Greetings from London, 1899. My name is Frances, Countess of Harleigh and I’m delighted to be sharing a bit about my life with you today.
You may be wondering how I, an American born in Akron, Ohio, became a Countess. The answer, quite simply, is that I owe it to my mother. A decade ago, while my father applied himself to the stock market, my mother, Violet Price set about working her way into New York Society, a daunting task to set oneself.
She failed miserably. The Knickerbocker set simply couldn’t abide the odor of new money. But when my mother heard of the success in London of Lillian Hammersley, Jennie Jerome, and many other girls, she contrived a new plan. She’d launch me onto London Society as the latest American heiress. The soul of efficiency, it took her less than a week to choose my future husband, Reginald Wynn, Earl of Harleigh.
My mother loved Reggie’s title and Reggie loved my money so I suppose one could call it a love match. I went along with the plan. I thought it would be great fun to marry a young, dashing lord. Indeed it was, until just after the wedding when my mother returned to New York, and Reggie returned to his friends and mistresses in town, and left me at the old pile—that’s what they call the ancient manor house.
Through the nine years of our marriage, Reggie remained constant—devoted to my dowry and unfaithful to me right up to the day he died. I never wished him any ill, he was the father of our daughter after all, but I couldn’t help but thrill at the prospect of freedom. Well, I did more than just shiver with excitement. During my mourning period, I made plans to move out on my own and away from my grasping in-laws. Reggie’s brother was the new earl and our arguments over money had become a daily ritual. But in just a few more days, I’ll have my own household.
Well, I won’t be entirely alone. My mother plans a return trip to her old hunting ground to bag another title for the family. After all, she considered my marriage a success, why not marry off my sister, Lily and make some other lord very wealthy.
This new stage of my life should be quite busy. I’ll be back in town to visit with my old friends. I must vet Lily’s suitors and at least attempt to keep my mother from matching her with some decrepit duke or marquess. I’ve heard there’ve been some mysterious burglaries in Mayfair and Belgravia but surely a burglar won’t bother with my meager household. And I understand an Inspector Delaney has been asking about me, though I can’t imagine what he wants. Heavens, my life has become so intriguing, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone wrote a book about me.
I’m joking, of course.
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 . . .
Advance Praise For A Lady’s Guide To Etiquette And Murder
“A delightful tale of shenanigans among the British aristocracy. Lady Frances feels very real—not too smart and spunky but no shrinking violet either.” –Rhys Bowen, New York Times bestselling author of the Royal Spyness and Molly Murphy mysteries
“Lady Harleigh must rally the support of friends and an attractive neighbor to untangle her affairs in this engrossing tale of aristocratic intrigue. Freeman vividly portrays the opulence of late Victorian life among the British upper crust as Lady Harleigh takes us into the exclusive ballrooms and drawing rooms of London society in 1899. Deception and trickery abound and nothing is exactly as it seems.” –Rosemary Simpson, author of Lies That Comfort and Betray
“Dianne Freeman has penned a mystery that’s witty and fun, with just the right amount of danger and romance to keep you turning pages.” –Alyssa Maxwell, author of A Devious Death
“A fantastic blend of history, mystery and humor. I did not want to put it down. Perfect for fans of Agatha Christie and Georgette Heyer.” –Darcie Wilde, National bestselling author of A Useful Woman and A Purely Private Matter