Thursday, May 11, 2017

A Lady in Disguise by Sandra Byrd

Daughters of Hampshire #3 
384 Pages, March 21st 2017, Howard Books
Print, ebook and audio 

In this intriguing novel of romance, mystery, and clever disguise set in Victorian England, a young woman investigates the murder of her own father.

After the mysterious death of her father, Miss Gillian Young takes a new job as the principal costume designer at the renowned Drury Lane Theatre Royal. But while she remembers her father as a kind, well-respected man of the Police Force, clues she uncovers indicate he’d been living a double life: a haunting photograph of a young woman; train stubs for secret trips just before his death; and a receipt for a large sum of money. Are these items evidence of her father’s guilty secrets? His longtime police partner thinks so.

Then Gillian meets the dashing Viscount Thomas Lockwood. Their attraction is instant and inescapable. As their romantic involvement grows, Gillian begins to suspect even Lockwood’s motives. Does Lord Lockwood truly love her? Or is his interest a front for the desire to own her newly inherited property? And what should she make of her friend’s suggestion that Lockwood or men like him were involved in the murder of her father?

Soon Gillian is convinced that her father has left evidence somewhere that can prove his innocence and reveal the guilty party. But someone wants to stop her from discovering it. The closer she comes to uncovering it, the more menacing her opposition grows. With her life on the line, Gillian takes on an ingenious disguise and takes on the role of a lifetime to reveal the true killer—before it’s too late both for her and for those that she loves.

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I’ve read and enjoyed the last two instalments in the Daughters of Hampshire series, by Sandra Byrd, an author who I discovered relatively recently. Although the books are part of a trilogy, and set in the same geographical region, they can be read as standalone titles, as the characters bear no relation to one another, and do not appear in successive books, as they do in some series.
As with the others, A Lady in Disguise was a Victorian Romance with hints of a Gothic Thriller. Mist of Midnight was excellent, Bride of a Distant Isle was very good if a little far-fetched in places, but in my opinion, this one was the best of them all.

Meticulously researched, with a strong sense of period and of place, and cleverly interwoven historical details, including the early days of the now world famous organization known as the Salvation Army, the early Metropolitan Police force, and even references to the embryonic women’s suffrage movement. The details also allowed to the faith elements to be bought into the story, in a realistic manner which fitted the period, and did not come over as too preachy. Even the events of the last chapter, which some people might object to, were acceptable, when is some other novels like this they come across as cheating.

Some readers may wish to be forewarned that this novel does have rather a dark tone at times, and handles some very difficult and controversial issues including human trafficking, child prostitution and police corruption. I felt that these were dealt with sensitively, without the whole thing taking on a seedy or sleazy tone. Whilst this is categorized as Romance, I felt the romantic elements were often the in background, with the plot and activities of the character being given more prominence, and the protagonists remaining true to their character. Hence, the romance did not come over as simpering, mushy or fluffy as some romances do.

Finally, some American authors have trouble pulling off a British setting, but Sandra Byrd does it magnificently (helped in no small part by some British Beta readers). My only complaints were the rather odd name that the heroine Gillian used for her mother Mamma (which sounded like it was somewhere between the American Momma, and the archaic British Mama), and couple of scenes which bordered on the improbable.
Other than that, though, this was a wonderful read, meriting a Five-star rating which I rarely give. Recommended for any lover of Victorian Historical and Clean Fiction, and Romance.

I requested a copy of this book from the Published Howard Books, via Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review and all opinions expressed are my own. 

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