A Bride’s Guide to Marriage and Murder by Dianne Freeman

Title: A Bride’s Guide to Marriage and Murder (Countess of Harleigh Mystery #5)

Author: Dianne Freeman

Published on: 28 June 2022

Genre: Cozy Mystery (Historical)

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Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

A Bride’s Guide to Marriage and Murder is the fifth book in Dianne Freeman’s Countess of Harleigh Mystery series.

Frances Wynn, American-born Countess of Harleigh, is to marry George Hazelton in a few days. But with her family around, she has a great deal on her mind than flowers and seating arrangements. Her mother has invited the Bainbridges while her brother Alonzo insisted on invited Connors to the wedding.

What’s the problem with this? Mr. Bainbridge and Mr. Connor moved to America years ago and were business associates until a fall-out. Their fight (especially in public) is well-known throughout America. Alonzo has taken a liking to Mr. Connor’s daughter, Madeline – who is debuting this year.

On the D-day, the celebrations go as planned, albeit a few minor irritations that can very well be swept under the carpet… Inspector Delaney pays a visit to the newly-married couple at the Harleigh House – but it isn’t a friendly visit. In the next door, where the Connors live, there has been a crime.

Mr. Connor was found dead in his study with a knife sticking out of his back. Madeline and the butler found Alonzo holding the bloody knife. Alonzo is arrested for the murder of Mr. Connor. Frances and George were supposed to leave for their wedding trip that same evening. But with Frances’ brother arrested for a murder, the trip to Cannes will have to wait.

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I binge read the first four books of this series a couple of months ago and was eagerly waiting to catch up with the fifth. When I saw it available on the KU catalog, I decided to read it right away rather than add it to my TBR and read it at a future date.

I must say I am a bit disappointed with the way things turned out in this book. I LOVED the first four books. However, I cannot say the same about this one. The mystery behind the murder was alright, but there were too many interferences, some of which might have delayed Frances and George’s investigation. ‘Interferences’ apart from the fact that they got married hours before the dead body was discovered next door.

Frances family is in London for the celebrations. When Alonzo is arrested for the crime, Frances and George postpone their wedding trip. It so happens that Alonzo was just the wrong person at the wrong time. But the police won’t let him out until they have another suspect in mind – though Frances and George gave them a list of people they saw walking across the garden and into Connor’s house next door.

Alonzo is released, all right. But the family still drops in whenever they want. The newly married couple have no time for themselves. Frances and George could have gone on the trip once Alonzo was released. But they decided to stick around and solve the case. Nothing wrong in this, but there are instances where Frances repents not being on the trip or not finding some alone time with George.

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When the feud between Connor and Bainbridge was mentioned, and this was soon followed by Mr. Bainbridge being one of the suspects (he was seen walking to the Connor house), I did wonder if the feud had something to do with the murder. There’s another angle to the story here – Madeline was promised (in marriage) to Fitzwalter but she liked Alonzo. A contract was drawn between young Fitzwalter and Mr. Connor – but it so happens that the other family members did not want to pursue this match.

I might have liked the story better if the feud was explored further. Once the dead body is found, there are plenty of red herrings/side stories and the feud-angle is lost in the mess! At times, the story felt dragged and there was too much of conversation going on and these ruined my read a tad.

The identity of the killer was no surprise. Honestly, I wonder why Frances and George did not pursue this angle from the very beginning – they knew this person was involved somehow. Some of the recurring characters hardly made an appearance in this installment. One character whom I thought should have had a better role in this story was Rose, Frances’ daughter. Apart from the scene where Frances and Rose discuss what Rose might want to call George once Frances is married, Rose hardly makes an appearance. Frances’ family was in London and they made sure to pop in to Hazelton house as and when they pleased – so why wasn’t Rose included?

Overall, this was an okay read. Not as great as the first four books. I certainly hope things get better in the next installment.

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