I adore the idea of two people falling in love as they unravel a mystery, and A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Mayhem gives you exactly that! It has a fun, quirky writing style and a brilliant rom-com worthy romance. However, it contrasted with gruesome murders in a way that made the tone feel off. Mix that with character’s who don’t listen to sense and a strange conclusion to the mystery, and I don’t think this book was for me.
England, 1865 : As one of England’s most notorious newspaper columnists, Lady Katherine Bascomb believes knowledge is power. And she’s determined to inform and educate the ladies of London on the nefarious-and deadly-criminals who are praying on the fairer sex. When her reporting leads to the arrest of a notorious killer, however, Katherine flees to a country house party to escape her newfound notoriety-only to witness a murder on her very first night. And when the lead detective accuses Katherine of inflaming-rather than informing-the public with her column, she vows to prove him wrong.
Detective Inspector Andrew Eversham’s refusal to compromise his investigations nearly cost him his own career, and he blames Katherine. To avoid bad publicity, his superiors are pressuring him to solve cases quickly rather than correctly. When he discovers she’s the key witness in a new crime, he’s determined to prevent the beautiful widow from once again wreaking havoc on his case. Yet as Katherine proves surprisingly insightful and Andrew impresses Katherine with his lethal competency, both are forced to admit the fire between them is more flirtatious than furious. But to explore the passion between them, they’ll need to catch a killer
The writing style was fun and stylised in a way I expect from a historical rom-com. It allowed me to breeze through the book as it transported me into the setting. I loved the slight tilt of humour to it.
Unsurprisingly, the best part of this book was the romance! I was rooting for the characters; I always love a good hate to love! The misunderstanding that began their relationship was solved quickly, leading to a generally fast-paced progression. As long as you don’t need a slow burn, you’re going to enjoy it! They had a lot of chemistry, and I enjoyed the steamier scenes. A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Mayhem is a great choice for a fun romance!
A major downside was the way the characters were developed. There was a noticeable distance between them and the reader; I’m not sure if this is an issue with the writing style, or more generally the lack of detail. We didn’t get to see their emotions, or learn about their history, we were told them. We even learn about a character’s backstory through their friend, rather than themselves. It leads to being easily frustrated by character decisions because there’s no understanding of their thought processes or deeper personality. I’m not the largest advocator for the ‘show don’t tell’ rule, but it might have helped here.
This links to a minor frustration surrounding how women’s empowerment was handled. Although completely understanding the point the author was trying to make, and agreeing with it, it was heavy-handed. There’s a theme of how women are often ‘protected’ from discussing violent acts or crime, even when it’s something that impacts them. It asks the question, how are women supposed to stay safe if they aren’t allowed to talk about it? The theme was interesting and relevant to the book, but it was dropped after the first few chapters. Instead, we have a character who refuses to do anything a man asks her to do because she’s a strong, independent woman who can do what she wants. Even when that’s getting in the way of a murder investigation, and placing her in harm’s way. Katherine has reasons she might want to be more independent than other people, but with the character distance, this wasn’t explored fully. I would have liked the empowerment theme to have been developed, rather than used as a reason for her interference.
Moving onto the mystery, it was the weaker part of the book. I couldn’t wrap my head around the rom-com tone alongside gruesome murder. The characters weren’t taking it seriously, the book wasn’t taking it seriously, so how could I take it seriously? The culprit was so easy to spot I thought they might have been a red-herring. Literally, the only character who’s being suspicious from the get-go. Then the explanation of the murders came around, in a big info dump, and it was bizarre. None of the clues added up to anything, the explanation for why they switched locations was weak, and the motivation for the murders was disappointing. I understand the book is predominantly a romance, but I wish I hadn’t gone in excited for a murder mystery on top of that.
Although I didn’t enjoy this book, I can see other people loving it. If you want a fun historical romance, and don’t mind a weaker murder mystery, then I’d recommend giving this book a go.
CW: murder, mention of abuse
Recommend for: People who enjoy quirky historical fiction, people who aren’t here for the mystery, people who enjoy dislike to love romances, people who enjoy outspoken main characters.
(Thanks to NetGalley and Little, Brown Book Group UK for providing an advanced readers copy in exchange for an honest review)
About The Author
Manda Collins spent her teen years wishing she’d been born a couple of centuries earlier, preferably in the English countryside. Time travel being what it is, she resigned herself to life with electricity and indoor plumbing, and read lots of books. An affinity for books led to a graduate degree in English, followed by another in Librarianship. By day, she works as an academic librarian at a small liberal arts college, where she teaches college students how to navigate the tangled world of academic research. A native of coastal Alabama, Manda lives in the house her mother grew up in with three cats, sometimes a dog, sometimes her sister, and more books than strictly necessary.