A Lady Compromised
A Lady Compromised by Darcie Wilde drops the reader solidly into Regency England and the business (and busybody-ness) of a small, countryside town. In this fourth book of the Rosalind Thorne Mysteries, Rosalind is visiting her friend Louisa at Cassel House, ostensibly to help Louisa with wedding plans. But she is also there to see the new Duke of Casselmaine, Devon, and ascertain if the sparks that once flew between them are still alive.
Seven years earlier, Rosalind and Devon were on the verge of announcing their engagement when scandal erupted in Rosalind’s family. Since then, Devon has become a duke and Rosalind has learned to fend for herself. She has survived by being a “useful woman” to other women. She helps plan parties, completes uneven numbers at dinner tables, and helps solve mysteries that society women find themselves embroiled in. And true to form, before she even reaches Cassel House, she receives a letter from a friend of Louisa’s, Helen Corbyn, asking Rosalind to help her solve the mystery of her brother’s death.
Helen’s brother William was found dead while awaiting a duel with Helen’s fiancé due to have taken place the year before. Helen and her fiancé found William’s body and claimed that he was shot through the back. Devon also claims to have seen the body, but says it was shot through the front and an apparent suicide. Helen knows that something is afoot. The rest of the neighborhood just wishes to move on and put the scandal behind them, but Helen’s insistence that all is not as it seems pulls Rosalind into solving a mystery when her plan had been to just reunite with Devon and see what might still be possible between the two of them.
In A Lady Compromised, Ms. Wilde writes a perplexing mystery with numerous twists and a cartload of supporting characters. She is a skilled author and her writing is true to the time – you feel like you have been dropped into small village life, with its manners and gossip and ‘neighborly’ concerns. The mystery is well-developed with some well-placed red herrings along the way. The conclusion was a surprise but a thoroughly believable one.
I have two quibbles with the book though. First – it definitely should not be read as a stand-alone. There are characters and events mentioned here without any context given, and statements that could only make sense with more background information. I recognize that this is always a risk when starting a series in the middle, but I wish a little more context had been given in these instances. My second quibble was with the romance portion of the story. Even though Rosalind is visiting Devon, there is another love interest that is not (re)-introduced in this book until well past halfway into the story. Reading about this second interest made me wonder why Rosalind was visiting Devon at all. Also, I love a little more romance in my reading – this is definitely a mystery and not a romance.
A Lady Compromised is a well-written historical mystery that will delight fans of this series and this genre. If – like me – you are new to this series, I think starting at book one (A Useful Woman) might be best. I’m going to add the first three books to my winter reading list. I’m curious about the characters and events I didn’t quite follow in this book.
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