A Purely Private Matter
by Darcie Wilde
#2 Rosalind Thorne
Formats available: Paperback, Electronic, Audio
Pub Date: 5.2.17| 379 pages
REVIEWER: Sophia Rose
The Rosalind Thorne Mysteries—inspired by the novels of Jane Austen—continue as the audacious Rosalind strives to aid those in need while navigating the halls of high society…
Rosalind Thorne has slowly but assuredly gained a reputation as “a useful woman”—by helping respectable women out of some less-than-respectable predicaments.
Her latest endeavor is a tragedy waiting to happen. Desperate Margaretta Seymore is with child—and her husband is receiving poisoned pen letters that imply that her condition is the result of an affair with the notorious actor Fletcher Cavendish. Margaretta asks Rosalind to find out who is behind the scurrilous letters. But before she can make any progress, Cavendish is found dead, stabbed through the heart.
Suddenly, Rosalind is plunged into the middle of one of the most sensational murder trials London has ever seen, and her client’s husband is the prime suspect. With the help of the charming Bow Street runner Adam Harkness, she must drop the curtain on this fatal drama before any more lives are ruined.
It’s been a few years, but I finally got to the follow up of a fabulous Regency Era mystery series featuring a bright, undaunted Rosalind Thorne. Miss Thorne took her family’s fall from grace as a challenge instead of an epitaph by carving out a place on the peripheral of society as a useful woman including getting her charges out of the sticky problem of murder. This latest continues the intriguing personal story lines and character development behind the mystery itself that kept me reading swiftly and not wishing to put aside the book.
A Purely Private Matter is book two in a series that offers standalone mysteries with each new installment, but reads best in order because of series plot threads carrying over.
As with the first book, I was struck with a feeling of being immersed in the Regency period and world of London at that time. The characters come from more than one social strata lending a nice rich variety. I enjoy the dual narration of Rosalind and Adam though Rosalind gets more narration time. The pace and build up is slow, but sure as it layers the life of Rosalind with the mystery.
Rosalind is a complex character. She was reared to be part of London High Society, but her father got into gambling and debts, and disappeared. That disgraced her family and left her chances of a good match and comfortable future shot to pieces. Her older sister left with her father and seventeen year old Rosalind lived with a troubled mother until her death when Rosalind used her remaining society contacts to build a life as a ‘useful woman’ who could aid with social situations to secrets and lately murder.
This has made her leery of giving up her hard-fought for independence and yet she knows her financial stability is precarious at best. This creates the tug o’ war she feels when her heart yearns toward either of the men interested in her and both ineligible for two different reasons. Her past has hardened her and made her cynical. She also knows she’s smarter, more skilled, and more able than most of the women and men of her acquaintance so she hates that they tend to look with pity or down their noses at her because of her father’s actions. By saving their bacon and helping them keep their troubles and sometimes dirty secrets tucked away, she gets a bit of her own back.
That brings me to the themes and elements of a woman’s world that appear in this one. I seem to learn something new each time I pick one of these up. In this case, it is how cases of accused infidelity were handled. Because the woman is legally her husband’s property, the legal filing is against the accused man suing for damage of property just like one would sue if the guy busted up the furniture or shot the guy’s horse. Further, I was intrigued by how a woman getting paid for her poetry is celebrated and brought into society’s salons after growing up beneath society. Fascinating also, were the women who ran gambling houses right out of their own homes with ‘by invitation only’ type parties. I was startled to learn that a person with a stutter was thought to be mentally impaired and might even find themselves committed to a mad house when in the care of the wrong guardian.
I enjoyed the authentic feel to the criminal investigation and then judicial follow-up. Very fascinating how evidence was gathered and how the coroner and later court proceedings went. It’s tough to wrap one’s mind around the guilty until proven innocent way which is the reverse of things now. The theater world at the time was also given some good page time and I loved that real theater characters were mixed in.
Though, as far as authenticity went, I did get mildly annoyed with the address of upper and lower aristocracy and gentry in this book. I don’t remember it being a problem in the first book, but it has been a few years. To hear a duke addressed as ‘Lord Casselmain’ instead of ‘His Grace, the Duke of…’ or ‘Your Grace’ while a Marquis got addressed as ‘Your Grace’ instead of ‘my lord’ or ‘Lord so and so’. The most often misused one was man with a knighthood (or maybe it was a baronet, but either way…) and his wife. He was Sir Bertram Seymore which should have made it ‘Sir Bertram and Lady Seymore’ but instead we got ‘Sir (without his first name) and Lady Bertram’ every time. I know this is piddling compared to the heart of the story and the characters and the settings, but since it was always happening, I was distracted.
All in all, it was a solid story that kept me engaged and left me eager for more of the series. Those who enjoy well-painted historical settings and world, developed characters, and layered plots should definitely pick these up.