Murder at Rudhall Manor by Anya Wylde

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A murder and a theft have been committed at Rudhall Manor. A box of jewels has vanished and Lord Sedley, a lusty old aristocrat, has been stabbed six times in the chest. It is all very mysterious, and the Sedley family and the servants have decided that Miss Lucy Anne Trotter, a recently employed governess, is to blame for the unfortunate events.

The legendary and wickedly handsome Marquis, Lord William Adair, learns of the matter and decides to uncover the truth. Lucy, however, has little faith in blue blooded creatures—even if they possess dashing good looks— and, accompanied by two naughty pugs and a moody raven, decides to investigate and unmask the killer herself.  But the hunt for the killer turns out to be far more complicated than she anticipates—what with snooty servants, warts in odd places, mixed up love affairs, agitated chickens and dreadful disguises ruining her plans.

Soon she begins to wonder if, for once, she is in over her head

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Publisher and Release Date:  Anna Wylde, June 2014

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Regency England
Genre:  Historical Comedy
Heat Level: 1
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Susan

Adventurous, intelligent, and well-mannered, Lord William Adair is the star of Anya Wylde’s Regency thriller Murder at Rudhall Manor. Though the main character is Lucy Anne Trotter, the governess to the children of Lord Sedley’s youngest son, it is the agile and fearless Lord Adair, Marquis of Lockwood, to whom audiences gravitate. From the beginning, Adair manages to engage the reader as he arrives at the sleepy town of Blackwell in a hot air balloon. Talk about making a grand entrance! Adair is instantly likeable and the character that the audience trusts and looks to to solve an old-fashioned murder mystery.

Adair is a type of Sherlock Holmes character, able to make intelligent deductions after it is learned that Lord Sedley has been stabbed and a box of family jewels is missing from Rudhall Manor. The marquis decides to investigate the murder and the burglary on behalf of Sedley’s son who is his friend. When the townsfolk suspect Lucy Trotter is the murderer and thief, Adair turns into her champion, convinced of her innocence.

While enjoyable, the narrative sometimes has a lackluster tone, as when describing humdrum activities told from Lucy’s perspective, which provide trivial information and little substantial enlightenment regarding the plot. The reader is unable to glean anything about the situation from her observations such as “The journey was short” or “It was decidedly odd.” The author describes scenes seen in Lucy’s head, but the reader may not share the character’s thoughts and thereby is lost in the monologues. The writing becomes a one-sided conversation where Lucy is talking to herself, bouncing off ideas with herself but never letting the reader inside her mind. Though Lucy is a transparent character, meaning the reader follows her thoughts and analyses throughout the novel, it is logic that eludes her as she misses clues which Lord Adair picks up.

The author treads off the beaten path with the relationship between the marquis and the governess. Instead of honing a romantic liaison between the two, Adair and Lucy develop a friendship without romantic entanglements. There are efforts to inject comedy into the situation as Lucy fumbles the investigation and Adair rescues her from tripping over her own two feet. They make a complimentary pair while maintaining a platonic relationship. Lucy’s clumsiness is relatable to audiences as she proves to be an amateurish detective. Adair becomes her knight, her Professor Henry Higgins (á la My Fair Lady) without acting haughtily or flaunting his superiority. He treats her as an equal though he is far more logical.

An amusing story, Murder at Rudhall Manor has its exciting moments interspersed with flat periods as Lucy’s conversations with herself are inadequately translated for readers to follow. The murderer isn’t obvious but the plot comes together once the identity of the killer/thief is revealed. Witty scenes are strategically placed to hold the reader’s attention as the rapport between the lowly governess and the logical marquis express a natural compatibility, giving them credibility as a likeable pair.

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