The Gilded Shroud: (A Lady Fan Mystery #1)

By Elizabeth Bailey

Berkley/Prime Crime, $15, 368 pages

Who is this author?

Elizabeth Bailey, who lives in England, has gained fans for her historical romances, set in the late 18th century, known as the Regency or Georgian period of English history. Now she has branched out to Regency mysteries, and “The Gilded Shroud” is the first of a planned series. Bailey is a longtime fan of romance novel queen Georgette Heyer, whose influence has been fruitful.

Bailey has an exotic back story herself, having grown up in what is now Malawi in Africa and later becoming an actress, drama teacher, playwright and director, but always writing poetry and fiction. Now she concentrates on writing novels and also directs an arts festival in Sussex, where she lives.

What is this book about?

It’s not your typical heavy-breathing bodice-ripper romance, although it does have heavy breathing and a ripped bodice or two, I am sure. It begins when the licentious Lady Emily Fanshawe (Regency novels are replete with great names) is found strangled by her maid, much to the distaste of her mother-in-law, the dowager marchioness of Polbrook, who is worried that her son, randy Randal, might just have done it. He, suspiciously, has just fled the estate.

Someone has to figure out who did what to whom and why, and that falls to the marchioness’s good friend and companion, a widow named Otillia Draycott (but you can call her Tillie). Tillie, it turns out, has a thing for Francis, Randal’s brother. There also are subplots involving stolen jewelry and family secrets and plenty of crimes and passion to titillate the reader.

Why you’ll like it:

Reviewers are praising Bailey for creating lovable characters, such as Otillia and the marchioness, and for creating amusing repartee between the servants and the nobles. She also gets credit for bringing this volatile period to life without making it sound like a history lesson.

What others are saying:

Library Journal says: A light upstairs-downstairs affair with clever dialog. Georgette Heyer is a strong influence on Bailey, and Bailey does it well, deftly mixing her detecting with a gentle romance. Terrific crossover appeal for Georgian romance readers who crave a corpse with their love stories.”

“Fans of romantic historicals will welcome Bailey’s solid debut, a Regency mystery. A satisfying solution and well-chosen period detail will leave readers eager for the sequel,” says Publishers Weekly.

“First in a Regency suspense series from newcomer Bailey, who’s a trifle long-winded but has the scenery and the upstairs-downstairs characters down pat,” says Kirkus Reviews.

When is it available?

“The Gilded Shroud” is available now at the Hartford Public Library.

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