I write historical mystery which requires a great deal of research. Fortunately for me, my novels are set in the late 1890s. As history goes, that’s not so long ago and information is boundless. I can lose myself in the newspaper archives for hours and sometimes I lose my focus as well. I’ve wiled away hours researching the process for leasing a house, a typical dinner menu, or what a butler would be paid, detail that never made it into my books. I don’t know if I’m researching or procrastinating but I find this information fascinating and I’m sure to need it someday.
But some of my favorite research has nothing to do with writing. It comes when my editor says those magic words—do you have some ideas for the cover? Do I ever! The cover is so much fun—fashions and hairstyles and hats—oh my! I don’t have much of a style of my own, jeans and tee-shirts are fine with me, but there’s something about pouring over vintage fashion plates; the sumptuous fabrics, the draping, the colors, the sheer artistry of design that brings out my inner fashionista.
One of my favorite places to search is the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum http://collections.vam.ac.uk/search/ . That’s where I found this fabulous confection. Doesn’t it just conjure the image of Eliza Doolittle at Royal Ascot shouting, “Come on, Dover! Move yer bloomin’ arse!”
As it happens, my main character, Frances doesn’t attend the races, at least not in this book, so I had to move on to more appropriate attire. Another of my go-to sites for 1890s fashion, is The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s digital collection, which contains fashion plates from the Costume Institute. https://libmma.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p15324coll12 Here I don’t have to settle on a typical outfit of the era. I can narrow my search to the year and even the season. This evening gown is from September of 1899.
Again, the hat is simply a work of art. Do I wear hats? No, never. I can’t explain my fascination, but I love whiling away many happy hours browsing through these plates.
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