A Useful Woman
by Darcie Wilde
Trade Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime
Released: May 3, 2016
Source: Review copy from the publisher.
Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
The daughter of a baronet and minor heiress, Rosalind Thorne was nearly ruined when her father abandoned the family. To survive, she began serving as a social secretary to London society’s most influential women. She organizes balls or advises on how to overcome social difficulties, and society women have come to rely on her wit and discretion.
When artistocratic wastrel Jasper Aimesworth is found dead in London’s most exclusive ballroom, Almack’s, Rosalind is hired to smooth over the affair so Almack’s reputation is maintained. But Jasper's sister hires Rosalind to discover who killed her brother, and an attractive Bow Street runner also asks for her help.
Rosalind must use her skills and connections to uncover the killer from a list of suspects that includes Almack’s powerful patronesses and her former suitor Devon Winterbourne, now Lord Casselmaine.
A Useful Woman is a mystery set in 1817 in London, England. After her father is financially ruined and flees the country, Rosalind acts as a social secretary for London's society women. She's still treated as genteel because she's a useful woman to have around, but she works for pay and has lower-class contacts. Her unique position makes it possible for her to uncover things that others would never even hear about.
There was a clue-based, puzzle mystery, yet the story was more about complex social maneuvering. Rosalind was clever enough, but her conflicting loyalties involving helping friends, saving Almack’s, and finding the killer made solving the case more difficult for her. The characters were interesting and complex, and there was also a romantic thread. She's still attracted to her old suitor, but she's also attracted to the intriguing Runner who appreciates her skill.
The historical details were woven into the story as part of the case, and I found interesting the details of how Almack’s worked. Those details were consistent with what I already knew so I assume it's accurate. However, I believe the author portrayed the Bow Street Runners as more like the later police force. I can see why she'd want the Runner to act more like a detective, though, and it's a minor point.
There was no sex. There was a very minor amount of bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this novel to fans of the Regency period.
If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.
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