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

Title: A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder (Countess of Harleigh Mystery #1)

Author: Dianne Freeman

Published on: 26 June 2018

Genre: Cozy Mystery (Historical)

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder is the first book in Dianne Freeman’s Countess of Harleigh Mystery series.

Frances Wynn, an American-born dowager Countess of Harleigh, is looking forward to moving from her husband’s manor in the country. She overhears a conversation between her brother-in-law, the new Earl of Harleigh, and his wife – they want to renovate the manor and they would coerce Frances to pay for it.

When Frances announces her plans to move to London, Graham (the brother-in-law) tries to convince her to stay – excuses include ‘gentlemen trying to take advantage of a widow’, ‘dangerous city for a widow living alone with her young daughter’ and so on.

Frances receives a letter from her mother saying she’s sending her younger daughter Lily from American for the Season. Aunt Hetty will be accompanying Lily. At the same time, Frances receives a letter from her solicitor, asking for an urgent meeting. Frances then learns that Graham has filed a case in court, claiming ownership to Frances’ money. Her bank accounts are frozen until the court decides on this matter.

When Frances returns from a day of shopping upholstery for her daughter Rose’s bedroom, she has a visitor. Inspector Delaney wants to have a chat with Frances, inquiring about the mysterious circumstances under which her late husband Reggie died.

Reggie was found dead in the Harleigh manor in his mistress’s bed after a night of heavy drinking and partying. Alice, the mistress, turned to Frances for help – they had to move the body before rumors spread. George, Frances’ best friend Fiona’s brother, was staying at the manor and Frances asked his help to move Reggie’s body. When the ambulance and police were called in, the trio remained silent about the real story – the authorities were told the maid found Reggie dead on his bed.

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Inspector Delaney visiting Frances a year after Reggie’s death makes her wonder. What made the police revive the investigations again? Meanwhile, the residents of Mayfair are terrorized by a series of thefts. The Season is here and so is a thief. Who could gain access to the homes of wealthy other than a gentleman?

What a fantastic start to a historical cozy mystery series. I absolutely enjoyed reading A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder. Victorian England setting, an American-born Countess, a murder mystery, a thief amongst the rich, a well-hidden scandalous secret, family drama, romance and a dash of quirky humor. Wow!

Though a first in the series, there is a balance between character introduction, series-plot setting, and mysteries. Yes, we have three mysteries here – a murder, thefts and mysterious circumstances surrounding Reggie’s death.

Frances is not happy to learn her neighbor is George Hazelton. It’s quite embarrassing for her, after all, he knows her secret – he helped her move Reggie’s body from Alice’s bedroom. But as the story proceeds, we see Frances and George join hands in marriage to solve crimes. I certainly hope to see a spark of romance between the two. They make quite an impressive pair – sleuthing or otherwise. *wink*

Lily, Frances’ sister, is in London for the Season. Gowns, ballroom dancing and handsome men, oh what a life! Lily chooses three suitors and Frances asks her solicitor to hire an investigator to follow them – she doesn’t want her sister to make the same mistake that she did. Marrying Reggie was a mistake – he was an unfaithful husband and only interested in Frances’ money.

The turning point in the thefts happens when Frances finds a missing bracelet in her reticule. The missing bracelet belongs to Alice, her late husband’s mistress. This is when Frances decides to involve herself into the investigation. She wants to find out who is robbing the rich and why. There are plenty of people who attended the same events and it would be difficult to narrow down the suspects.

The mysteries kept me guessing till the end. I absolutely loved the storytelling and the character portrayal. A dash of quirky humor made the story even more enjoyable. The ending was fantastic. I could not identify the perp – theft/murder. The mystery behind Reggie’s death – wow, this was an unexpected and totally shocking development.

If you love historical mysteries, you might want to give A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder by Dianne Freeman a try. Off I go to read the next bye. Adios!

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