by Kathleen Costa
This week we have a review of And Dangerous to Know by Darcie Wilde, along with an interesting interview with Darcie. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of And Dangerous to Know, and links to purchase it.
And Dangerous to Know: A Rosalind Thorne Mystery By Darcie Wilde
Review by Kathleen Costa
A Useful Woman
It’s London. It’s the early nineteenth century. It’s a time of stark differences, upper class privilege, and women a century away from emancipation. Miss Rosalind Thorne, daughter of a baronet, had been a member of the upper crust of English society enjoying position and wealth prepped to be matched in a relationship that would strengthen her stand in society…until her father’s penchant for bad investments cost the family it’s fortune. The baron abandoned her and her mother, leaving Rosalind alone to navigate what society had left to offer her. Despite having little money, her name, wit, and discretion still guaranteed access and confidences and with that she’s been a very “useful” woman. However, beyond arranging the typical parties and helping to manage a few inconvenient situations, she finds a few bodies that violate the King’s peace…murder! She has matured and grown beyond her debutante youth showing intelligence and a decisive manner well suited to discreet investigations. She also meets the handsome, blue-eyed Adam Harkness, a principal officer at the Bow Street station. Their partnership is congenial and quite successful, but proprieties must be followed less reputations be destroyed. However, the brush of her cheek says much about the passion upon which they may never be able to act. They’ll always have…a murder investigation.
A Rosalind Thorne Mystery
A Useful Woman (2016)
A Purely Private Matter (2017)
And Dangerous to Know (2019)
And Dangerous to Know earns 5+/5 Stolen Letters…Engaging Entertainment!
The body of a young woman was delivered to the Brown Bear Pub, informally used as an annex to the Bow Street Police Station. Identity unknown, murder seems an obvious determination, but to Adam Harkness‘s disappointment, Sir David Royce, King’s Coroner of Middlesex County, will only note the details in his personal journal and then have her quietly interred. Nothing official from him will be made. No warrant allowing Harkness to inquire further. No evidence to be publicized. The body had been found at the gates of Melbourne House, residence of the very influential Lord Melbourne, Peniston Lamb. It would be inappropriate, if not career ending, to place under suspicion anyone in that family, despite quiet rumors, infamous antics, and scandalous indiscretions. However, if someone discreet could ingratiate “herself,” and without notice, investigate and find answers…Miss Rosalind Thorne is brought to mind.
Sarah Villiers, Lady Jersey, is a driving force within privileged society and beholden to Miss Thorne. She had an unfortunate experience with murder at her Almack’s Assembly Rooms, gathering center for society’s ton. Rosalind’s unique abilities to manage the inconvenience encourages Lady Jersey to arrange for Rosalind and her “particular assistance” to be “useful” to Elizabeth Lamb, Viscountess Melbourne. A packet of letters, letters that would prove embarrassing to her, her family, and England’s premier poet George Gordon, Lord Byron, have been stolen. Acting as Lady Melbourne’s confidential secretary, Rosalind would be well positioned to ask questions, search private areas, overhear quiet conversations most staff hears and often ignores, and hopefully locate and retrieve the stolen property. Living at Melbourne House offers some challenge since Rosalind’s wardrobe has not seen an upgrade since the family’s financial crisis, but the five hundred pound stipend, more than Rosalind could use in a year, is quite the inducement or bribe.
After Adam Harkness relates his predicament with investigating the young woman’s murder, Rosalind observes, “It would seem, Mr. Harkness, that our paths have converged.”
Brilliant! I am new to this series and the work of Darcie Wilde, and after only a few pages of the third book in her Rosalind Thorne Mysteries, I am a big fan! Setting the drama in the early nineteenth century is unique in my experience (I see Jane Austen’s Emma Woodhouse and Mr. Darcy) offering fascinating historical facts and insights into events of the day, the English ton, and the criminal justice system such as it is. Also an author of historical romances, this mystery takes on an epic nature delving more deeply into relationships, interactions, and parties and gatherings along with the drama of a murder investigation. Each chapter cleverly begins with a title and passage from the “personal correspondence” in question selected to relate directly and indirectly to the drama and providing insights into characters’ behaviors and motives. Darcie’s writing style uses a third-person narrative supported with descriptive language and expressive dialogue that illustrates well the tone of the era, emotions, and various personalities. The mystery was an engrossing tale with twists and secrets that kept me guessing; the insights into the privilege were fascinating reminiscent of the dynamics that might be found in Downton Abbey, but a century earlier; the characters were well-developed, varied, realistic as I understand, with Rosalind’s strength and intelligence and Alice’s independence and ambition a real delight. Then Adam….ooooh! I loved it and am eager to read the first two books!
Alert! All three Rosalind Thorne books are available on Audible. Book one, A Useful Woman, and Book two, A Purely Private Matter, are narrated by the talented Sarah Nichols, but Book three And Dangerous to Know is narrated by the fabulously talented Pearl Hewitt, my all time favorite voice artist. I decided to get the audio version to finish “listening” to Darcie Wilde’s drama. Pearl’s engaging artistry has always enriched my experience; she does well to illustrate tone and various personalities through a change in volume and style along with slight and obvious variations in the British accent to depict dialect, age, gender, and status, even a French-ish accent pops up. A challenge for all female narrators is to perform adequately the male voice which Pearl gives more than an entertaining performance. I loved it and highly recommend Darcie Wilde’s book, especially the audio version!
Be a Darcie Wilde Fan!
Darcie Wilde, pen name of Sarah Zettel, pens mysteries, science fiction, romance, and Young Adult fiction. Her historical romance includes a three-part Regency Makeover series along with two standalone novels from the same era.
Interview with Darcie Wilde:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Darcy: I actually sent out my first submission (and got my first rejection) in high school. It was to Young Miss Magazine, and it got a form rejection, but somebody had handwritten “Lovely story” in the margin. I’ve been writing ever since.
KRL: When did your first novel come out? Can you tell us a little about it?
Darcy: My first novel was titled Reclamation. It was a space opera set in the far future and came out in 1994.
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not, what else have you written?
Darcy: I have always loved mysteries, but I’ve written just about everything. I started in science fiction and fantasy, but since then I’ve also written romance and YA.
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series?
Darcy: As a Regency romance writer, I’d decided to read some of the fiction (beyond Jane Austen) written in the period, to get some insight into the thoughts and attitudes from the time period. I started with a book called Almack’s about the famous ballroom that was the center of London’s marriage market, and the women who ran it. It was extremely controversial in its day. In the middle of all the historical gossip, I found a character described as “a useful woman.” That is, she’d fallen on hard times and needed her friends to help her out. In return, she’d help her friends by becoming a kind of unpaid social secretary. I’d never heard of anything like this and knew I wanted to write about it. It was my fabulous editor, Wendy McCurdy, who realized it ought to be a mystery.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Darcy: I always want to entertain first, but particular when I’m writing a historical, I hope I’m opening up our ideas about women’s lives and roles in history. Those are always broader and more complicated than we’re told.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Darcy: I’m lucky to be a full-time writer. I generally keep office hours. I work at a co-working space in my town, and I’m usually in at my desk by 8am and head home around 4pm. Keeping a regular schedule reduces my stress and ups my productivity. If there’s a looming deadline, however, all bets are off.
KRL: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?
Darcy: I will do an outline, because publisher’s need one to understand what the plan for the book is. For myself, do what I call a “fast draft.” Basically, I sit down and write scenes as they come to me. It might be a couple of pages, followed by a few lines of dialogue, or just a paragraph saying, “this happens here.” I’ll use that as a kind of skeleton to build the first draft around.
KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Darcy: I’m spoiled by having had all day to write for a long time now. I like the large stretch of time. Some days I can sit down and get right into it. Some days, the brain is slower to wake up and I need to read, or re-read, or get out and take a walk first.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Darcy: Yes. It was a lot of submitting and getting rejected. However, the process taught me a lot, including how it’s important to keep writing on a new project even while you’ve got one in submission, because if that submission comes back, you want to have the next one ready to go, so you don’t brood.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Darcy: Gosh. The first is always the best. This was back in the day, when it was all done through the mail. You’d have to send a self-addressed, stamped envelope with each submission. If they rejected you, they’d send you back the MSS in that big manila envelope. I remember the day I opened the mailbox, and there was a small envelope with the magazine’s return address. I ran all the way to my apartment, tore open the envelope without even taking my coat off, saw the acceptance and started dancing around the room, waving it over my head and yelling “I’m an author! I’ve “authed!” I’ve “authed!””
KRL: Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?
Darcy: I got to speak at the Library of Congress about helping start an online publishing cooperative (Book View Café). That was fun.
KRL: Future writing goals?
Darcy: Just to keep writing and to keep getting better. I think the day you stop learning about your own craft, you’re pretty done.
KRL: Writing heroes?
Darcy: So many. The Bronte sisters who defied the odds and all expectation to change the modern novel forever. Ursula Le Guin who wrote the book that turned me into a writer (The Tombs of Autuan, a YA fantasy), Agatha Christie who invented the modern cozy mystery. Beverly Jenkins who persisted and succeeded when she was told there was no market for African American romance. Basically, any woman brave enough to put her voice on paper and take it into the public!
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Darcy: I’m lucky. It’s really easy to get hold of work written in the Regency period these days. Not only have a lot of novels been digitized, but there are a ton of diaries and collections of letters available in digital libraries. I also have access to a university library system, which is a fantastic treasure trove. I also love reading biographies of women of the time and scoop up a lot of ideas from their real lives.
KRL: What do you read?
Darcy: I love mysteries, obviously, and history. I read romance to relax, and biography. I like graphic novels as well and I’m a baseball nerd, so I just finished The MVP Machine.
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Darcy: Pretty eclectic there. I love old movies, and am having a bit of a Burt Lancaster binge right now. I am also an unrepentant fan of cooking competitions, so I watch Chopped, and of course The Great British Baking Show. I’m also working my way through Peaky Blinders and The Good Place.
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Darcy: Write and read. Keep writing and reading. Ignore what other people say about how “real” writers write. You are real. Figure out what allows you to finish your projects and write that way. Research your markets to figure out what you want to sell and where and find out how to submit to those markets and follow their guidelines. Finish your work, send it in, start the next project. This obviously comes from someone who is traditionally published. If you want to go the indie route, find a good support forum and listen to the advice of people who have done this successfully.
KRL: Anything you would like to add?
Darcy: Just thank you for the invitation to King’s River Life!
KRL: Awe thanks! What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Darcy: The most surprising thing about me is what we’ve been talking about here, there I’ve been a professional writer since 1986 with 35+ published novels.
To enter to win a copy of And Dangerous to Know, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, with the subject line “dangerous,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen February 22, 2020. Only US entries and you must be at least 18 to enter. If entering via email be sure to include your mailing address in case you win. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
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