Author: Mary Winters
Series: Lady of Letters Mystery #1
Publisher: Berkley Books
Publisher: Berkley Books
Genre: Mystery & Thrillers
Format: Kindle ARC
No. of Pages: 320
Date of Publication: March 28, 2023
My Rating: 4 Stars
When one of her readers asks for advice following a suspected murder, Victorian countess Amelia Amesbury, who secretly pens the popular Lady Agony column, has no choice but to investigate in this first book in a charming new historical mystery series.
Amelia Amesbury—widow, mother, and countess—has a secret. Amelia writes for a London penny paper, doling out advice on fashion, relationships, and manners under the pen name Lady Agony. But when a lady’s maid writes Amelia to ask for advice when she believes her mistress has been murdered—and then ends up a victim herself—Amelia is determined to solve the case.
With the help of her best friend and a handsome marquis, Amelia begins to piece together the puzzle, but as each new thread of inquiry ends with a different suspect, the investigation grows ever more daunting. From London’s docks and ballrooms to grand country houses, Amelia tracks a killer, putting her reputation—and her life—on the line.
Amelia Amesbury is far more than a widowed countess and mother. In fact, she pens an advice column for a local newspaper under the pseudonym Lady Agony. The advice that she offers to her readers goes further than the written word. A recent letter from a reader has Amelia looking for a possible murderer. Not only is this not Amelia’s first time helping out her readers, she is not alone in this as she has the help of her best friend and now a marquis she meets named Simon who affects her more than she’d like to admit.
At first it seems that Amelia just might be on the right track, but the clues quickly lead to more than one possible suspect. No matter how confounding things get for her, she soldier’s on, desperate to find the killer before they can strike again.
This engaging new cozy mystery series starts off with a bang with our intrepid heroine leaving no stone unturned. The romance brewing between Amelia and Simon is set at a nice pace. Also, the formatting of this book contains a lot of letters from readers seeking advice and Amelia’s wise counsel. These exchanges add to the enjoyment of this delightful read. I can’t wait for the next book in this series to next see what Amelia will be getting into.
Many thanks to Berkley Books and to NetGalley for this ARC for review. This is my honest opinion.
Please enjoy the following excerpt:
MURDER IN POSTSCRIPT by Mary Winters
Berkley Trade Paperback Original | On Sale March 28, 2023
Winifred gave Amelia an impulsive hug, and Amelia breathed in the beautiful strawberry scent of the child. Edgar hadn’t given her love—he wouldn’t risk passing on his degenerative condition— but he had given her his dear niece, and for that, Amelia would always be grateful.
When the girl was gone, Amelia took the letters into the library, her favorite room in the house. It was something else Edgar had given her that she’d enjoyed very much—a home with books. While the Feathered Nest had plenty of room for dining and entertaining, it did not afford much room for books, just the special theatricals the family loved and performed. One of her favorite performances was Romeo and Juliet, probably because she and Grady were central characters. Most times her eldest sister, Penelope, took the lead roles. Indeed, Penelope was better at memorizing lines, but Amelia was better at improvising.
She stopped and inhaled a breath. The room smelled of cloves and paper and past cigars. Hundreds of leather-bound tomes filled the wooden bookshelves that lined the two-story room. She bypassed the books and made for the large rosewood desk, situated in a bright alcove of windows. It faced a dark green couch, striped chairs, and an ornate oval table. In a nearby corner was a smaller table, with heavy crystal glasses and fine liquor. And on the far wall was a grand stone fireplace, surrounded by two soft damask chairs, comfortable enough for reading and dozing. She’d spent many nights there doing just that.
Slice went the letter opener, revealing the contents for her eyes only. She scanned the penmanship: hurried, sloppy, and slightly smudged from tears. Definitely a relationship problem. Settling into her chair, she began to read the letter.
Dear Lady Agony,
You are a lady of repute. Please tell me what to do. I love the boy next door, but he’s unaware of my feelings. I am certain we possess a special bond, for he smiles at me so. But he’s going to ask another girl to marry him. He told me his plan on the way to the well. I stumbled away, confused, but how I longed to tell him the truth of my feelings. Am I too late?
Too Late for Love
Amelia dunked her quill in the ink. This one was easy, a drop in the bucket of love letters. She began her response, which would be printed in the magazine. Readers’ letters weren’t included, and a good thing, too. Amelia had a feeling many writers would be embarrassed later by the emotion they’d poured into their requests.
Dear Too Late for Love,
It’s never too late for love. In fact, I prefer the old, and perhaps wiser, adage, Better Late than Never. In your case, it cannot be truer. You love the boy and are late to admit it. Yes. However, there is still time. He hasn’t asked anyone to marry—yet. Best he knows your true feelings before he proceeds. Even if he does not reciprocate them, you will feel secure in the knowledge that you told him. And that is a feeling you can live with. The other is not.
Yours in Secret,
The next letter was just as clear-cut. It was from a reader who was jealous of her friend’s hair, though she didn’t say so outright. The letter accused the friend of spending too much time dressing her long, blonde, thick locks, but it was obvious to Amelia that the letter writer wished for the hair herself.
Another dunk into the inkwell, and Amelia was poised to respond.
Dear Hair, There, and Everywhere, Some women are born with great hair. Others are born with great wit, vivacity, or kindness. Cultivate one of the latter. Or purchase a wig. The choice is just that simple.
Yours in Secret,
She waited a moment before opening the last letter, savoring the unknown contents. It would be tomorrow afternoon before she received more letters, the mysteries that made up her day. Because of the popularity of the column, Grady made certain the letters arrived daily so that she wouldn’t fall behind.
She turned the envelope over in her hands, positioning it in front of the light. A few drops of spring sunshine shone through the windows, making burgundy flecks on the wall as it bounced off the nearby decanter of brandy. Soon a housemaid would be in to start a fire, to warm the chill brought on by the late afternoon. Then Amelia would enjoy a glass of sherry before dressing for dinner, a complicated affair that she had never quite mastered.
She noted the seal of the envelope had been hastily done. Dashed out at the last minute, perhaps, the letter might contain time-sensitive information. Amelia unfolded the paper. The handwriting, no better than chicken scratch, was hard to decipher. Written at a slant, possibly in this morning’s rain burst, it was wrinkled and marked. Yet the writer’s desperation was clear from the first sentence. Amelia scanned the letter twice before dropping her quill, splattering ink on the desk. She grabbed her spectacles and read it a third time. Her eyes must be deceiving her. It was indeed dated this morning.
Dear Lady Agony,
You are my last hope, for I have nowhere else to turn. Could you meet me at St. James’s Park at nine o’clock this evening? Make sure no one follows you. I believe someone is following me. I’ll be at the bench by the pond. You will know me by my red hat. Please make every effort. I’ve witnessed something dreadful, and I fear the worst.
Postscript: I think my mistress was murdered.
Excerpted from Murder in Postscript by Mary Winters Copyright © 2023 by Mary Winters. Excerpted by permission of Berkley. All rights reserved.
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