The Red Monarch (Brontë Sisters Mystery #3) by Bella Ellis

My Five Word TL:DR Review : Yet another winning detectorist novel

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The Red Monarch is the third novel by Bella Ellis and is a story that. again, easily captured my attention.  This time the three sisters, accompanied by their brother, make their way to London to help a friend who finds herself in dire straits.  Lydia Roxby (formerly Robinson) finds herself alone and destitute.  Lydia has been disinherited by her family after eloping with Harry.  The two live in poverty in London and Harry is driven by circumstances to a life of crime. As the story begins Harry is taken by notorious crime lord, Noose, having stolen a valuable jewel.  Lydia has a week to return the missing item or both will suffer the consequences (involving lead boots and a watery grave perhaps).  Anne is the only friend that Lydia can turn to and consequently the family soon find themselves travelling to the Capital to help.

As with the Diabolical Bones I’m not going to elaborate on the plot.  Instead, I will again focus on those elements of the story that worked really well for me.

Firstly, the setting.  This time we are taken away from the wilds of Howarth and the moors that inspired their works. We find ourselves in a London roughly around the year 1846 (the sisters having recently published their poems).  London was a place of extreme contrasts.  Home to royalty, nobles and the upper class with their opulent lifestyles and extreme wealth but on the opposite side of the coin overpopulated by those suffering deprivation and poverty.  This is a city with a seething criminal underbelly. Dirty and unsanitary, people lived in dilapidated slums and were driven to lives of crime.   Ellis uses the period well utilising the infamous slums of the period known as the Rookery.  A seething mess of alleys and a twisted warren of streets where unsuspecting visitors could easily become targets for pickpockets and much worse.  We spend a good portion of time in a theatre where Lydia and her husband lived  in a small apartment.  I just loved this setting. The theatre is an inspired choice, it almost has a world of it’s own contained beneath the stage and seating.  Twisted corridors, rickety staircases leading to the precarious heights of the building and below the bright lights a warren of secret tunnels created for the rich and famous as a way to come and go in secret.  It’s a wonderful contrast between the gilded public side of the building and the worn and dark interior that hides many secrets.

Ellis manages to take the siblings into the very heart of danger as they explore London looking for answers.

Secondly, the characters.  Again, the family are really well portrayed.  The love between them all is apparent even as their differences shine out from the pages.  All the sisters have alternating chapters but Emily in particular enjoys the limelight.  Their characters really stand out, Charlotte’s shy yet bold nature, Emily’s complete desire to follow her own singular route, Anne, just maturing enough to have her own voice and Branwell who comes across even better in this instalment as he enjoys a period free from other influences.  On top of this we make the acquaintance of two very enigmatic members of the theatre who help the family stay safe and guide them through the perils of London.  These two characters really play into the story, particularly the actor Louis who is undoubtedly being portrayed as inspiration for Emily’s future writing.  The Machiavellian underworld has some very seedy characters that come from all walks of life, stooping to despicable acts and taking life without thought or regret.

Again, I loved the writing. Ellis manages to really conjure the period, her pacing is great and after a little set up I found myself glued to the page.

In terms of criticisms. Well, I haven’t elaborated on the plot for good reason.  I would say it’s fairly obvious what is going on here in many respects, but, I don’t really think that’s a negative to be honest – you have to remember the time and the characters themselves.  Reading from a different and much more cynical period it’s much easier to think the worst unlike these genteel and sheltered young women.

Overall, I’m loving this series.  There’s the mysteries, the period, the amazing characters and some small fantastical elements that play into the sensibilities and superstitions of the period.  My only quibble is (knowing the short lives of the Brontës I worry how many more novels we can expect and enjoy (hopefully at least a couple more).

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 4.5 of 5 stars

Can’t Wait Wednesday : The Rise of the Red Monarch (Brontë Sisters Mystery #3) by Bella Ellis

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : The Rise of the Red Monarch (Brontë Sisters Mystery #3) by Bella Ellis.  I really enjoyed The Diabolical Bones so can’t wait for this.  Here’s the description: 

The Brontë sisters’ first poetry collection has just been published, potentially marking an end to their careers as amateur detectors, when Anne receives a letter from her friend Lydia Robinson.

Lydia has eloped with a young actor, Harry Roxby, and following her disinheritance, the couple been living in poverty in London. Harry has become embroiled with a criminal gang and is in terrible danger after allegedly losing something very valuable that he was meant to deliver to their leader. The desperate and heavily pregnant Lydia has a week to return what her husband supposedly stole, or he will be killed. She knows there are few people who she can turn to in this time of need, but the sisters agree to help Lydia, beginning a race against time to save Harry’s life.

In doing so, our intrepid sisters come face to face with a terrifying adversary whom even the toughest of the slum-dwellers are afraid of…The Red Monarch.

Expected publication : November 2021

December Countdown, Day 21 : Santa’s Snack

December book meme (details here).  Santa’s Snack – a book that was a ‘light read’ between heavier books :

TheDiabolicalBones

The Diabolical Bones by Bella Ellis

TheDiabolicalBonesMy Five Word TL:DR Review : A thoroughly enjoyable period mystery.

I simply couldn’t resist requesting a copy of the Diabolical Bones – the Bronte sisters turn detective – and I’m so happy that I was approved because this was just the book I needed.  A real pick me up or tonic to get me out of a reading funk.  Just to be clear though – this is a murder mystery so although very gentle, charming even, there is a body – in fact a skeleton, uncovered behind a chimney breast and talk of a man who sold his soul to the devil.

For this particular review I’m not going to overly discuss the plot but instead talk about all the other elements that I enjoyed so much.  The plot itself starts with the discovery of a child’s bones within the chimney breast of Scartop House, a farm belonging to the Bradshaws and from there it becomes a sinister tale with the sisters seeking counsel from ‘seers’, spinsters and a poorly run orphanage.

Firstly, the period and setting.  Ellis has managed to easily portray the village and home where the Brontes live with the moors on their very doorstep.  I love books set during the Victorian period and this is no exception.  The author manages to write in a style that is reminiscent of the era and the sensibilities of the period whilst at the same time giving the story a more modern and accessible feel.  The setting itself is bursting at the seams with gothic delight and the winter setting and furious cold of the moors only adds to this.

Secondly, the family itself.  I loved the way the author depicts the Bronte family.  Their love and care for each other is apparent, even if they have small differences, their affection is still very prominent.  The girls were well educated and brimming over with imagination and enthusiasm for the literary world.  Charlotte seemed to be the driving force behind their publication, Emily seemed to be almost indifferent to success and Anne seemed to fulfill the role of the glue that holds them together.  Bradwell also plays a role here although he seems to be already suffering from despair and a reliance on alcohol.  What comes across abundantly is the author’s love for this family and their literary works.

The story is really well drawn.  Obviously, given the period the three sisters are inhibited by certain protocols but they often get around such inconveniences by having their brother accompany them on their missions.  On top of that the plot is suitably macabre, there is considerable fear on the part of the sisters, particularly Charlotte, who fears what they’re getting themselves into, and also there’s the brutality of certain suspects.  Always, there’s the atmosphere surrounding the places visited during the girl’s investigations.  The places are well described, often barren or remote, cold or harsh with little by way of comfort.  Times were hard and this comes across well here and the tone is reflective of the sisters’ own works.

The other thing that I absolutely loved were the references to the Bronte’s work – and by that, I don’t mean that the author directly references their stories because of course at the time depicted they weren’t published – more that she uses this story to show some of the inspiration that they drew upon with their own writing, and of course whilst this is a fictional account it comes across as plausible which adds a certain gravitas to the book.  I would add though, for clarity, I don’t think you need to have read the Brontes to enjoy this novel (although I obviously recommend you do so).  I think this would still read very well without any prior knowledge.

In terms of criticism.  Well, much like the Brontes, Ellis has gone for a dramatic, almost over the top style with a villain that is suitably disturbed and perhaps a little easy to spot.  I don’t particularly see this as a problem as there are red herrings along the way to muddy the waters.  Other than that I have nothing more to add.

I really enjoyed this and I would love to read more adventures from the Bronte sisters and their family.  This is very light on fantasy and more falling on the side of murder mystery but there are some rather creepy visits to the Haworth cemetery and a ghostly visitation.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publishers, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 4.5 of 5 stars