I’m delighted today to be joining the blog blitz for Murder Most Welcome, the first of the Charlotte Richmond Mysteries, by Nicola Slade: first published in 2008, this edition was published by Williams and Whiting in February 2018. I haven’t been able to fit this one – a historical cosy mystery – into my reading list, but I have had the pleasure of reading Nicola’s writing before: I enjoyed and reviewed The House at Ladywell back in November (review here), and (as chance would have it) there’s an opportunity later in this post to win an e-copy of that lovely read.
Outwardly a grieving young Victorian widow, Charlotte Richmond is concealing some scandalous secrets when she arrives at Finchbourne Manor to start a new life with her husband’s family. The wealthy Richmonds must never discover that her husband’s recent death in the Indian Mutiny came as a great relief. Nor must they hear about the rumors circulating in the army regarding his scandalous behavior. His death has also been the subject of speculation and Charlotte must take care not to spill any secrets. Above all she must make certain that nobody in her new life hears of her own adventurous upbringing in Australia. When the past catches up with Charlotte, she begins to fear for her own life.
Let’s take a look at an extract:
LATE SPRING 1858 – in the South of England
As she laid out the body, Charlotte Richmond made two surprising discoveries.
The first of these led her to suspect that the man on the bed had been murdered. By whom, she had not the slightest notion. To whom she was profoundly grateful.
The second discovery confirmed what she had known all along, that the deceased – late and far from lamented – had not possessed the habits of a gentleman.
As this was the second time in less than a year that he had apparently been murdered Charlotte felt she might be forgiven for not falling into a paroxysm of grief; indeed, strong hysterics might, she considered, be a more appropriate reaction.
Hysterics not being in her nature she merely veiled his face decently with a linen cloth and wondered what to do with the object she had so surprisingly encountered. ‘Well, well, well,’ she murmured. ‘Here you are, dead again, I see. I wonder what is to become of me now?’
A few short weeks previously, Charlotte, who was waiting with some trepidation in the entrance hall at Finchbourne Manor and trying to overcome her anxiety by observing the ancient, dark oak of the panelling, the extreme chill of the flagstone floor, and the picturesquely leaded windows that let in so little light, had overheard her mother-in-law express a similar sentiment.
‘Oh, that dreadful Mutiny, what will become of that unfortunate child, poor, dear Charlotte?’ she had enquired, allowing an artistic sob to colour her voice.
‘Well, Mama,’ answered a prosaic female voice. ‘I understand that Charlotte is even now on her way home from India to Finchbourne. If you recollect it was your own suggestion, when we heard of dear Frampton’s sad death, that she should make her home here with us. And after all there is no reason to believe that Charlotte is a child; remember, dearest Frampton was thirty-seven and his letters made no mention that his bride was much younger than he was himself.’
‘Oh do hush, Agnes dear!’
In spite of the nervous tension that had her sitting ramrod straight on an uncomfortable oak settle, blackened by age, Charlotte listened, with wry amusement, to this conversation. Shifting very slightly in her seat she felt a twinge of guilt as she recollected how differently Frampton Richmond’s ‘sad’ death had been viewed by her military acquaintances in India.
I must say nothing, she thought, shaking her head. I have seen the damage caused by a stray shell fired into the midst of the market place, who am I to lob a shell of my own and destroy their illusions about their lost hero – and for what? Rumour? Speculation?
No, not I, my part is to play the grieving widow and ingratiate myself into their home and into their affections, to make a settled home for myself at last. Besides, she reminded herself, I dare not raise any spectres from the past, what if they found out about me?
And if you like the look of that, you might like to check out the other two books in the series too – just click on the picture…
Fancy winning that e-copy of The House at Ladywell? With thanks to the author and tour organiser Brook Cottage Books, here’s the rafflecopter for entry (open internationally):
About the author
Nicola Slade has been a Brown Owl, an antiques dealer, and once lived in Cairo for a year. Her published novels include a romantic comedy, Scuba Dancing, three Victorian mysteries featuring a young widow, The Charlotte Richmond Mysteries, and three contemporary mysteries featuring recently-retired headmistress, Harriet Quigley, and her clergyman cousin, the Reverend Sam Hathaway, The Harriet Quigley Mysteries. Her eighth novel, a mystery romance, The House at Ladywell, was published in late 2017.
Nicola’s family is now grown up and she and her husband live near Winchester.