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In this exciting historical mystery debut set in Victorian England, a wealthy young widow encounters the pleasures—and scandalous pitfalls—of a London social season . . . Frances Wynn, the American-born Countess of Harleigh, enjoys more freedom as a widow than she did as a wife. After an obligatory year spent mourning her philandering husband, Reggie, she puts aside her dr In this exciting historical mystery debut set in Victorian England, a wealthy young widow encounters the pleasures—and scandalous pitfalls—of a London social season . . . Frances Wynn, the American-born Countess of Harleigh, enjoys more freedom as a widow than she did as a wife. After an obligatory year spent mourning her philandering husband, Reggie, she puts aside her drab black gowns, leaving the countryside and her money-grubbing in-laws behind. With her young daughter in tow, Frances rents a home in Belgravia and prepares to welcome her sister, Lily, arriving from New York—for her first London season. No sooner has Frances begun her new life than the ghosts of her old one make an unwelcome appearance. The Metropolitan police receive an anonymous letter implicating Frances in her husband’s death. Frances assures Inspector Delaney of her innocence, but she’s also keen to keep him from learning the scandalous circumstances of Reggie’s demise. As fate would have it, her dashing new neighbor, George Hazelton, is one of only two other people aware of the full story. While busy with social engagements on Lily’s behalf, and worrying if Reggie really was murdered, Frances learns of mysterious burglaries plaguing London’s elite. The investigation brings death to her doorstep, and Frances rallies her wits, a circle of gossips, and the ever-chivalrous Mr. Hazelton to uncover the truth. A killer is in their midst, perhaps even among her sister’s suitors. And Frances must unmask the villain before Lily’s season—and their lives—come to a most unseemly end . . .


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In this exciting historical mystery debut set in Victorian England, a wealthy young widow encounters the pleasures—and scandalous pitfalls—of a London social season . . . Frances Wynn, the American-born Countess of Harleigh, enjoys more freedom as a widow than she did as a wife. After an obligatory year spent mourning her philandering husband, Reggie, she puts aside her dr In this exciting historical mystery debut set in Victorian England, a wealthy young widow encounters the pleasures—and scandalous pitfalls—of a London social season . . . Frances Wynn, the American-born Countess of Harleigh, enjoys more freedom as a widow than she did as a wife. After an obligatory year spent mourning her philandering husband, Reggie, she puts aside her drab black gowns, leaving the countryside and her money-grubbing in-laws behind. With her young daughter in tow, Frances rents a home in Belgravia and prepares to welcome her sister, Lily, arriving from New York—for her first London season. No sooner has Frances begun her new life than the ghosts of her old one make an unwelcome appearance. The Metropolitan police receive an anonymous letter implicating Frances in her husband’s death. Frances assures Inspector Delaney of her innocence, but she’s also keen to keep him from learning the scandalous circumstances of Reggie’s demise. As fate would have it, her dashing new neighbor, George Hazelton, is one of only two other people aware of the full story. While busy with social engagements on Lily’s behalf, and worrying if Reggie really was murdered, Frances learns of mysterious burglaries plaguing London’s elite. The investigation brings death to her doorstep, and Frances rallies her wits, a circle of gossips, and the ever-chivalrous Mr. Hazelton to uncover the truth. A killer is in their midst, perhaps even among her sister’s suitors. And Frances must unmask the villain before Lily’s season—and their lives—come to a most unseemly end . . .

30 review for A Lady's Guide to Etiquette and Murder

  1. 4 out of 5

    Carrie

    A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder by Dianne Freeman is the first book in the A Countess of Harleigh Mystery series. This series is a bit of a different take on the average cozy mystery in that it has a historical setting mixing both genres wonderfully. Frances Wynn is an American that was born to a wealthy family that found herself in an arranged marriage to her husband, Reggie, that brought Frances the title of the Countess of Harleigh and her husband access to her family funds. In the begi A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder by Dianne Freeman is the first book in the A Countess of Harleigh Mystery series. This series is a bit of a different take on the average cozy mystery in that it has a historical setting mixing both genres wonderfully. Frances Wynn is an American that was born to a wealthy family that found herself in an arranged marriage to her husband, Reggie, that brought Frances the title of the Countess of Harleigh and her husband access to her family funds. In the beginning Frances thought she could learn to love her husband but as time went on she began to see the man he truly was. One night Frances was awakened by a house guest who seemed to be extremely upset, it seems that Frances’ husband Reggie had been in the lady’s bed and passed from a heart attack. To save them all scandal Reggie’s body had been moved back to his own room, the doctor called to pronounce his departure and Reggie buried putting Frances into a season of mourning. Now that Frances’ mourning season is coming to an end a year later she finds that she finally feels free of her philandering husband and his money hungry family. Frances purchases her own home where she’s invited her younger sister Lily to prepare for her first London season. However, before Frances really gets settled she gets a visit from the law claiming they have reason to look into Reggie’s death as a possible homicide leaving Frances to set about finding out what really happened before she’s accused of a crime. Taking a cozy mystery into the past giving it a historical setting had A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder a fun read right from the start. I wasn’t sure how the historical side would mix with the leading lady going about investigating on her own but the author worked it all into the mix quite nicely keeping the feel of those times. With this being the first of a new series I’m really excited to see what happened next for Frances and the rest of the characters. I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley. For more review please visit https://carriesbookreviews.com/

  2. 5 out of 5

    Yun

    Sometimes I'm in the mood for something light and fun, and A Lady's Guide to Etiquette and Murder fits the bill perfectly. It combines Victorian decorum with the intrigue of a murder mystery and adds in a dash of romance. What results is something altogether charming and enjoyable. One of my favorite things about this story is that Frances, Countess of Harleigh, is strong, independent, and audacious at a time when women are expected to be meek and dependent on a man. She has just become widowed, Sometimes I'm in the mood for something light and fun, and A Lady's Guide to Etiquette and Murder fits the bill perfectly. It combines Victorian decorum with the intrigue of a murder mystery and adds in a dash of romance. What results is something altogether charming and enjoyable. One of my favorite things about this story is that Frances, Countess of Harleigh, is strong, independent, and audacious at a time when women are expected to be meek and dependent on a man. She has just become widowed, and is now forced to live on her own and seek her place in the world. She does so with good humor, even as her circumstances become less fortunate. The mystery in here is its one weak point. Instead of having lots of clues so the reader can join in and figure out whodunnit, we more or less follow along as Frances pokes around, discovers things, and eventually is led to the guilty party. It's all very straightforward without any cleverness or eureka moments involved. Even with that one weakness, I still greatly enjoyed this story. The characters in here are all extremely endearing and adorably witty, and Frances is the perfect focal point. I'll read pretty much any story with a strong female lead, so this has me hooked. Good thing it's the start of a series, and I can't wait to read more.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Phrynne

    I read book three first by mistake and had to read this one to discover how the main characters actually met. I was not surprised to discover it was over a dead body. Well they already knew each other but it was the dead body incident which sparked their relationship! This was a very entertaining romp around Victorian England with crumbling ancestral piles, American heiresses, gentlemen and cads. Men control the world, women are second rate citizens, the poor are very poor and the rich are (not a I read book three first by mistake and had to read this one to discover how the main characters actually met. I was not surprised to discover it was over a dead body. Well they already knew each other but it was the dead body incident which sparked their relationship! This was a very entertaining romp around Victorian England with crumbling ancestral piles, American heiresses, gentlemen and cads. Men control the world, women are second rate citizens, the poor are very poor and the rich are (not always) rich. I enjoyed the mystery and was surprised when the murderer was revealed. Now on to book two to fill in all the gaps.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Umut Rados

    I can describe this book very shortly, it's like Downton Abbey in a book :) I'm a fan of Downton Abbey and it certainly reminded me of the setting, characters and life style I was watching there. Even some details were the same, so I'm wondering if the writer took 'inspiration' from there. It was a really cute, cozy mystery set in London. Our protagonist is the Countess of Harleigh. She's an American, who married into British aristocracy bringing her father's money into the family. Suddenly one I can describe this book very shortly, it's like Downton Abbey in a book :) I'm a fan of Downton Abbey and it certainly reminded me of the setting, characters and life style I was watching there. Even some details were the same, so I'm wondering if the writer took 'inspiration' from there. It was a really cute, cozy mystery set in London. Our protagonist is the Countess of Harleigh. She's an American, who married into British aristocracy bringing her father's money into the family. Suddenly one night her husband dies of heart attack while he was with another woman, and our story unfolds from there. Lady Harleigh moves to London to her own house, after a year's mourning. Her sister comes from America to be introduced in the London season. But, weird things start to happen like stolen jewellery, etc. our characters try to unlock the mystery behind these all, while we continue to enjoy the cute, easy and enchanting writing of Freeman. It's a perfect summer cozy mystery book that I enjoyed a lot. The mystery also tied up very well in the end. I thought it was very well thought of. I'm pleasantly surprised with this book. Definitely recommended. I gave it 4 stars instead of 5 , because I thought Freeman took a bit of time from the beginning to the point she started to put clues and tension into the mystery. I wish that time was shorter. But, all in all, I enjoyed it and would read from her again. Thanks a lot to NetGalley and the publisher for granting a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Kester Grant

    The first in a start to a fantastic mystery series, starring the delightfully acid witted Frances - exactly the type of heroine I adore. By turns hilarious and swoon-worthy and constantly keeping you guessing, I can't wait to read the sequel!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mary Keliikoa

    I loved this book on so many levels. I have not been a huge historical mystery reader, but this book has changed my view. I fell in love with the Victorian time period, and with Frances--who is a woman with a mind of her own. Her personality and wit shines throughout. There were moments I was laughing out loud and others where the writer had me concerned about the welfare of the characters I had come to love. The mystery was so well-plotted, I didn't know until the final reveal who was guilty, a I loved this book on so many levels. I have not been a huge historical mystery reader, but this book has changed my view. I fell in love with the Victorian time period, and with Frances--who is a woman with a mind of her own. Her personality and wit shines throughout. There were moments I was laughing out loud and others where the writer had me concerned about the welfare of the characters I had come to love. The mystery was so well-plotted, I didn't know until the final reveal who was guilty, and was pleased at the outcome. This is a must read for any mystery lover and I'm anxiously awaiting Frances' next adventure.

  7. 5 out of 5

    JoAn

    A Lady's Guide to Etiquette and Murder by Dianne Freeman was an excellent start to what I hope will be a long running historical cozy mystery series. Ms. Freeman introduces us to the recently widowed Countess of Harleigh, Frances Wynn. She is a surprisingly strong young woman for Victorian times who has come into her own now that she is a widow and intends to enjoy her life with her daughter. The descriptive writing of London and the characters made me feel like I was there with Frances as she in A Lady's Guide to Etiquette and Murder by Dianne Freeman was an excellent start to what I hope will be a long running historical cozy mystery series. Ms. Freeman introduces us to the recently widowed Countess of Harleigh, Frances Wynn. She is a surprisingly strong young woman for Victorian times who has come into her own now that she is a widow and intends to enjoy her life with her daughter. The descriptive writing of London and the characters made me feel like I was there with Frances as she introduces her sister, Lily, into London society during her first season. She also begins her amateur sleuthing as there has been a rash of thefts at homes nearby, a man is found killed in her back garden, and there is an attempt on her life right on the streets of London. Suspense, subtle humor, only a few suspects, twists that had me confused and a startling reveal kept me turning the pages. I am already looking forward to the next one in the series. I voluntarily reviewed an Advance Reader Copy of this book from Kensington via NetGalley. All of the above opinions are my own.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Suanne

    Dianne Freeman’s debut novel, A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder, is a witty romp of a Victorial mystery. The heroine, Frances, is a recently widowed and coming out of mourning for her dead rake-of-husband. She is surprisingly perspicacious and her struggles with propriety and her journey to independence is delightful. There is an understated chemistry between her and the hero, that is smoldering before bursting into flame. The mystery is well-plotted and full of twists. Freeman does an exce Dianne Freeman’s debut novel, A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder, is a witty romp of a Victorial mystery. The heroine, Frances, is a recently widowed and coming out of mourning for her dead rake-of-husband. She is surprisingly perspicacious and her struggles with propriety and her journey to independence is delightful. There is an understated chemistry between her and the hero, that is smoldering before bursting into flame. The mystery is well-plotted and full of twists. Freeman does an excellent job of capturing London in the heyday of the late nineteenth century with its culturally ingrained social mores.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Klepper

    I've missed Downton Abbey so very much. Thankfully, the witty and fast-paced "A Lady's Guide to Etiquette and Murder" has helped fill the aching void. When American heiress Frances Wynn becomes a widow in 1899 after the death of her philandering Earl of a husband, she decides to risk British society gossip by living independent of her dead husband's money-grubbing family. Deception, romance, and scandal ensue, keeping this reader enthralled until the very end. This smart, tightly-written mystery I've missed Downton Abbey so very much. Thankfully, the witty and fast-paced "A Lady's Guide to Etiquette and Murder" has helped fill the aching void. When American heiress Frances Wynn becomes a widow in 1899 after the death of her philandering Earl of a husband, she decides to risk British society gossip by living independent of her dead husband's money-grubbing family. Deception, romance, and scandal ensue, keeping this reader enthralled until the very end. This smart, tightly-written mystery kicks off what is sure to be a winning series.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Proffitt

    This is a bit of a weak mystery coupled with a weak romance that has some strong characters and a vivid setting and interesting background. So it mostly worked for me as long as I was content to just read along (as opposed to figuring out the mystery or engaging in the romance). I liked Frances right from the start when she makes her bid for independence. I liked that she just kept rolling with all the setbacks and doing her best taking them in stride one at a time. And I liked the friends and em This is a bit of a weak mystery coupled with a weak romance that has some strong characters and a vivid setting and interesting background. So it mostly worked for me as long as I was content to just read along (as opposed to figuring out the mystery or engaging in the romance). I liked Frances right from the start when she makes her bid for independence. I liked that she just kept rolling with all the setbacks and doing her best taking them in stride one at a time. And I liked the friends and employees she gathers to herself now that she's free to make choices and how they fit together in their household. And I enjoyed her growing partnership with George once she started letting it happen. He's got hidden depths and I loved seeing how intrigued he became when he realized that her hidden depths were so appealing to him. It frustrated me for a good half of the novel how hard she worked at avoiding him, though. I mean, we learn very early that he is protecting her deepest secret and doing so completely unremunerated and with respect. He's literally the last person she needs to worry about trusting and yet she spends no small amount of effort ditching and bobbing and weaving to avoid him. It just made no sense. That lifts in the latter half of the story, but it left too little time to resolve a romance by that time. So it's just as well that Freeman didn't try stuffing one in and it looks like the plan is for a slow-burn over multiple volumes. Which can be lovely, but we'll see how it goes in the next before I'll know if I like it or not. Anyway, the mystery is weaksauce with the eventual villain having a personality change in the "let me explain my plot to you" scene so it was pretty much impossible to deduce the truth in advance. Also, the first quarter of the story or so features Frances being kind of stupid about "oh, no, they couldn't possibly" for way too many people (particularly badly with her in-laws who totally didn't deserve her forbearance). I enjoyed the setup for future stories involving the police detective and whatever the heck George turns out to be, but this initial mystery really should have been better since it's meant to establish the series. So this is a 3½ish story that I'll round up because I enjoyed Frances so much. She had me laughing out loud enough that rounding down just isn't going to work for me. A note about Chaste: Like I said, there's no real progress on a romance in this one so it's absolutely chaste. There's enough hint of that slow-burn, though, that I'll still tag it as both romance and chaste, anyway.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Melissa17

    This book is the mysterious historical romp of your dreams! Frances is just starting to come into her own as an independent woman, so her push/pull of propriety v. independence is a joy to behold. The mystery is well plotted and paced and the descriptions of Victorian fashion in this novel are to die for. (Pun intended.) This is the start of an incredible series!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Yasmyn

    As soon as I started "A Lady's Guide," I knew it was right up my alley. If you're a fan of Tasha Alexander's Lady Emily series or Anna Lee Huber's Lady Darby mysteries, you will love this as much as I did. Personally, I'm always looking for more series in this vein, and many of the others I've read tend to fall short. But Dianne Freeman brings Victorian London to life with her delightful prose. I also loved that her clever heroine happens to be an American who married into the aristocracy, which As soon as I started "A Lady's Guide," I knew it was right up my alley. If you're a fan of Tasha Alexander's Lady Emily series or Anna Lee Huber's Lady Darby mysteries, you will love this as much as I did. Personally, I'm always looking for more series in this vein, and many of the others I've read tend to fall short. But Dianne Freeman brings Victorian London to life with her delightful prose. I also loved that her clever heroine happens to be an American who married into the aristocracy, which felt like a nice twist on the genre while still being completely historically accurate. I can't wait for book two!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lana Pattinson

    I read a pre-published copy. If you like the Victorian era, laughing, and headstrong heroines, this book is for you. It’s a tightly plotted romp of a mystery that will keep you guessing to the end! Can’t wait for a second book from Dianne Freeman.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Nicki K.

    I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. After enduring a year-long mourning period with her gold-digging in-laws, Frances Wynn is eager to make her way to London with her seven-year-old daughter and settle down. Within a week she faces an accusatory inspector, the unexpected arrival of her sister's first Season, and the news of a series of home break-ins. To top it off, she finds out her new neighbor is the handsome George Hazelton, someone with w I received an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. After enduring a year-long mourning period with her gold-digging in-laws, Frances Wynn is eager to make her way to London with her seven-year-old daughter and settle down. Within a week she faces an accusatory inspector, the unexpected arrival of her sister's first Season, and the news of a series of home break-ins. To top it off, she finds out her new neighbor is the handsome George Hazelton, someone with whom she shares a complicated, dark secret. . . As a new fan to historical mysteries, especially novels set in Victorian England, I was thrilled to be approved by Kensington and NetGalley to read this intriguing new novel. The cover is super cute, and the concept was innovative and fun. I'm happy to say the result was an exciting read, with compelling characters, and a surprise at every turn. I love that the author didn't make the romance the focal point of the story, and am excited to read book two to see where she takes us. A Lady's Guide to Etiquette and Murder is a hilarious and absorbing cozy mystery, and I'd highly recommend it to fans of anything from engrossing historical mysteries to light, sweet romances. A great read! 5/5

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bethany Swafford

    Frances, Countess of Harleigh, moves her small household to London to escape the demands of her in-laws. Almost immediately, her life gets turned upside down when police approach her with questions about how her husband died, her younger sister arrives to be launched into society, her bank account is frozen from her brother-in-law attempting to claim her money, and a string of jewelry thefts happening all over society. I absolutely adored Frances. Her practical attitude in spite of whatever she f Frances, Countess of Harleigh, moves her small household to London to escape the demands of her in-laws. Almost immediately, her life gets turned upside down when police approach her with questions about how her husband died, her younger sister arrives to be launched into society, her bank account is frozen from her brother-in-law attempting to claim her money, and a string of jewelry thefts happening all over society. I absolutely adored Frances. Her practical attitude in spite of whatever she faced won me over from the start. She took action for what she thought was right but accepted the advice of those closest to her. The plot moved at a good pace, and the supporting characters were excellent at just that: supporting. I learned just enough of each one that I look forward to seeing each of them in future adventures of Frances...and a handsome, charming neighbor. This is an exceptional historical mystery, and I would recommend it to any reader. I received a free copy through NetGalley for reviewing purposes.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    I knew this story would be the perfect fun read as soon as I saw the books cover. What an eye catcher :) From the minute I started this book, Dianne Freemans storyline left me wanting the book to never end! I loved Francis...she is the perfect heroine; funny, witty, independent. Her adventures when she reaches London (and in the time of her cheating husbands death) are written with wit and made me laugh more than once. The characters are well developed, and the story has everything you could want I knew this story would be the perfect fun read as soon as I saw the books cover. What an eye catcher :) From the minute I started this book, Dianne Freemans storyline left me wanting the book to never end! I loved Francis...she is the perfect heroine; funny, witty, independent. Her adventures when she reaches London (and in the time of her cheating husbands death) are written with wit and made me laugh more than once. The characters are well developed, and the story has everything you could want to curl up with; mystery, glamour, the 'evil' brother in law, romance. What's not to love :) I liked the mystery as the main story with a slice of romance for flavor. I can't wait for the next book in the series to come out. Thank you to Kensington Publishing and NetGalley for approving my request to read this book. Thank you to Dianne Freeman for an enjoyable escape into historical fun!! I am a dedicated fan :)

  17. 4 out of 5

    Sheri

    What a wonderfully fun read! I love historical mysteries and this one was just great. The protagonist, a recently widowed member of the aristocracy (an American, at that!), who lives in the very late 19th century, in England, finds herself embroiled in not one, but several mysteries. The author does an excellent job of character and plot development. I had no problem getting into the story. I love that you don't necessarily know the culprits. You're discovering things right along with Frances. T What a wonderfully fun read! I love historical mysteries and this one was just great. The protagonist, a recently widowed member of the aristocracy (an American, at that!), who lives in the very late 19th century, in England, finds herself embroiled in not one, but several mysteries. The author does an excellent job of character and plot development. I had no problem getting into the story. I love that you don't necessarily know the culprits. You're discovering things right along with Frances. The secondary characters of her aunt and sister show promise - I can't wait to read their further adventures as well. *I would like to thank the author/publisher/NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for a fait and honest review*

  18. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    This book was amazing. A rule-following, yet feisty heroine who discovers her own strength and sense of purpose as shocking events unfold all around her. Plus an excessively charming next door neighbor leaves plenty of opportunity in the future. I was thoroughly engaged in this one, and sincerely hope there is indeed a 2nd Lady Harleigh mystery! I received a copy of this book from Kensington through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Minerva Spencer

    I love historical mysteries and especially when they are humorous and well-written! Freeman does a great job of making you feel like you've stepped back in time and the turn of the century was a fascinating era where life was changing incredibly fast. Francis is an American heiress who married a deadbeat (emphasis on the dead part) English earl. But she's a widow who is ready to embrace life (and what is left of her money). I think it takes deft writing to craft an historical mystery that avoids a I love historical mysteries and especially when they are humorous and well-written! Freeman does a great job of making you feel like you've stepped back in time and the turn of the century was a fascinating era where life was changing incredibly fast. Francis is an American heiress who married a deadbeat (emphasis on the dead part) English earl. But she's a widow who is ready to embrace life (and what is left of her money). I think it takes deft writing to craft an historical mystery that avoids anachronisms and Freeman does a fantastic job. I'm ready for the next one and looking forward to more about Francis's relationship with George (and hoping it heats up...)

  20. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    A fantastic Victorian cozy mystery with a fun cast of characters. I can't wait to read more books in this series!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Heike

    Frances, a widowed American heiress, finds herself in a tumble of robbery, deceiving, and murder after she leaves the household of her late husband to start a life of her own. With the help of her new neighbor and not really welcomed old acquaintance George she gets caught up in investigating the suspects, who are also the suitors of her younger sister. This novel was refreshingly entertaining, with a female protagonist who was funny in a tongue-in-cheek way without being the inept or helpless he Frances, a widowed American heiress, finds herself in a tumble of robbery, deceiving, and murder after she leaves the household of her late husband to start a life of her own. With the help of her new neighbor and not really welcomed old acquaintance George she gets caught up in investigating the suspects, who are also the suitors of her younger sister. This novel was refreshingly entertaining, with a female protagonist who was funny in a tongue-in-cheek way without being the inept or helpless heroine. Her male sidekick was a little bit flat but likeable none-the-less. The story telling was fast paced and believable. Highly recommended! Interesting tidbits: the novel mentions the use of photographs, telephone, and even a motor car, which prompted me to google the time of invention as I usually don’t find those mentioned in historical novels. Alas, this novel set in 1899 is a bit later than usual, and all three inventions were, indeed, available to the public, if not scarce. Narrative: 1st POV female protagonist Location: 1899 London, London countryside Sexual content: none (while there is a bit of fizz going on between the main protagonists this is not a romance novel)

  22. 4 out of 5

    Gabrielle David

    There are times I wish I lived in a kinder, gentler, time – say Queen Victoria’s England. So I transport myself with a cozy historical mystery and am quickly reminded that, even for the upper classes, things weren’t always kind or gentle. Such is the case in A Lady's Guide to Etiquette and Murder by Dianne Freeman, a first novel I hope will become a series. Frances Wynn, the American-born Countess of Harleigh, widowed young, is living with her brother-in-law and his wife, resisting their attempts There are times I wish I lived in a kinder, gentler, time – say Queen Victoria’s England. So I transport myself with a cozy historical mystery and am quickly reminded that, even for the upper classes, things weren’t always kind or gentle. Such is the case in A Lady's Guide to Etiquette and Murder by Dianne Freeman, a first novel I hope will become a series. Frances Wynn, the American-born Countess of Harleigh, widowed young, is living with her brother-in-law and his wife, resisting their attempts on her money and chafing at being “the elder countess”. She hopes things will be better when she moves to London with her daughter and a few servants, but she is soon in trouble with her bank account frozen, her sister arriving to be brought out in The Season with an aunt in tow, too many handsome men, jewels stolen, and an entirely unmannerly murder, or two. But Frances is up for the challenge, even though it means facing her husband’s mistress. Well written with a plot that intrigues, I look forward to more by this author. The book will be released on June 26 but can be preordered on Amazon. Required disclaimer: I was provided an advance reader’s Kindle copy of the book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, which is what this is.  #ALady'sGuideToEtiquetteAndMurder #NetGalley

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ova - Excuse My Reading

    What a fabulous find this book was for me! I loved and enjoyed it. If it wasn't a friend's recommendation I wouldn't have requested to read it on Netgalley. I really enjoyed the idea of independent women in an age of female dependency on male relatives. Our heroine Frances is not short of bravery or wit! If the book was a tad shorter I'd happily mark it 5 stars but there were stretches that was a bit *yawn* . Still a great book, nice and interesting characters, solid and satisfying plot. A truly up What a fabulous find this book was for me! I loved and enjoyed it. If it wasn't a friend's recommendation I wouldn't have requested to read it on Netgalley. I really enjoyed the idea of independent women in an age of female dependency on male relatives. Our heroine Frances is not short of bravery or wit! If the book was a tad shorter I'd happily mark it 5 stars but there were stretches that was a bit *yawn* . Still a great book, nice and interesting characters, solid and satisfying plot. A truly uplifting and feel-good read :) Thanks to NetGalley and Kensington Books for a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

  24. 5 out of 5

    OLT

    (2.5 stars) My favorite escape reading is either historical mystery or historical romance. Some authors supply readers with a touch of romance along with the mystery and that's a nice little bonus for me. There are several historical mystery series available that have a touch of romance on the side. Some years back we had Deanna Raybourn's Lady Julia Grey series. Others still being written are Tasha Alexander's Lady Emily series, Ashley Gardner's Captain Lacey, Jane Steen's Lady Helena, Huber's (2.5 stars) My favorite escape reading is either historical mystery or historical romance. Some authors supply readers with a touch of romance along with the mystery and that's a nice little bonus for me. There are several historical mystery series available that have a touch of romance on the side. Some years back we had Deanna Raybourn's Lady Julia Grey series. Others still being written are Tasha Alexander's Lady Emily series, Ashley Gardner's Captain Lacey, Jane Steen's Lady Helena, Huber's Lady Darby, Penrose's Lady Arianna, Harris's Sebastian St. Cyr, and the list goes on and on. Most are set in either the Regency or Victorian period. Some are better than other. This start to a new series by Dianne Freeman doesn't add anything special or unique to the genre. The best thing about this book is its title, IMO. The heroine is a widowed countess, one of those American heiresses whose families bought their way into the British peerage at the end of the 19th century. Men with titles but no money looked across the Pond for rich wives to maintain their lifestyle. Frances Wynn, our heroine, knew her marriage wasn't a great love story but she didn't expect her husband Reggie to be quite the horrid philanderer he turned out to be. After seven years of marriage, he dies unexpectedly and she's free to take her young daughter and move on her own to a London townhouse. But trouble follows her. Her in-laws are causing problems, someone is sending anonymous notes to the police accusing her of murdering her husband, and there's a jewel thief running around stealing from the upper class at their gatherings. So we read the book to find out if any or all of these issues are related. And the romance? Well, our heroine has a lovely friend who has a handsome bachelor brother who just happens to live next door to the townhouse rented by the heroine. He turns out to be a very helpful kind of guy. The romance is low key. There's just hinting at it and we are, I imagine, supposed to keep on reading the books of the series to see how serious the relationship will become. As for the mystery itself and the quality of the writing, it's not the worst I've read but it is very, very average. I'm not impressed by the characters and found the dialogue to be pretty run-of-the-mill. Not much sparkle to speak of. And the mystery was not developed in a way to create even a scintilla of suspense. I got this first book of the series when it was offered at a bargain price. I see that now it has gone back to its original price and the second book of the series will be coming out at that price also. I won't be buying it. Too costly for a mediocre book.

  25. 4 out of 5

    QNPoohBear

    Frances Wynn, Lady Harleigh, is happy to shed mourning for her wastrel husband. After all, he died in another woman's bed so why should she mourn him? Frances is also excited to be making her own plans to escape her greedy brother-in-law and his wife who want to get their hands on her money. Fortunately, as an American, her father doesn't have the same notions of family the English do and settled his money on Frances alone. She decides to take her young daughter and move to fashionable Belgravia Frances Wynn, Lady Harleigh, is happy to shed mourning for her wastrel husband. After all, he died in another woman's bed so why should she mourn him? Frances is also excited to be making her own plans to escape her greedy brother-in-law and his wife who want to get their hands on her money. Fortunately, as an American, her father doesn't have the same notions of family the English do and settled his money on Frances alone. She decides to take her young daughter and move to fashionable Belgravia in London. Her first week in London everything goes wrong! First she discovers her next door neighbor is the only other person, besides herself and Reggie's mistress, who knows how Reggie died. Then a policeman arrives bearing the news that Reggie's death may not have been a simple heart attack but rather murder and Frances is a prime suspect! Add to that a recent rash of jewel thefts and a headstrong younger sister who is determined to marry well and marry SOON, Frances has her hands full! She decides to take action to keep her sister from marrying the wrong man, especially if one may be a thief. Then a dead body appears in the garden and Frances knows the stakes just got higher for her sister. She's determined to get to the bottom of the mystery and figure out which one of her sister's suitors is unsuitable. For that Frances must rely on Max, her handsome, charming next door neighbor. Frances is determined not to succumb to his charms, after all, what must he think of her knowing her dark secret?! Aided and abetted by her eccentric Aunt Hetty, Frances must prove to herself and Society that she's capable of handling her own affairs. (view spoiler)[The title gives the plot away to anyone remotely familiar with the Broadway musical "A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder." The publisher shouldn't have given it such a similar title. The plot is different but similar enough that I guessed who and why right away. (hide spoiler)] The mystery was quite engaging but not difficult to guess. I did figure out two important things pretty much right away. The clues were way too obvious. I felt like cueing music "dun dun dun" when a clue was dropped. The writing isn't as strong as Alyssa Maxwell's mysteries and not as dark as the The Lady Julia Grey Bundle mysteries though set around the same time. This is very much a cozy mystery. While the issue of women's property rights is briefly touched on and the importance of marrying a kind man is stressed, the tone is fairly light. The story does take a dark turn in the third act though. The author was clearly inspired by Downton Abbey and Edith Wharton's The Buccaneers. The period details are there but not strong enough to pinpoint a year or even year range until the end of the book when it's mentioned that a new century is dawning. This book would be good for newcomers to the 19th-century because all the rules of etiquette and social mores are explained and the specifics are kept light. I feel the author will improve with time and effort and the next book in the series may be more appealing to those of us who are seasoned historical cozy mystery readers. What I liked best about the series is the characters. Frances is appealing to modern readers yet still within the confines of Victorian womanhood. She wants to try being independent for a time because of her bad marriage but she doesn't rule out a happy marriage for her sister. She exhibits a slight independent streak but understands the rules and etiquette that will keep her from being shunned. Frances also tries to be a good mother to her daughter though I often forgot she had a daughter and was surprised that Fiona and Alicia were mothers as well. This is typical for the time. Rose is a little babyish for a seven or eight year old. At that age she should be a young lady in training and not with her male cousins in the nursery. I understand the reasons why Frances wants to keep Rose a child and not subject her to the seemingly cruel treatment her own mother inflicted on her but still, Rose acts more like 4 to 6 and not 7-8. I also really enjoyed Lily and Aunt Hetty. Lily is headstrong, outspoken and a little too modern for English society. She comes on the scene full of life and fun but then her personality changes and she's determined to marry and not return to New York a failure. The Lily in the beginning of the book didn't seem to care if she married or not. I didn't like how she fell for a handsome face and it was up to her sister to determined the man's character. Typical teenage behavior. I look forward to seeing Lily grow and develop as she gets older and a new century dawns. Aunt Hetty is my favorite character. She's above and beyond eccentric by English standards, she's eccentric by American standards. I love how she manipulates the action behind the scenes to throw Max and Frances together. Frances NEEDS his help and there is chemistry there. Aunt Hetty was happily married and though she's eccentric, she's still Victorian and believes there's a happily-ever-after out there for her nieces. There's no question of remaining a spinster for Lily or a widow for Frances. I appreciated this attention to authenticity. Aunt Hetty also adds some comic relief to the story. Max is a swoony sort of roguish hero. I can tell there are secrets in his background he can't reveal and he may have had to use his charm to help the Crown. When his background is revealed, it wasn't a total surprise to me. I suspect we haven't heard the whole story yet. Max's job taught him to be discreet and somehow Frances picked up on his discretion instinctively. Max probably has a lot more secrets than just the one about Reggie. I didn't really understand why Frances was so embarrassed for Max to know her secret. I think she felt it reflected poorly on her as a wife but everyone apparently knew about Reggie and Alicia. I did like Alicia though she uses her feminine charms to seduce men left and right. She claims it's her only pleasure in life and that is a sad reflection on her marriage. I felt bad for her that Reggie died in her bed. Alicia is as spunky and independent as Frances in her own way. I liked every scene they were in together. Inspector Delaney starts off sounding like he may be an adversary but he's doing his job. I warmed up to him after a time. I was disappointed he is married with three children meaning this won't be a Victorian version of In Milady's Chamber. That's all right because Frances has Max as a potential love interest. Graham and Delia are complicated characters. While they appear greedy and nasty, they DO want the money for a good reason. They are not cardboard characters. Lily's suitors are slightly less complex. Which one/s is/are the villains here? I suspect that all of them have something in their backgrounds that makes them unsuitable. The viscount may be handsome but he has been too long away from London to be influential or well known. His character is a huge blank. The revelations about him were not surprising yet the reasons were a bit of a surprise. The motivation slightly touches on one of the darker aspects of Victorian life. Mr. Grayson is young, clumsy and may be a villain. Lord Kendrick was one of Reggie's friends so therefore not suitable for Lily. He doesn't have much personality and I suspected him of being a villain. While this novel isn't as tightly written as some others I've read, it's perfect for fans of Downton Abbey who are still waiting for Julian Fellows to come out with his newest period dramas!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    This book was amazing. A rule-following, yet feisty heroine who discovers her own strength and sense of purpose as shocking events unfold all around her. Plus an excessively charming next door neighbor leaves plenty of opportunity in the future. I was thoroughly engaged in this one, and sincerely hope there is indeed a 2nd Lady Harleigh mystery! I received a copy of this book from Kensington through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Barb in Maryland

    Start of a new series set in late 1890s Victorian England. 3.5 stars Do your best to ignore that silly cartoon illustration on the book jacket. It does a disservice to the very sensible and competent mystery between the covers. I liked our heroine Frances, the widowed Countess of Harleigh. The mysteries (see the blurb) were clever, with believable solutions. Frances is no super sleuth, but once she starts using her brain to work on actually solving the puzzles she really comes to life. I liked th Start of a new series set in late 1890s Victorian England. 3.5 stars Do your best to ignore that silly cartoon illustration on the book jacket. It does a disservice to the very sensible and competent mystery between the covers. I liked our heroine Frances, the widowed Countess of Harleigh. The mysteries (see the blurb) were clever, with believable solutions. Frances is no super sleuth, but once she starts using her brain to work on actually solving the puzzles she really comes to life. I liked that awakening on her part. There's a nice cast of secondary characters; including Frances's Aunt Hetty (one sharp cookie!), Lily (Frances's younger sister, in town to make her debut during the Season), George (potential love interest for Frances) and Inspector Delaney (because every series needs a policeman). All are nicely written--no cardboard cutouts. What keeps this from being a 4 star read is a subtle lack of sharp wit and sparkle. The writing is competent, there are no glaring historical errors or anachronisms; however, it only shines every now and then. I don't feel I wasted my time and I'm off to read the next one. I'll have to wait and see how I feel after that.

  28. 5 out of 5

    H D Elliott

    This is a fast-paced, super fun historical mystery. I loved the twist of having the heroine be an American who married into the British peerage; it made the book feel fresh. I got to read this book pre-publication, and I can't wait for there to be more in the series!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Veronica

    Cute, if a bit silly at times. And the mystery was fairly obvious.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lorraine

    1899 - The London Season. Dianne Freeman’s A Guide to Etiquette and Murder ( Countess of Harleigh mystery #1) immerses the reader into The Season in London, England. Frances Wynn, the ‘American-born Countess of Harleigh’ finds herself the widowed Countess of Harleigh. As one of the American heiresses marrying coffer-empty titled English aristocrats in the late Victorian era, Frances now has finished with her year of mourning and decides to reach for her independence by slipping off to London to b 1899 - The London Season. Dianne Freeman’s A Guide to Etiquette and Murder ( Countess of Harleigh mystery #1) immerses the reader into The Season in London, England. Frances Wynn, the ‘American-born Countess of Harleigh’ finds herself the widowed Countess of Harleigh. As one of the American heiresses marrying coffer-empty titled English aristocrats in the late Victorian era, Frances now has finished with her year of mourning and decides to reach for her independence by slipping off to London to buy herself and her daughter, Rose, a house (in Belgravia). Time to leave the Harleigh ‘country-pile’ aka ‘the money pit’ to strike out on her own. As soon as Frances, Rose, and the servants move in, trouble with a capital T decides to move in too! As a widow Frances has more rights than an unmarried female, but as she is living during the Victorian era, those rights are few. First problem: Graham, her brother-in-law is attempting to legally ‘take’ Frances money. Thus, her account has been frozen. Second problem: A police inspector pops up to inform Frances that an anonymous note received by the Metropolitan Police Departmenr implies Frances killed her husband. Third problem: Frances’ mail at her new house includes a letter from her mother stating that Lily, Frances sister, and their Aunt Henrietta will be arriving very soon for Lily’s London Season. Frances will be her sponsor to all social events. Fourth problem: A dead body is found in Frances’ backyard. With all this on her mind, Frances wonders “Is the Season worth it?”.The title of the book fits perfectly as etiquette plays huge role even with a murder investigation in progress. The characters are realistic, and I like them. The description of the London Season is very well done. Will be reading #2 shortly. 4.25 stars

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