A Lady's Guide to Gossip and Murder

A Lady's Guide to Gossip and Murder

by Dianne Freeman

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Overview

How far will some go to safeguard a secret? In the latest novel in Dianne Freeman’s witty and delightful historical mystery series, the adventurous Countess Harleigh finds out . . .
 
Though American by birth, Frances Wynn, the now-widowed Countess of Harleigh, has adapted admirably to the quirks and traditions of the British aristocracy. On August twelfth each year, otherwise known as the Glorious Twelfth, most members of the upper class retire to their country estates for grouse-shooting season. Frances has little interest in hunting—for birds or a second husband—and is expecting to spend a quiet few months in London with her almost-engaged sister, Lily, until the throng returns.

Instead, she’s immersed in a shocking mystery when a friend, Mary Archer, is found murdered. Frances had hoped Mary might make a suitable bride for her cousin, Charles, but their courtship recently fizzled out. Unfortunately, this puts Charles in the spotlight—along with dozens of others. It seems Mary had countless notes hidden in her home, detailing the private indiscretions of society’s elite. Frances can hardly believe that the genteel and genial Mary was a blackmailer, yet why else would she horde such juicy tidbits?
 
Aided by her gallant friend and neighbor, George Hazelton, Frances begins assisting the police in this highly sensitive case, learning more about her peers than she ever wished to know. Too many suspects may be worse than none at all—but even more worrying is that the number of victims is increasing too. And unless Frances takes care, she’ll soon find herself among them . . .

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781496716903
Publisher: Kensington
Publication date: 06/25/2019
Series: Countess of Harleigh Series , #2
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 121,385
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Dianne Freeman is the acclaimed author of the Countess of Harleigh Mystery series. She is an Agatha Award and Lefty Award finalist, as well as a nominee for the prestigious Mary Higgins Clark Award from Mystery Writers of America. She spent thirty years working in corporate accounting and finance and now writes full-time. Born and raised in Michigan, she and her husband now split their time between Michigan and Arizona. Visit her at www.DiFreeman.com.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

August 1899

London in late summer was really no place to be. With society thin and events like Ascot and the derby a distant memory, the few of us remaining in town were hard-pressed for entertainment. But if one were required to spend the summer in London, one could not choose a better site for an afternoon soiree than Park Lane, with Hyde Park on one side of the street, and some of the largest mansions in London on the other. One might almost imagine oneself in the country. If one were in possession of a superior imagination, that is.

Though the garden was large by London standards, there were a good forty or more of us gathered here, dispersed between the conservatory at the rear of the house and the small tables scattered across the lawn. It made for a bit of a squeeze and might have been terribly uncomfortable if the sun were not playing its usual game of hide-and-seek.

This was my first summer in town and I can't say I found it to my liking. My previous summers — in fact, most of my previous nine years in England — had been spent in the countryside of Surry where my late husband, the Earl of Harleigh, dropped me off and left me shortly after our honeymoon.

He returned to London and his bevy of mistresses.

I didn't mind the country so much as I minded the mistresses. That's where I raised our daughter, Rose. And except for annual trips to London for the Season, it's where I stayed, like the dutiful wife my mother raised me to be. You see, before I was Frances Wynn, Countess of Harleigh, I was Frances Price, American heiress. I found neither role particularly satisfying, so a year after my husband's death, I left the Wynn family home, with my young daughter in tow, and set up my household in a lovely little house on Chester Street in Belgravia. Now I was in charge of my life, and I enjoyed it immensely, though I could wish my funds allowed for trips to the country in the summer.

I stepped down from the conservatory to join the group at the nearest table for a glass of champagne — Lady Argyle had planned this soiree in a grand style. No watered-down punch for her — when I caught a glimpse of a marine blue hat perched atop a head of chestnut waves. Ah, Fiona had arrived. As she moved through the crowd toward me, I saw her ensemble was also blue, trimmed in peach and white.

Sadly, I wore mourning. Again. This time for my sister-in-law, Delia, who died three months ago under rather unfortunate circumstances — which I'd prefer to forget. She'd left behind two sons and the current Earl of Harleigh, my late husband's younger brother.

Strictly speaking, I shouldn't even be at this gathering, but my brother-in-law, with a degree of compassion I never dreamed possible, refused to plunge his young sons into deep mourning, with the requisite black armbands, silenced clocks, and attention to nothing but one's grief for the duration of a year or more. Children needed the joy of childhood, he insisted, and decreed we'd all observe half mourning for no more than six months. Social codes be damned.

I jest not. Graham, the staid and starchy Earl of Harleigh, disregarded a firmly embedded social convention.

There just might be hope for him yet.

As applied to myself, Graham's decree meant I could venture out in company and would not be forced to wear black all summer. Though I was restricted to gray and lavender, black was decidedly worse. For this occasion, I wore a lavender confection, suitably light in weight and fashionable for the season, topped off by a cunning wide-brimmed hat, but gad — it was lavender. Did anyone look well in this color?

"Darling!"

Fiona had caught sight of me and raised a hand in greeting. A parasol matching the trim on her dress dangled from a loop on her wrist. Her path to me intersected with that of Sir Hugo Ridley, who, upon noting her destination, raised his hand in greeting and followed in her wake.

She reached my side, bussed my cheek, then backed up to acknowledge our companion. "How do you do, Ridley? It's been an age since we've met."

I'd known Ridley for a number of years. He was a friend of my late husband, one of the few I didn't avoid. Like Reggie, he spent far too much time drinking, gambling, and generally wasting his life. The effects of his habits revealed themselves in the pallor of his skin, the slight paunch of his stomach, and the circles under his eyes. Unlike Reggie, he was devoted to his wife and could be amusing when he exerted himself.

He gave us a nod. "Lady Harleigh. Lady Fiona. I'm surprised to find you both in town this late in summer. Does that mean you'll be attending our little soiree in honor of the Glorious Twelfth?"

The Glorious Twelfth referred to the twelfth of August — the official start of the shooting season, when all — well, most members of the upper class return to their estates to shoot various varieties of fowl until February. The Ridleys, however, were Londoners through and through and never left town. Instead, they held an annual gathering on the twelfth for those who stayed.

"I've already sent my reply to Lady Ridley. My family and I will be delighted to attend."

Ridley smiled and turned to Fiona.

"As it happens, I'm on the eve of my departure to the country. Nash must shoot, you know," she said, in reference to her husband. "In truth, I'd hoped to take Lady Harleigh with me." She thrust out her lower lip in a caricature of a childish pout. "Are you sure you won't come, Frances? Nash and I would love to have you."

I caught her hand and gave it a squeeze. "Thank you for the invitation, Fiona, but that arrangement doesn't suit my houseguests." I was dejected to have to decline her offer but I could hardly accept her invitation and bring along three extra guests, and my daughter, and her nanny. "Besides, my sister is determined to stay in town to be near Mr. Kendrick."

"Young love," Ridley said. "Will they be making an announcement soon?"

A footman in black livery stepped up to offer a tray of refreshments, beads of sweat visible on his forehead. Poor man. Ridley distributed flutes of champagne among us and waved the man off. The three of us set off on a stroll across the lawn.

"They haven't yet set a date for the wedding," I replied. "I believe they'll wait until the fall to make any plans." Lily, my younger sister, had arrived from New York three months ago with the sole intention of finding and marrying a lord. Instead she found Leo Kendrick, the son of a wealthy businessman, and they'd been a couple ever since. Leo had asked for her hand in marriage and she accepted. They were eager to announce their engagement, but I urged them to wait. She was only eighteen. The same age I'd been when I rushed into a disastrous marriage.

I had no objections to Leo, but I'd had no objections to my feckless, philandering husband at the time I'd married him either. The objections came later and continued until the day he died in the bed of his lover. So, you see, I wasn't being obstructive, I simply wanted them to get to know one another before marriage.

Fiona tutted. "She's going to marry the man at some point, Frances. This delay will make no difference. You'd do better to concentrate on your little protégée. She must be starving for entertainment."

"If one is starving for entertainment in London, Lady Fiona, one has far too large an appetite." Sir Hugo raised his glass to emphasize his point. "I met the lovely Miss Deaver when you attended the theater last week. She seemed to be enjoying herself."

Charlotte Deaver, my "little protégée," as Fiona called her, was a friend of Lily's from New York. "Lottie is fascinated with everything London," I said, with a nod to Ridley. "And is quite able to entertain herself. She's just as content with a trip to the library or a museum as she is mingling with society. Actually, more so." I lowered my voice and leaned in toward my friends. "She's a bit awkward at social events."

Fiona raised her brows. "Dearest, you truly understate the case. More men have been injured dancing with her than were wounded in the Transvaal Rebellion."

I huffed. "That's unfair, Fiona. She may be somewhat lacking in grace, but she's injured none of her dance partners."

Ridley covered a laugh by clearing his throat. "Graceful or not, I found her charming, and doubt any man in London would say differently. I'm sure Evingdon finds her so." He inclined his head in the direction of the house where Lottie stumbled over three short steps leading from the conservatory to the lawn. Charles Evingdon, descending the steps himself, quickly caught her arm to stop her from falling face-first into the rose bushes. Sadly, he couldn't prevent her hat, a confection of pink bows and white plumes, from launching itself into the shrubbery.

"Oh, I wasn't expecting to see Evingdon here today."

"I don't mind seeing him," Ridley said. "It's speaking with him that rather challenges my patience."

I gave the man a cool stare. "I'll remind you, Ridley, Charles Evingdon is part of my family."

His eyes sparkled with mischief. "Cousin to your late husband, I believe. Therefore, I won't hold it against you, my dear Lady Harleigh. But I will beg you to excuse me."

With that he gave us a cheeky grin and sauntered away, my glare boring into his back. "Every time I think that man has turned over a new leaf, he reminds me of what a scoundrel he really is."

"Marriage isn't likely to make that man civil, dear," Fiona said. "But in this case, I'd say he was just being honest."

"Charles is different, I'll grant you that." He was certainly different from my other in-laws in a number of ways. Most notably, his branch of the family managed to hold on to their wealth, he didn't hold my American background against me, and in contrast to the cold austerity of my nearest in-laws, he was as friendly as a golden retriever.

I turned my attention back to the house and smiled when Charles raised a hand to gain my attention. He steadied Lottie on her feet, set her hat atop the wreckage of her hair, and headed in our direction.

"I daresay he's coming over to thank me for introducing him to Mary Archer." I tipped my head toward Fiona and preened a bit. "He seems quite taken with her. I believe I can count that match as one of my successes."

"I wouldn't say that overloud, dear." Fiona leaned in closer. "You wouldn't want anyone to think you were in the business of matchmaking. Or in business at all, for that matter."

"Of course not." I took a quick glance around to assure myself no one was close enough to hear. "I've simply made one or two discreet introductions. Can I help it if the recipients of those introductions chose to show their gratitude with a gift?"

"But I wonder if Mrs. Archer is grateful. Do you really suppose she's equally taken with Evingdon?" She wrinkled her nose. "He's rather dim-witted, don't you think?"

"You're as bad as Ridley. It's terribly uncharitable of you to say such a thing. Aside from being my relation, he's a very likable and kind man. He's also a good friend of your brother's, and George doesn't suffer fools."

Her lips compressed in a straight line. I was right and she knew it. In fact, it was George's good opinion of Charles that led me to believe the man must have a brain somewhere in his head. His actions certainly led one to think otherwise.

He approached us with a genial grin, one he wore frequently and which made him seem much younger than his thirty-six years, as did his tall, athletic frame and thick head of wheat-colored hair. He wore it slightly too long for fashion, but it suited him.

"Ladies," he said with a tip of his straw boater. "I was hoping to find you here. Well, actually I was only hoping to find you, Cousin Frances."

He paused, but as I drew breath to speak, he continued. "Not that I didn't want to find you, Lady Fiona, just that I wasn't actively seeking you, you understand? Good to find you all the same. Rather like looking for a book you'd mislaid somewhere and stumbling across another that turns out to be equally diverting. Not that I would ever stumble across you, of course. But one would have to admit you are diverting."

He finished this monologue with a show of dimples.

"It's lovely to see you too, Cousin Charles."

I glanced at Fiona. A line had worked itself between her brows. She parted her lips to speak, then seemed to think better of it.

I gave her arm a squeeze. "I'm sure Lady Nash is pleased to see you as well."

"Yes, of course," she said. "If you'll excuse me. I've yet to greet our hostess."

With that she slipped away like an animal escaping a trap. I took a breath and returned my attention to my cousin. "Did Mrs. Archer not accompany you today?"

"Ah. Mrs. Archer. Yes. Exactly why I wanted to speak with you."

"How are things progressing with the two of you?"

He brushed off his sleeves as if they were dusty, then straightened his tie. As he fidgeted, his gaze traveled in every direction but mine. "Well ..." He finally looked me in the eye. "Actually, not well. Not well at all." He cast a suspicious glance at two young ladies nearby, their heads together in giggling conversation, and offered me his arm.

"Would you care to stroll, Cousin Frances?"

I took his arm and we set off at a leisurely pace around the perimeter of the garden. "Is there something you wish to tell me?"

"No," he said. "Well, yes. It seems we may not suit after all, Mrs. Archer and I. I thought we might. She's an excellent woman." He rubbed the back of his neck and let out a breath. "Lovely, pleasant, intelligent. Took quite a shine to her, in fact. But as it turns out, we don't. Er, suit, that is."

"I'm so sorry to hear that." Truly sorry. Mary Archer was one of the most patient and kind women of my acquaintance. I'd be hard-pressed to find another suitable lady if she wouldn't do. Though I could hardly tell him that.

"It sounds as though you've grown fond of Mrs. Archer. Are you certain you wish to end the acquaintance? What you now view as a difficulty may, in time, become nothing."

He set his jaw and gave a slight shake of his head. "No, I don't see how I can pursue the connection. If there's someone else of your acquaintance who might be interested in an introduction," he added, his expression a mixture of hope and doubt.

"I'm sure there is, Charles. But in an effort to avoid another mistake, perhaps you could tell me why you didn't suit."

"As to that, I'm afraid it would be rather ungentlemanly to say more. I found no fault with Mrs. Archer and I do wish to marry, but we simply —"

"Didn't suit?" I raised my brows.

"Exactly!" He gave me another glimpse of his dimples. "I knew you'd understand."

I did not understand. Nor was it likely I'd gain any insight by speaking to Charles. Perhaps George could provide me with some guidance. Or Mary herself.

Yes, Mary was far more likely to provide an explanation for their rift. I'd have to pay her a visit tomorrow. "Just give me a few days, Charles. I'll let you know how I get on."

* * *

The garden party lasted only a few hours more. Storm clouds rumbled overhead as I took my leave of Fiona, forcing the stalwart Brit to endure my hugs since I likely wouldn't see her until spring. Unless, of course, I gave in to Lily's longing for a winter wedding. Fiona would certainly attend that event. I doubted I'd be able to hold Lily and Leo off much longer. The way they were saying farewell, one would think they too wouldn't see one another until spring. In fact, their parting would only be for perhaps a day.

Once they completed their farewells, the four of us — Lily, Lottie, Aunt Hetty, and I — climbed into George Hazelton's carriage. Mr. Hazelton was my neighbor, Fiona's older brother, and a wonderful friend who acted as escort to our little group when he was free and loaned us his carriage when he wasn't. Though I had funds sufficient to maintain my household, they didn't stretch to keeping a carriage and horses. Lily had traveled to England with Aunt Hetty as her chaperone. Hetty was my father's sister and shared his genius for making money, but I didn't know how long she'd be staying with me and I feared growing accustomed to living within her means.

The two young ladies took the rear-facing seats, allowing Hetty and I to face forward. She climbed in first, pulling out the newspaper she'd tucked into the seat earlier. I tutted as I seated myself beside her. "Hetty, you'll strain your eyes reading in this light."

She dismissed my concerns with a few mumbled words and folded the broadsheet to a manageable size. "Don't concern yourself with my vision, dear. It's fine."

I frowned at the paper hiding her face. "Can't you put that down? I have a dilemma and hoped to get your opinion."

"We have opinions." Lily gestured to Lottie and herself.

"Of course, but I'd like Aunt Hetty's, too." I gave her a nudge with my elbow.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "A Lady's Guide to Gossip and Murder"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Dianne Freeman.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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A Lady's Guide to Gossip and Murder 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Anonymous 4 months ago
I just loved this book. The author should be congratulated on keeping the plot moving forward while providing context and keeping the characters interesting. The logic was sound, it was possible to make some educated guesses along the way but there were also some unexpected twists and turns. I highly recommend the read! With thanks to NetGalley, the author and the publishers for the advanced copy for an honest opinion
Pattistep 5 months ago
This was such a fun cozy mystery. I love Frances and George, the main characters in this series. Frances, an American living in England in 1899, is also the widowed “Countess of Harleigh”. She’s loved by many in her circle of friends, and tries to be a help to her family. George is the very picture of a noble English gentleman who practices law. He’s also somewhat mysteriously employed by both the police and The Crown, and has a talent for handling those “cases” where utmost discretion is required. (He also seems to have a talent for breaking into houses and following suspects.). Frances and George are also next door neighbors, and together they make a great sleuthing team. There’s not a false note in this book. The dialogue is witty; the characters fit their roles; and the mystery is interesting and not easily solved. This is a clean cozy mystery story—there’s no foul language or bedroom scenes. You do not have to have read the first book in this series to enjoy this one, but I recommend it, too. I received a copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
Anonymous 5 months ago
3.5 stars This is an amiable and clever enough historical mystery, and Lady Harleigh and her next-door neighbor and sort of love interest George are interesting. The novel is marred though, by its total laxness when it comes to the 19th century setting. The dialogue and relationships are much more modern than they are supposed to be. For those who want the period detail to be absolutely correct, this might not be the best choice. A friend of Lady Harleigh's has been murdered, and when certain notes about society secrets are found in the victim's house, the question of blackmail is raised. The real purpose of the notes proves to be much more interesting. The two sleuths joust back and forth and spend their time trying to glean information from their society friends. This series is pleasant, but not compelling. Thanks to Net Galley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.
CarmichaelReviews 6 months ago
A Lady's Guide to Gossip and Murder is a terrific sequel to Dianne Freeman's 2018 historical mystery A Lady's Guide to Etiquette and Murder. I am a big fan of the first book in the series, so a sequel brings about conflicting emotions: excitement that you get another book by a favoured author; and dread that the sequel will not stand up as well as the first did. I need not have worried. This book is delightful. Frances Wynn, Countess of Harleigh, is embroiled in the murder of her friend Mary Archer. In this installment George Hazelton -- her neighbour, partner in crime (investigation), and love interest -- delegates much of the work to Frances, which shows her capability and his respect. (I really like George!!) There remains the lingering question: Did he really propose in book 1? If he did, will she marry him? Frances mulls this early on: "I'd only just gained my independence and the single state suited me well for the time being." Independence was a theme in the first book and happily we get more perspectives on it here. Only after widowhood are Frances and Mary able to gain some measure of independence, financial as well as living in their own homes. Frances has the money her father set aside for her at the time of her marriage, but Mary has to work to support herself. This is doubly problematic in the eyes of society. Women living on their own (without a father or husband to control their rampant sexuality) are suspect. Aunt Hetty, being a woman past child-bearing, lends Frances a veneer of respectability. Mary does not have that. Earning one's keep is scandalous and Mary would have been shunned if people knew. A woman, alone, providing for herself?? That way lies gender equality and anarchy. Obviously. Lily and Lottie also make bids for independence, in different ways. Lily wants to marry Mr. Kendrick. Frances tries to slow the process, fearing her sister is rushing into marriage as she did. (Remember, once married Lily will have no rights at all and her life will revolve around the whims of her husband.) Lily fights back against her sister, demanding her right to make her own decisions. Lottie, sent to England from America to be married off in the "Season", gains the respect of Frances and George with her work on the murder investigation. Early attempts to shield her 'delicate female sensibilities' are thwarted by Lottie's skills and her refusal to be pushed aside. A Lady's Guide to Gossip and Murder is a terrific fun read. It's a good mystery. (I really had to work to figure it out!) We get an advancement of Frances and George's love story. But at its heart, I think Freeman wrote a study of female independence within the repressive stultifying patriarchy of English society in 1899. I received a copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for my honest review.
Anonymous 6 months ago
Another++engaging+chance+to+spend+time+with+a+stylish+couple+you+hope+make+it+permanent.%0A%0A%0A%0A%0A%0A%0A%0A%0A%0A%0A%0A%0A%0A%0A%0A%0A%0A%0A
CozyUpWithKathy 7 months ago
a historical mystery with a modern sensibility A LADY'S GUIDE TO GOSSIP AND MURDER by Dianne Freeman The Second Countess of Harleigh Mystery While most of the aristocracy has left for their country estates Frances, the Countess of Harleigh, is content to stay in London. Her home is actually bustling as Aunt Hetty is helping her brother-in-law make sense of his investments, Lily is preparing for her wedding, and sweet, but socially awkward and clumsy, Lottie has come to visit from America. Frances herself has been occupied with a bit of matchmaking. When Frances introduced her cousin Charles to Mary Archer, she thought the two would make a good match. Surprised when Charles told her they didn't suit, she is absolutely stunned to learn that Mary was murdered! Even more alarming are notes with all manner of gossip found hidden in Mary's house. With a keen investigative mind Frances joins her friend and neighbor George Hazelton in sorting through the gossip, and proving her cousin innocent of murder! The second Countess of Harleigh Mystery is a fantastic addition to the series. I loved every minute of it, from the multilayered characters to the well plotted mystery. This historical mystery has a modern sensibility. It engages readers with contemporary themes and ideas while remaining true to its time period with wonderful Victorian detail. The independent nature of the women here is admirable, especially as seen in the Victorian era. Even those women living the traditional "suitable" roles have minds of their own. There are no simpering misses or mistresses here! While I quite liked Lily in the first book in the series I was a bit taken aback by her behavior here. I fear Lily is on her way to becoming a Victorian Bridezilla! While I value Frances's independent nature and understand her need to be on her own I absolutely love how the relationship between Frances and George is developing. I admit the last lines of the novel had me grinning. A LADY'S GUIDE TO GOSSIP AND MURDER is a delightful novel filled with charming characters and a perplexing mystery. FTC Disclosure – The publisher sent me a digital ARC provided through NetGalley, in the hopes I would review it.
amybooksy 7 months ago
A Lady's Guide to Gossip and Murder, book two from Dianne Freeman's series, A Countess of Harleigh Mystery, is a fun read. Even though this is felt it could be read as a stand alone. I would still love to read the first one to see what happened prior to this one. I found Frances to be a delightful and entertaining character. The mystery she was pulled into kept guessing how it would all end. I am giving A Lady's Guide to Gossip and Murder five stars. I look forward to more from A Countess of Harleigh Mystery series in the future. I received this book from the publisher. This review is 100% my own honest opinion.
Mimiphilly 7 months ago
This was an advanced copy from netgalley - thank you This is part of a series - this is the only one I've read but I will certainly be searching out the others to get the full picture !! Loved this !! I became so engrossed in this I lost track of time and simply had to finish it !! Loved the characters - well written - lots of twists and turns - kept me on the edge of my seat Can't wait to read more !!!
Linda Baker 7 months ago
Frances, the recently widowed Countess of Harleigh, is settling into her independent life in London. Despite her American origins, Frances is well-liked and well-placed in Society, enough so to be a sort of matchmaker for young ladies making their debuts. She has introduced her young sister, Lily, to her future husband and is sponsoring a friend of Lily's, Charlotte, in Society. The grateful parents of her charges have added to Frances' limited income, but more importantly, Frances is determined that their marriages not as unhappy as her own. To that end, she has introduced her cousin Charles Evington to another widow, Mary Archer. When Mary is murdered in her own home, and Charles admits to being in the neighborhood at the time, he becomes the prime suspect. Frances, and her neighbor, the handsome and capable George Hazelton, set out to clear him. It turns out that there was much more to Mary Archer and her relations than met the eye. A Lady's Guide to Gossip and Murder is a delightful romp through the darker places of polite society. There are several new characters that I enjoyed, especially the klutzy, but bright and capable Charlotte and Charles who has made an art of appearing but not being, dim. The progress of the romance between George and Frances is more than satisfactory, and I look for more investigations featuring this well-matched pair. Thanks to NetGalley and Kensington Books for an advance digital copy. The opinions are my own.
chefdt 7 months ago
A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder is the second book in the Countess of Harleigh Mystery series. This a wonderful follow-up to the Agatha Award-winning A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder. Francis Wynn, Countess of Harleigh is shocked and saddened to learn that her cousin by marriage, Charles Evingdon, is suspected of murdering Mary Archer, a lady he had been going out with and who he had asked to marry him. Francis is saddened because she had arranged for them to see each other. She doesn’t think he is capable of murdering anyone. Then when Inspector Delaney calls on her asks about her friendship with Archer. She responds that they were socially friendly and nothing more. He then presents her with a note that was found in Archer’s home, detailing the action taken by her brother-in-law to freeze her bank account when she moved to London. Delaney adds that several notes that could severely damage members of the aristocracy were also found in Archer’s home. Delaney suspects that she might have been blackmailing the people that she had the incriminating evidence on. Francis then goes next door to talk with George Hazelton about this situation. After discussing the matter Hazelton informs Francis that because of the sensitive nature of the notes found someone high in the government has asked him to look into the matter. Hazelton then engages Francis to help him to sort through the notes, some of which only had initials, and compile a list of people mentioned in the notes to ascertain names of people who would be possible blackmail victims. They soon find that Mary was writing as a gossip columnist for a newspaper. When there is another murder, Francis and Hazleton they need to decipher Mary’s notes before anyone else loses their life. Francis engages her protege, Lottie Deaver to help decipher some of the notes. Even though Lottie is prone to be a little clumsy, she possesses a brilliant mind and proves to be a valuable assistant. The book has a wonderful cast of characters. Francis is a strong-willed after having a disastrous marriage. She is rather timid about pursuing another relationship. Lily, Francis sister, is supportive of her sister but is really more interested in having help planning her upcoming engagement and wedding. A really enjoyable character is Aunt Hetty, Francis’ aunt, has the years of experience to help Francis make the right decisions. George Hazleton is caring and patient man when it comes to Francis. Both are slowly moving to the point where they will be expressing their feeling for each other. I am eagerly awaiting the next book in the delightful historical series.
SarahM-M 7 months ago
The Lady's Guide to Gossp and Murder is the second installment of the Lady Harleigh series. This book starts with Lady Harleigh hoping to establish a match between her cousin, Charles and her friend, the widowed Mary Archer. But when Mary is found killed in her own home, Lady Harleigh is determined to help find the culprit, especially as all clues point to Charles. Beginning the investigation, they find notes hidden in Mary's home detailing the myriad of indiscretions and betrayals of the upper class. Finding themselves with more questions than answers, Lady Harleigh and George enlist the help of those around them. I love, love, love this series. Although hoping for a quiet summer with her sister before she gets married, Lady Harleigh can't seem to keep her name from becoming involved in murder investigations and I love it. This time however she is not a suspect, but her cousin is. Whether her assistance is always wanted or not, she works to help George solve this new msytery and he must admit that she has quite the talent for it. This one is not as fast paced and is a bit less exciting than the first book because the stakes aren't as high this time around nor is the sense of danger. But it is still a very well paced and planned mystery, that although I had my suspicions "who done it," I wasn't sure until very near the reveal. I was so glad that Aunt Hetty was back for this book and her sister too. I especially loved getting to meet Lottie. She was endearingly quirky and clutzy in good measure, plus she was a great asset to Lady Harleigh during the investigation. I really hope we'll see her again in the next book. I think George and Frances are great together and I look forward to seeing how things progress between them in upcoming books. I'm really looking forward to third in the series, whenever that will be, and will be waiting patiently to see what will come next for this series. I suspose you could read this book as a stand alone, you wouldn't be lost if you did so, but everything would make a lot more sense and it would be much more enjoyable to start with the first in the series. I recommend this book, and the series, to any fan of historical mysteries with a splash of romance. Thank you to Kensington Books and NetGalley for this ARC. This is my honest review.
Rachel_Denise01 7 months ago
Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder by Dianne Freeman is a fabulously intricate murder/mystery, Victorian historical novel that sets place in London 1898. It leaves off from the first installment of the Countess of Harleigh Mystery series ended. (I have to say it could be a stand alone novel and would not need to be read in order.) This novel is hilarious, quick-witted, charming, classy, and entertaining down to the last page. I loved the layers of complexity when it came to the mystery. I loved all of the characters and their wonderfully witty banter and interactions. Their conversations and one-liners made me laugh out loud on numerous occasions. I love Frances and the chemistry she has with George. I love Lottie (she is hilarious) and her chemistry with Charles. The other supporting characters continue to add additional material that leaves the reader wanting more. I truly cannot wait until the third installment. 5/5 stars. Glowing review. A must read.
SuZ2Reader 7 months ago
Dianne Freeman’s debut novel, A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder, is a witty romp of a Victorian mystery. The second in the series, A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder, is just as delightful. Frances (Lady Harleigh), the heroine, has progressed in her emotions as a newly-widowed lady. The independence she fought so hard to gain in book one, is pleasing to her, but she finds that her next-door neighbor is looking better all the time. There is an understated, though smoldering, chemistry between the two that is about to burst into flame. Frances is surprisingly perspicacious, and her struggles with propriety and her journey to independence are gratifying. The mystery is well-plotted and full of twists concerning the death of a friend and the suspicion that she was blackmailing the aristocracy. Freeman does an excellent job of capturing London in the heyday of the late nineteenth century with its culturally ingrained social mores.
AmyHi 7 months ago
Ms. Freeman, a new to me author, writes a very good mystery. I enjoyed the banter between Frances and George while they work on discovering who murdered Mary. For my tastes, I think the romance needs to move along faster. Look forward to reading her next one! I received an ARC for my honest review.
ArizonaJo 7 months ago
A Lady's Guide to Gossip and Murder by Dianne Freeman was a very enjoyable addition to this historical cozy mystery series. Ms. Freeman's writing is skillful and pulls me into the story from the first page. I enjoyed spending time with Frances, Aunt Hetty, George and a new character addition, Lottie. Lottie was adorable because she's intelligent, clever and klutzy. Frances chooses to investigate the death of an acquaintance because the police have her cousin, Charles, in their sights as a murder suspect. Frances' investigation was completely within the proper boundaries of the era and George was able to investigate the areas where women were never to be seen. Frances and George make a perfect pair. The plot twisted and turned with several suspects and red herrings to divert me as I read. I had trouble putting the book down until it was finished. I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book from Kensington via NetGalley. All of the above opinions are my own.
Bedford_Bookshelf_1 7 months ago
A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder sees the return of Frances Wynn, Countess of Harleigh, in her second exciting adventure set against the background of aristocratic society in Victorian London. Frances is shocked to learn that her friend Mary Archer has been murdered, and her cousin Charles is a suspect. Determined to prove him innocent, Frances soon learns there are any number of suspects, as it seems Mary had a collection of gossip that some would rather not to come to light. I have been waiting since the end of A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder for this book to come out. And I was not disappointed. Loved it from the opening page. It was cleverly written with an inventive plot. There is just enough misdirection to keep you guessing up until the end…almost. And even though romance is a significant part of the plot, the mystery never takes a backseat. All of the characters are appealing. But I love Frances…and that the character has been written as a woman set on a path of independence in a society where women were often treated as less than. I also want to see more of Lottie…who is intelligent and shrewd without knowing it…but disastrously and charmingly clumsy. Once again I am looking forward to the next in this series. My thanks to NetGalley and Kensington Books for the advance reader copy made available for my review.
Vesper1931 7 months ago
August 1899 and widowed Lady Frances hopes to spenda fewquiet months in town with her sister Lily, and her protegee Miss Charlotte Deaver. Then she is informed of the death of a friend, Mary Archer. Mrs Archer has been mrdered. George Hazelton, her neighbour has been asked to investigate the suspicions of blackmail by Mary. To this end he recruits Frances to help. An enjoyable well-written mystery, quite a fast paced story, with it lively feel, with some delightful characters.
AMGiacomasso 7 months ago
A fun and engrossing read that was a real pleasure. This is the second book in this series and it's amazing, well written, full of twists and turn. I loved the cast of characters, well written and likable, the historical setting and the plot full of twists and turns. The mystery was great and it kept me guessing till the end. The ending came as a surprise and it was well devised. I look forward to reading the next installment in this series. Highly recommended! Many thanks to Kensington Books and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.