found murdered. Frances had hoped Mary might make a suitable bride for her cousin, Charles, but their courtship recently fizzled out. Unfortunately, this puts Charles in the spotlight—along with dozens of others. It seems Mary had countless notes hidden in her home, detailing the private indiscretions of society’s elite. Frances can hardly believe that the genteel and genial Mary was a blackmailer, yet why else would she horde such juicy tidbits?
Aided by her gallant friend and neighbor, George Hazelton, Frances begins assisting the police in this highly sensitive case, learning more about her peers than she ever wished to know. Too many suspects may be worse than none at all—but even more worrying is that the number of victims is increasing too. And unless Frances takes care, she’ll soon find herself among them…
Converse via: #CosyMystery OR #Cosy #HistoricalMystery
Available Formats: Paperback and Ebook
About 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.
I had fully intended to read my #ReadingIsBeautiful selections hugged closer to the months when the books were meant to be reviewed (Summer of 2015), however, those of whom have caught my posts relating to circumstances which wicked out hours and derailed my attempts to read along with the rest of the book bloggers who took up the same challenge are already in the loop realising my readings of these stories will come quite a bit later than planned (by a few years).
To recap the events for those who are visiting me for the first time,
please direct your attention to the following posts:
You can read a fuller disclosure of my readings of these novels on my review for “Vote for Remy” in the top anchour section of the post.This marks my six review overall spilt between #SRC2015,#ReadingIsBeautiful (the YA selections) and #FRC2015, however, it is the fifth Summer Reading Challenge selection I am reading.
Acquired Book By: I originally found BookSparks PR Spring 2014, when I came upon the Summer Reading Challenge a bit too late in the game. I hadn’t forgotten about it, and was going to re-contact them (in Spring 2015) to see if I could join the challenge in 2015 instead. Coincidentally, before I sorted this out, I was contacted by one of their publicists about Linda Lafferty’s Renaissance historical novel, “The Shepherdess of Siena”.
I started to participate in #SRC2015 during Summer 2015 until lightning storms quickly overtook my life and the hours I could give to the reading challenge. Summer ended hard and with a newfound resolve to pick up where I had left off, I posted as many reviews on behalf of BookSparks blog tours and/or the three reading challenges I had committed myself to participate inside (i.e. #SRC2015, #ReadingIsBeautiful (YA version), and #FRC2015).
I am unsure if I can resume hosting with BookSparks once my backlogue is erased, however, my main motivation in resuming where I left off was to ‘meet the stories’ even if my days of being a blogger with BookSparks ended the day I couldn’t keep up with the reviews when life interrupted my postings. I continue to hope as my reviews arrive on my blog the authors and the publisher(s) will forgive my delays. Life kept interfering with my plans to read these novels – in late 2016 my Dad had his stroke, 2017 marked his year of recovery and in 2018 I had ten months of health afflictions. I simply didn’t have a lot of time to re-attach into the stories despite re-attempting to read them off/on for the past few years.
I received a complimentary copy of “Summer by Summer” by BookSparks. By participating in the #SRC2015 – this is the YA version of that 2015 challenge called #ReadingIsBeautiful – I am reading the novels in exchange for my honest reviews; whether I am receiving a complimentary copy or borrowing them through my local library. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
My selection process for #sRC2015 + #Yasrc directly:
I made four selections for the #YASRC challenge – they were spilt rather evenly between Fantasy and Contemporary YA, as I made two selections for each genre. The interesting bit is that I hadn’t realised Summer by Summer was a Clean Reads selection for young adult (or adult) readers who are seeking a gentler side of YA. One of my personal contentions for reading YA as an adult reader and as a Prospective Adoptive Mum in the future, is how adult YA is becoming. Meaning, it is hard to find YA written for a true young adult reader – wherein, there isn’t strong language or overtly graphic violence. Whenever I find stories of YA which have vulgarity inclusive to their narratives, I either mention it directly on my reviews, find those stories to be DNF’d and/or they fall into what I place as a category for Upper YA due to the rather adult situations, strong language and/or other inclusive depictions of life I’d categorise as being nearly ‘outside the YA genre’ altogether.
What is beautiful about accidentally finding Blink YA Books is that this is a publisher who is striving towards keeping YA “YA” by the definitions that I appreciate myself for the genre! You can read more about how they’re doing this on their Info Page about their publishing practices. I personally can’t wait to read more stories by them as a result!
Especially as I’m an active reader of YA (and Middle Grade stories) inasmuch as the fact I’m a hybrid reader who moves between mainstream and INSPY markets. It is an uplift of joy to realise there are publishers out there who get why a lot of us like YA for what it can give not just young adult readers but for adults like myself who have re-discovered the beauty of YA Reads (hence why #iReadYA is a lovely tag, too) for the joyfulness of reconnecting with a part of our readerly lives we still love to discover today as older adults. Secondly, as a future parent I am also mindful of the stories I’d like to encourage my children to read themselves and as a book blogger I’ve been able to garnish a list of stories I would feel comfortable allowing them to read.
The reason I did select Summer by Summer was due to the premise involving a nanny on vacation to South America. I love stories involving nannies and au pairs – not just in fiction but in films, such as the Gregory Harrison Au Pair series of films on the previously known Fox Family Channel starring opposite Heidi Noelle Lenhart. Each Summer since 2015 I’ve been striving to focus on this novel and I can’t even count how many times its been prominently featured on my bookshelf or compiled into my #SummerReads selections for each of those Summers. For whichever reason, it remained a firmative fixture of my backlogue of Reviews until this Summer, 2019.
Note on classification of genre: Although this was marketed for YA audiences, I felt upon reading the synopsis again for the first time in a few years combined with the context of the opening bridge of the novel – this felt like it fits better within the branch of Upper YA and/or New Adult. Especially considering Summer isn’t a young teenager – she’s employed as a nanny, a young woman who started the job as an eighteen year old and soon celebrated her nineteenth birthday.