A Useful Woman by Darcie Wilde

Howler Alert!

I discovered Wilde’s series by accident when I was doing some checking on Austen Fan Fiction for the JASNA Bibliography.  What a fabulous pseudonym! 

I mostly enjoyed this entry in the Cozy Mystery genre and found it delightful, except for one ENORMOUS Howler.   If you are a fan of historical mysteries, female sleuths, and the Regency period, this series should perhaps be added to your TBR pile.  

But wait, what was the howler?  Well, dear reader, let me tell you.  The action of the novel mostly takes place in February-March of 1817 and references something called the “Little Season.”  According to the novel, the Little Season was the ramp up to the London Season and took place between the opening of Parliament in January and Easter week (p. 14).  Unfortunately, this is not accurate.  The Little Season actually ran from September or later to the Christmas Holiday and the opening of Parliament.  It is true that the height of the Season was not until after Easter week, but the earlier portion of the Season from January to Easter was not called the Little Season.  (Georgette Heyer’s Regency World and other sources confirm this, while this website questions the existence of a Little Season during the Regency at all, though says it did exist in Victorian times.)

Okay, now we have that out of the way, as historical cozies go, this one was fun.  Our heroine, Rosalind Thorne (yes, Rose Thorne), lives on the margins of the gentry and titled classes.  Her father lost all his money and abandoned Rose and her mother, though inexplicably taking Rose’s sister with him, years before.  

The combination of the humiliation and impoverishment puts her mother in an early grave and ends Rose’s marital hopes to Devon, Lord Casselmain.  Rose must now survive on her wits and her ability to manage difficult situations for London’s hopeful hostesses and marrying mamas.  The plot revolves around Almack’s posh Assembly Rooms and powerful patronesses. When a dead son and heir threatens to wreak havoc among the elites, Rose is determined to find out the truth, whatever the cost.

She makes an unlikely ally in Honoria Aimesworth and meets a beguiling Bow Street Runner in the process.

A quick and entertaining read, I will give more in this series a chance, whilst hoping for no more Howlers!

Lemon Madeleines from Martha Stewart to enjoy with this novel…

Published by Robin Henry

Independent Scholar and Book Coach specializing in Historical Fiction and Literary Fan Fiction.