A Murderous Marriage
By Alyssa Maxwell
A Lady and Lady’s Maid Mystery #4
Lady Phoebe Renshaw and her lady’s maid, Eva Huntford, are preparing for a wedding, but it may not be the happy occasion everyone hopes for . . .
Since the Great War, some family fortunes have suffered, including those of the Renshaws. Despite being the granddaughter of an earl, Julia Renshaw is under pressure to marry for money—and has settled for Gilbert Townsend, a viscount and a wealthy industrialist. He is decades older than Julia, and it’s clear to her sister Phoebe—and to Eva, who has been like a surrogate mother to the girls—that this is not a love match. Nevertheless, the wedding takes place—and in a hurry.
At the reception aboard the groom’s yacht, there appears to be tension between Gil and several guests: his best man, a fellow veteran of the Boer War; his grouchy spinster sister; and his current heir, a nervous young cousin named Ernest. The bride is also less than pleased when she discovers that her honeymoon will be more crowded than expected—with Gil’s pretty secretary, among others, coming along.
That very night, Julia pounds on her sister’s door, brandishing a bandaged hand and reporting a hot-tempered outburst on her new husband’s part. Julia is feeling doubt and regret about her hasty decision, but returns to the boat. Then the next morning, before the yacht can depart the harbor, Gil’s body is found in the water below—and Phoebe and Eva must discover who pushed him over . . . before the Renshaws’ social standing is irreparably stained by Julia’s arrest for his murder . . .
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A talented new-to-me author and a period drama set in 1920s England equals many hours spent in enjoyable reading for me. The atmospheric Isle of Wright setting, lords and ladies galore, impoverished estates, arranged marriages … these elements and more combine in a murder mystery by Alyssa Maxwell that I thoroughly enjoyed. The story is well written, clean, and far more complex than the average cozy mystery. I might have understood more about recurring characters had I read the previous books, but A Murderous Marriage easily stands alone.
Lady Phoebe Renshaw and her lady’s maid, Eva Huntford, are intriguing and likeable characters. In book #4 of A Lady and a Lady’s Maid series, both of these ladies use their respective positions in society to investigate murder by asking questions and often simply listening. Phoebe, who wanted to attend university and study law, is caring and intelligent, with life goals beyond society’s expectations for the role of a woman. Eva is smart and loyal, and I enjoyed the relationship between these two.
Family itself – family bonds and responsibility – feature prominently in A Murderous Marriage, and the story opens with the oldest Renshaw daughter preparing to marry in order to save their family estate. But it was more about legacy than in merely preserving Foxwood Hall, for the family “needed to contribute in some way to the world, and to the good of England, if the Renshaw family were to maintain any standing or dignity within society.” The relationships between the Renshaw siblings provides lots of depth – from the strain between Phoebe and Julia, to the young brother, Fox, who takes some getting used to.
Julia becomes both a bride and a widow within 24 hours, setting events in motion that go back to the recent World War I years. The murderer isn’t obvious and the suspects are plenteous, including the husband’s secretary, “a haughty package of conceit and control.” Subtle romantic elements add richness to the story, and I hope we see many more Phoebe and Eva stories.
I received a copy of this book through Great Escapes Tours. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.
Alyssa Maxwell knew from an early age that she wanted to be a novelist. Growing up in New England and traveling to Great Britain fueled a passion for history, while a love of puzzles of all kinds drew her to the mystery genre.
She and her husband reside in Florida, where she loves to watch BBC productions, sip tea in the afternoons, and delve into the past. You can learn more about Alyssa and her books at www.alyssamaxwell.com.
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