A Victorian Christmas

The Countess of Harleigh mystery series begins in AHollypril of 1899, just as the year’s social season begins. Book two in the series takes place in July, at the end of the season when the social whirl has died down. Book 3 revolves around a country house party in October, and the book I’m working on now takes the characters back to London in November of the same year. I don’t have any plans at the moment for a Christmas setting for Frances and her friends to solve a crime, but I can tell you how the characters will be celebrating the season.

Many of our Christmas traditions have their origins in the Victorian era. The Christmas tree was introduced to England by Prince Albert in 1841. When the Illustrated London News published a picture of the royal Christmas tree in 1848, it became a must for every Victorian household. By the 1880s wagon loads of trees were brought into London to fill the demand from the city dwellers. illustrated-christmas-PP_7611-001

Frances would definitely have a Christmas tree in her drawing room, lavishly decorated with glass and wire ornaments, candles, fruits and nuts, and decorations she made herself from bits of silk, feathers, and ribbon.

Though Frances doesn’t have a piano, she, Aunt Hetty, and Rose would still be singing the popular Christmas carols while they decorated the house with holly and mistletoe. In the evenings carol singers and musicians would stop by the houses along Chester Street to serenade, hoping for a hot drink and a contribution for their charity.

Christmas eve Aunt Hetty might read aloud from Mr. Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, after which Rose would hang a stocking at the end of her bed, hoping Father Christmas will fill it with treats.antique_ornaments3

On Christmas day, George would join the household to exchange gifts. Fires would crackle in the fireplaces. Candles would glow on the tree, and the house would be filled with the aroma of Christmas dinner, complete with roast turkey, cranberry sauce, Christmas punch, and flaming plum pudding. Once the feast was finished, they’d move the celebration on to the homes of their friends and the revels wouldn’t end until late in the night!

This is how I see my characters spending their Christmas holiday. However you celebrate and whatever holiday you celebrate, I hope you enjoy it to the fullest, and may you all have a happy and healthy new year!

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Cover Reveal!

There’s nothing like the first glimpse of a new cover. It’s a snapshot of someone else’s image of my story and it’s such a thrill! I’ve been lucky to have a wonderful cover artist in Sarah Gibb. She’s always managed to capture the historical, mysterious, whimsical, and humorous aspects of the story in one image, and A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Murder is no exception. I’m excited to share it with you, so with no further ado, here is the cover for the third book in the Countess of Harleigh Mystery series!

A Lady's Guide to Mischief and Murder downsized

Here’s a brief summary of the book:

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. . . .

Mischief and Murder releases on July 28, 2020, but it’s available for pre-order through any of the links below.

Barnes and Noble

To celebrate, I’m running a giveaway for the first two books in the Countess of Harleigh Mystery series on my Facebook Author Page. To enter the contest, go to https://www.facebook.com/DianneFreemanAuthor/ and look for the pinned post.

2 countess of Harleigh mysteries

Thanks for sharing this special event with me!



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Bookish Activity

Being an author is the best job I’ve ever had. Not just because I love to tell a story, but because it makes me a part of the writing community. I’ve never worked with a group of people so supportive and eager to celebrate the accomplishments of their fellows. For the last month I’ve been surrounded by the writing community and involved in a ton of bookish activity.

In October one of my favorite bookstores,


Minerva Spencer and Sherry Thomas

The Poisoned Pen, hosted my friend and fellow author, Minerva Spencer to chat about historical romance and mystery with author, Sherry Thomas. The two played off each other beautifully and the result was a lively and fun discussion. The event gave me a chance to get to know Sherry a little better and I learned she’d been nominated for a Barry Award to be presented at Bouchercon later in the month. Since I was up for a Macavity Award (Sue Feder Historical Mystery Award) we agreed to sit together and cheer each other on.

Neither of us won, but I couldn’t be more thrilled to have been nominated with such a fabulous group of authors. Bouchercon itself, is one big celebration of writing. With over 700 authors attending, you’re sure to meet anyone you ever wanted to meet—but not for long! It’s very fast-paced. I was part of a panel who celebrMelissa's crewated the work of Agatha Christie, from cozy to hard-boiled crime stories. I thought I knew quite a bit about Christie, but I learned a lot from my fellow panelists. I also managed to meet up with two of my agent’s other clients. Meredith Schorr, who has published several rom-com novels and Drew Murray, whose first thriller will release in 2020. It was a whirlwind weekend, but so much fun. And I came home with lots of books!

One week later and I was back at the Poisoned Pen. This time as part of a panel of historical mystery writers, talking about our craft. (See pic.)PP full group

Of course, I was writing during this time too, but not as much as I should. Writing is such a solitary occupation it’s refreshing to get out of my routine and spend time with other writers and readers. Now that I’m back at it, I have much more enthusiasm for this story, and a few twists to add. How about you? Do you find changing your routine shakes things up and gives you a new perspective?

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I love bookstores!

I saw a post on Facebook last week asking why people still buy books—physical books that is—and I was very interested in the comments. They ran the gamut from wanting to read off-screen from those who use computers all day, to readers who just want to build a library of favorites. Some liked the feel of a book in their hands and others liked the fact they could share thepoisoned-penir physical books.

I’m not at all picky about reading format but I buy a lot of books and whenever possible, I buy them from Independent bookstores. My reason? I want to do my part to make sure there will always be Indy bookstores. They are magical places owned by people who love books as much, if not more, than I do. And they know “things.” You can walk into any Indy bookstore and say, I love Agatha Christie—Miss Marple, not Poirot, at least not as much. What else would I like? And they know!

I love the packed shelves and overflowing boxes. Whenever I travel, I look for a bookstore in the area because they all reflect the personalities of the owners and differ in selection and style.

Author - Dianne Freeman

Chatting with Robin Agnew at Aunt Agatha’s Mystery Bookshop in 2018.

Many bookstores bring authors in to chat with readers. I’ve been lucky enough to live near two in particular; The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, AZ and Aunt Agatha’s in Ann Arbor, MI (sadly, now closed) where I’ve met some of my favorite authors.

I’ve spent so many happy hours browsing the shelves at bookstores I hope physical books and the bookstores that sell them live on forever. How about you? Do you have a favorite bookstore?

NEWS: Bouchercon 2019 will be at the Hyatt Regency in Dallas. I’ll be on the Agatha Christie panel November 1st at 1:00. Then at the Kensington signing until 4:00. If you’ll be there, come by and say hello!

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A Chance to Read!

My love of reading is what started me on my path to becoming a published author. The sad irony is now that I’m an author with hammock bookdeadlines, edits, and marketing responsibilities, I have much less time to indulge in a good book. Once I turned in book three in the Countess of Harleigh series, that was the end of my contract. I did accept a contract for another three books in that series, but not before taking a little break where I spent many lovely hours with some fabulous books. I thought I’d share a few of my favorites with you this week.

One of the best things about being an author is that you sometimes get to read books waaay before anyone else. M. L. Huie’s Spitfire won’t release until January 7th and you should mark your calendar, or just pre-order, because you won’t want to miss this one!

Spitfire by M.L. Huie
There’s an adventurous side of me that wants to be Livy Nash, but I just can’t convince my other side, the one that cringes in self-preservation at the very thought. Livy was part of a British spy network in WWII. When the story opens, it’s 1946 and after the trauma and horror she experienced during the war, she’s finding it hard to adapt to civilian life and her dull job as a proofreader at a third-rate newspaper. Only Polish vodka helps her get through the day.

When she’s offered a chance to join the cold war spy game she wavers, knowing she’ll have to overcome her personal demons to do the job properly, but once she accepts, she throws herself into the job with all the breathless audacity you’d expect from a woman the Germans named Spitfire. Unbeknownst to her new employer, Livy’s also looking for a chance at revenge, a goal that isn’t always compatible with her assignment, leading to some dangerous twists and surprising revelations. I enjoyed the settings, the action, and the intrigue, but it was the character of Livy Nash that had me riveted to the page. If I can’t be Livy, I’ll just have to look forward to the next installment.

The Victorian era is my favorite period for mystery, but when it comes to historical romance, it has to be the Regency era. I’ve now read all three books in Minerva Spencer’s Outcast Series and loved them, but there’s something special about this one.

Scandalous by Minerva Spencer
I love the swashbuckling adventure in Minerva Spencer’s books but it’s her compelling characters that keep me coming back. Scandalous is no exception. Sarah is a missionary, capable of taking care of herself, eager to care for others, and used to taking charge. This does not sit well with Martin, a former slave and now privateer, whose ship she seems to be taking over. Martin’s past makes him suspicious of Sarah’s kindness and he reacts by lashing out. Regardless, they have a steamy chemistry, and mixed with Sarah’s patience and persistence, it leads them to an achingly slow and beautiful meeting of the minds and hearts. I could not put this one down.

I always try to read a series in order, but for some reason I picked up book two in the Hester Thursby mystery series first. The Missing Ones can definitely stand alone but it will leave you wanting more so you may just as well pick up book one in the series, Little Comfort, while you’re at it.

The Missing Ones by Edwin Hill
The first time I put down The Missing Ones, I noticed I was at the 42% mark. Uh-oh. How did that happen? I checked the clock and wondered if I could function on only 4 hours of sleep. I managed and it was worth it. The next time I picked it up, I finished it. It’s that kind of book. Hill skillfully weaves a mystery with threads that twist and turn but ultimately take you in the only possible direction—start reading and you’re lost to the story and to the characters, all of whom are a little messed up. Make sure you have a bit of time on your hands because you won’t want to put this book down.

There are more books I could add, but this post is getting a little long. Let me know if you enjoy my recommendations and I’ll keep them coming.

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Happy Cozy Mystery Day!

Happy Cozy Mystery Day! Also known as Agatha Christie’s birthday. Why has the cozy mystery community adopted Agatha Christie’s birthday for this celebration? I’m not sure. She was undoubtably the queen of the traditional mystery, but while close, the terms aren’t exactly interchangeable. Agatha christie

A traditional mystery is a work of fiction that takes the reader through the solving of a puzzling crime—usually a murder. So is a cozy. At their hearts, they’re both whodunits, but there are some distinctions. The sleuth in a traditional mystery can be either an amateur or a professional—a police officer, a private investigator, even a coroner—someone who’s job is it to solve crimes. In a cozy mystery, the sleuth must be an amateur.

There are a few other “musts” for the cozy that are optional for the traditional mystery. Generally, sex and violence happen off the page. That’s often true for traditional mysteries too, until you get to those considered “hard-boiled. Ms. Christie wrote those as well. The cozy mystery must take place in a socially intimate community. That’s often translated into “small town” but I think that’s too restricting. Mine take place in London, not a small town in anyone’s book. But they also take place among Victorian aristocratic society, which is a small group, and in London at that time it consisted of the neighborhoods of Mayfair, Belgravia, and Kensington, a pretty close grouping.

The most important aspect of a cozy is the victim and the murderer know each other, a situation that was once known as malice domestic. You won’t find any serial killers or contract killers in a cozy. What you will find are killers who are family members, co-workers, and friA Lady's Guide to Gossip revised HCends. That puts a more chilling twist on the term cozy doesn’t it?

The bottom line is it’s Agatha Christie’s birthday so why not celebrate Cozy Mystery Day? And why not celebrate it with a giveaway? If you’d like to win a hardcover copy of A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder (e-book if your address is outside of the US or Canada) just send a message to diannefreemanwrites@gmail.com saying you’d like to win a book. This drawing is for those who follow my blog and subscribe to my newsletter. I’ll run a separate drawing for followers of my author page so if you’d like a second chance to win, you can follow me there. https://www.facebook.com/DianneFreemanAuthor/ I’ll draw the winner Tuesday! Good luck and happy Cozy Mystery Day!

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Using Historical Figures in Fiction

Had a wonderful time doing bookstore events this week with C.M. Gleason and L.A. Chandlar,Nicolas both in Ann Arbor and Detroit. One reason I was excited to chat with them is that they both do something that up until now, I’ve hesitated to do—incorporate real historical figures into their books as characters. C.M. Gleason writes the Lincoln Whitehouse mysteries where Abraham Lincoln himself is a character—not the sleuth. Fiorello LaGuardia appears in L.A. Chandlar’s Art Deco Mysteries.

One of the pleasures of writing historical fiction is learning about the people who lived in a specific era, and I love when a real person shows up in a work of fiction, but I never wanted to just create a role for someone unless they could truly be useful to the story. That opportunity arose when I began drafting book 4 in the Countess of Harleigh series, which takes place in November of 1899, when I learned that Russian Grand Duke Michael Mikhailovich Romanov and his wife Sophie, Countess de Torby were visiting London.

Now if the first thought that comes to your mind is: Who? I think you’re in the majority. I studied a bit of Russian history way back when and I found these two quite interesting, but they’re not as well-known as I thought. I’ve really hit a wall when it comes to finding research material, at least about Sophie and she plays a larger role in the story. Here’s a little background on the couple:

Grand Duke Michael Mikhailovich is the son of Michael Nikolaivich, who was a younger brother of Czar Alexander II, making my Michael the nephew of Alexander II and cousin of Alexander III. While most of the Grand Dukes of Russia were either brutes or womanizers, Michael was just a nice guy. Around 1890 he became infatuated with a Russian woman whom the family considered unacceptable and he was sent abroad to “cool off.” Somewhere in his travels, he met and fell in love with Countess Sophie von Merenberg the daughter of Prince Nicholas of Nassau and Natalia Alexandrovna Pushkin. Unfortunately, Sophie’s parents were married before her mother received a proper divorce from her first husband. Sophie wasn’t a commoner, but since she was illegitimate, she wasn’t royal either, and that was a requirement for a Grand Ducal marriage.


By James Lafayette

They married anyway and I’m just guessing here, but since the date and details of their meeting, and the date and details of their wedding seem to be shrouded in mystery, I think they knew they were asking for trouble. It’s now accepted that they married in San Remo, Italy in February of 1891. When the news leaked out in April of that year, the newlyweds felt the wrath of the Czar and Michael’s parents.

Alexander III informed the bride’s father that the marriage was not legal as it was unauthorized and without family approval. He stripped Michael of his military rank and banned him from Russia. The news didn’t go over much better within Michael’s immediate family. His mother died from a heart attack after hearing the news and his father blamed Michael for her death. He was not allowed back in Russia to attend her funeral. Michael was essentially disowned in every sense but financial—the Czar didn’t cut off his income, which came primarily from his estates in the Caucasus and a bottled water factory.

Though I’m sure they resented this treatment, the exiles managed to live in imperial style at their homes in France, Germany, and England. They were at the center of society at their home in Cannes, and great friends of the Prince and Princess of Wales. All this without being subject to the strict regulations of the Russian royal family. Living abroad, they also managed to avoid assassination in the Russian revolution. All things considered, I’d say they made the best decision.

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Book News & Heiress Anna Gould

Just when I wasfuriously working doing so well with my blogging, I missed a post. My only excuse is I was working on the first draft of book 4, and when I’m drafting (as opposed to revising) I need to stay focused and get it done quickly or the story becomes too choppy. I’m 40k words in and I hope to be done with this draft in five weeks! (But I’ll try not to miss another blog post.) This time I have a bit of news and another heiress profile.

There’s been quite a bit of excitement since my last post. For one thing, there will be a book 4 in the Countess of Harleigh series! And a 5 and a 6! I’m very excited about that. Book 4 is tentatively titled A Lady’s Guide to Scandal and Murder and will include some members of the Romanov family, which has been a lot of fun to research.

I’ve also learned that A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder is up for a Macavity award, specifically the Sue Feder Memorial Award for best Historical Mystery! The awards are given out at the opening ceremonies of the Bouchercon Mystery Convention. This year that takes place in Dallas, TX October 30th through November 3rd.

I’ll be doing two Historical Mystery panels with authors L.A. Chandlar and C.M. Gleason later this month. If you’re in the area, please come by and say hello. They should be fun events!
Nicola’s Books
Wednesday, August 28th at 7:00 pm
2513 Jackson Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI 48103

Pages Bookshop
Thursday, August 29th at 6:00 pm
Pages is at 19560 Grand River Avenue, Detroit, MI 48223

That’s it for the news, so how about a new heiress profile?
American Heiress Anna Gould

Anna was the fifth child of Jay Gould, one of the most ruthless robber barons and one of the richest men of the Gilded Age. She grew up with every possible luxury, had a Anna Gouldpleasant manner, and an iron will inherited from her father. Her determination to get her way both got her into a bad marriage and saved her from it.

In 1894 she was nineteen and engaged to Oliver Harriman, a financier and friend of her brother, when she traveled to Paris to purchase her trousseau. It was there she met twenty-seven-year-old Paul Ernest Boniface, Comte de Castellane, known as Boni. Boni was handsome, charming, and extravagant, with an inflated sense of his own worth. He was also way over his head in debt. Whatever he thought of Anna, she had to be the answer to his financial woes. Anna’s fortune was approximately $12 million. That would be equivalent to $366 million today.

Anna was captivated but wary. Boni wooed her for nearly a year, borrowing from his banks and friends to follow her back to the US where he finally popped the question, and she accepted. She had one caveat, which should have made Boni concerned; she would not convert to his family’s religion, Catholicism, and admitted if she was not happy, she would divorce him.

The newlyweds returned to France and proceeded to spend their way through Anna’s annual income of $750,000 ($23 million in today’s dollars). It wasn’t enough for Boni who could deny himself nothing. Now that he had credit again, he spent far beyond their income. Anna didn’t mind his spending habits, but his infidelity hurt. Boni had an eye for the ladies, and as with his spending, nothing would stop him from indulging himself.

They lived this way for ten years, occasionally refinancing their debt, until Anna grew tired of her husband’s affairs, extravagance, and general way of life. In one day, she put an end to it. Boni was a member of the Chambre des Deputes and while he was away from home one afternoon on state business, Anna made her move—literally. When Boni came home the house was dark, the furnishings gone, and the telephone cut off. The next day he was served with an application for separation, which led to spectacularly public divorce. She’d warned him, and what Anna wants, Anna gets.Samuel_D._Ehrhart_-_An_International_High_Noon_Divorce_(1906)

I’m not saying either party was right or wrong, but so many histories of the American heiresses ended with them stuck in a loveless marriage, it’s kind of refreshing to see one save herself. For more of Anna’s story, you might want to read The Husband Hunters, by Anne De Courcy.

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Interview with Daniela Petrova

Daniela Petrova is a debut author whose book, Her Daughter’s Mother, released last month. I had the pleasure of interviewing Daniela for the blog, but first, here’s a bit about the book:

Lana Stone has never considered herself a stalker–until the night she impulsively follows a familiar face through the streets of New York’s Upper West Side. Her target? The “anonymous” egg donor she’d selected through an agency, the one who’s making motherhood possHer Daughter's Mother Cover.jpgible for her. Hungry to learn more about her, Lana plans only to watch her from a distance. But when circumstances bring them face-to-face, an unexpected friendship is born.

Katya, a student at Columbia, is the yin to Lana’s yang, an impulsive free spirit who lives life at the edge. And for pragmatic Lana, she’s a breath of fresh air and a welcome distraction from her painful breakup with her baby’s father. Then, just as suddenly as Katya entered Lana’s life, she disappears–and Lana might have been the last person to see her before she went missing. Determined to find out what became of the woman to whom she owes so much, Lana digs into Katya’s past, even as the police grow suspicious of her motives. But she’s unprepared for the secrets she unearths, and their power to change everything she thought she knew about those she loves best…

DF: Welcome, Daniela. Where did you get the idea for Her Daughter’s Mother?

DP: I struggled with infertility for nearly ten years. I was in the middle of an anonymous egg donor cycle and thought, What if I were to run into my donor? Of course, I would recognize her—I’d seen photos of her—but she wouldn’t know who I was. Would I be tempted to follow her? To learn more about her? The possibility seemed at once exciting and frightening. I knew her health and education history, her hobbies, the eye and hair color of her grandparents. But I had no idea what she was like. Did she laugh with abandon or shyly cover her mouth? Did she sing in the shower? Did she spend her free time at the gym or curled up on the couch with a book? Hungry to find out more about her, would I be tempted to follow her? I never ran into my donor. I didn’t even get pregnant but I liked the idea of a pregnant woman encountering her donor and stalking her, unable to suppress her curiosity.

DF: What made you become a writer?

DP: I started writing poems and short stories as a kid in Communist Bulgaria. I wrote my first poem because I had forgotten to prepare one for a Communist holiday. The night before, when I went to bed, I remembered I had to recite a poem in school. So I made one up. It was so much fun I kept doing it. I almost gave up on my dream to become a writer when I moved to the US, at the age of 22, barely speaking any English. But I took ESL classes at the YMCA and checked out books I’d already read in Bulgarian from the local public library so that I would learn the language. Before I knew it, I was writing again.

DF: Is Her Daughter’s Mother your first attempt at a novel?

DP: I have one completed novel that I couldn’t sell. And in retrospect, it’s pretty bad. But I don’t regret writing it because I learned so much. I see it as my dress rehearsal for the real thing.

DF: What are the most important things you learned from your writing classes that you found to be true in writing your novel?

DP: Come in late, leave early–I might have picked it up in a screenwriting class but I find it to be true in books. That rule helped me so much with the pace of my novel.
Don’t be the protagonist of your novel because you’ll never be able to put yourself through hell. It’s very hard to make yourself look bad or to create a multi-dimensional character if you’re writing about yourself.
Conflict, conflict, conflict—scenes and conversations without conflict can be dull and slow moving.

DF: How long did you work on this book?PetrovaHeadShot

DP: I completed the first draft of the book in 2013. It was a very different story, told from a third person point of view unlike the current first-person narratives of Lana, Katya and Tyler. I knew the plot had a lot of problems but didn’t know how to fix it. I started revising but felt stuck, unable to make any progress. I was going through a hard time in my personal life, having just filed for a divorce, and decided to put the book down until I got back on my feet and sorted out my life. I picked it up again in the spring of 2015 and wrote four more drafts before finally going on submission.

DF: What’s next for you?

DP: I’m working on my second novel which is also a domestic suspense story that takes place in New York.

If you’d like to know more about Daniela or her books, you can visit her website: http://www.danielapetrova.com/

If you’d like to purchase Her Daughter’s Mother, Click here.

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Release Day!

June 25th was release day for A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder, the second book in the Countess of Harleigh series. We celebrated with a release party at Schuler Books in Okemos, Michigan. Guests included the countess herself and her anonymous villain!

Characters book and Di 2

Because I’ve been so busy with the release, I don’t have a new blog post for today, but I do have an excerpt from the book. Hope you enjoy it!

Also, for those of you who haven’t read book 1, A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder, Kensington has put the e-book on sale for $2.99 on all platforms! I never know exactly how long the sale price will last, but I believe it will be at least through July 15th.

Excerpt from A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder

“What about Lottie as a match for Mr. Evingdon?”
I glanced over at Lottie in time to see the girl blush furiously. I should have seen this coming. Lily had invited her to visit during the next social season and allow me to introduce her to London society. Lottie’s mother favored the idea, but not the timing. She’d dropped her only daughter on our doorstep three weeks ago, like a twenty-one-year-old foundling, and took herself off to Paris to have a new wardrobe designed.
Or so she claimed.
Since her forwarding address was in care of the Comte De Beaulieu, I found her cover story rather weak. The Comte was the notorious libertine British husbands considered all Frenchmen to be. And penniless in the bargain. If he had designs on anything, it was likely Mrs. Deaver’s pin money. Considering the large bank draft she provided to cover her daughter’s expenses, and my own of course, I suspected her pin money to be substantial, and Mr. Deaver was unlikely to miss it or his wife. If the gossip from my mother’s letters was true, Mrs. Deaver so scandalized the matrons of New York, none of them would let their sons near Lottie.
Considering Mrs. Deaver’s reputation across the pond, it was perhaps for the best that she moved on before she could establish one here. But while I appreciated the extra funds, I was left with the problem of what to do with Lottie. The unfortunate young lady sought an aristocratic husband during a time when the aristocrats were all tucked away at their country homes preparing to shoot red grouse as soon as the Glorious Twelfth arrived.
There were few social events this late in the summer, which meant we had her company all to ourselves for the weeks she’d been here. She was a pretty girl of medium height, slender, as fashion decreed, with an oval face framed by an abundance of russet hair. I found her to be endlessly interested in everything. As I told Sir Hugo, she was easy to entertain. She was also determined to be helpful. I learned very quickly, accepting her assistance could be dangerous.
If I allowed her to arrange the flowers, she’d only break the vase and spill the water. I’d once asked her to fetch a book from a shop just a few blocks away. She’d neglected to take a maid and, lost in thought, she wandered so far out of the neighborhood, three of us had to go out in search of her. A search that took several hours from my day and, I suspect, a few years off my life as I imagined her abducted and sold into slavery. How would I ever have explained that to her family?
She seemed always to have a spot on her dress, ink on her fingers, and a trail of destruction in her wake, but it was clear she always had the best of intentions. In fact, she was very endearing and I liked her a great deal, if only I could keep her from touching anything.
But as a match for Charles? I wasn’t quite sure who would make a good match for Lottie, but I’d never have picked him. For one, his home had far too many priceless antiques to be broken. For another, though I protested Aunt Hetty’s saying it, he was a bit of a dunderhead. Lottie needed someone to help her navigate the twists and turns of society. That would not be Charles.
There was one objection I could make. “It would probably be wise to find out from Mr. Evingdon why he didn’t form an attachment to Mrs. Archer before I introduce him to anyone else.”
“What did you say her name was?”
I glanced up to see Hetty watching me over the turned-down corner of her newspaper.
“Mary Archer. Why?”
Hetty twisted her lips into a grimace. “It appears Mr. Evingdon is correct in this matter. Whatever divided them, he’ll have no opportunity to reconcile with Mrs. Archer.”
Confused, I stared at my aunt. “What are you saying?”
“I’m sorry to give you this news, Frances, but I just read about her in the paper. It appears she’s been murdered.”

Hope you enjoy the book!


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