This is the second of Frances Evesham’s Thatcham Hall Mysteries, 19th Century historical mystery romances set in Victorian England. It continues the story begun in An Independent Woman, in which Philomena, a woman from a lower class escaped London dressed as a boy, meets, falls in love with and later marries Hugh, Lord Thatcham. In this second novel, Olivia Martin, a thoroughly headstrong but impoverished young woman, is looking forward with dread to life as a governess and music teacher to support herself. While out for a walk, she is rescued from a cow, which she thinks is a bull, by Nelson Roberts, an up-and-coming lawyer from London. Together they discovered the body of a local farmhand. Roberts has been retained by Lord Thatcham to investigate attacks on his livestock and thefts of personal items from Thatcham Hall, a country house in Victorian England . The lawyer has been embittered by his role as an officer in the war in Afghanistan and has been jilted by his fiancée, so he approaches this task in a dark state of mind. Now he has the now added responsibility of discovering the truth of what happened to the farm hand.
As in the first book, there is more or less instant attraction between the two protagonists, although they are reluctant to acknowledge it, except to themselves. Olivia, upon being brought home by Roberts, hies herself off to Thatcham Hall for a previously arranged and convenient visit, hoping to see him again. There she is to spend time with the aforementioned Philomena and Hugh, as well as Miss Selena Dainty, Lord Thatcham’s only sister. She is a beauty with blond ringlets and blue eyes of whom Olivia cannot help but be jealous, especially of Selena’s prospects for the future.
Mr. Roberts begins his investigation, but circumstances keep throwing Olivia into his path, and eventually they combine forces to solve the various mysterious threads of the story. Various well-drawn and interesting characters begin to accumulate on the list of suspects: old witchy old woman, who knows and uses herbs as drugs, and her semi-wild grandson living in a hovel in the woods near Thatcham Hall; the baker’s daughter, who is pregnant and claims to have been seduced by a servant at Thatcham Hall; Major Lovell, an army officer with whom Roberts is well acquainted and to whom Miss Dainty is attracted. The reader quickly senses his evil nature. I can’t say more without giving away important details.
Roberts and Olivia alternate between confrontation and attraction for most of the book. Some of this seems a bit contrived, as is their sudden attraction, and I found this the most tedious aspect of the book. However, Olivia’s independence and spunkiness was refreshing against the backdrop of societal propriety.
The author has done a wonderful job in her descriptions of the customs, mores and dress of the times; I was fully drawn into the world of Thatcham Hall. She has also done a good job of creating and tying together her main plot and subplots, leaving good surprises both along the way and at the end. This book was overall a good read, and I can recommend it to lovers of this genre.
About the author:
In addition to historical mystery romances, Frances Evesham has written books on speech and language, and parenting and communication, which she can practice with her growing collection of grandsons.
She’s been a speech therapist, a professional communication expert as well as road sweeper. She has also worked in the criminal courts. Now, she walks in the country and breathes sea air in Somerset. For fun, she collects Victorian ancestors and historical trivia, likes to smell the roses, lavender and rosemary, and cooks with a glass of wine in one hand and a bunch of chilies in the other.
Danger at Thatcham Hall is available at Amazon, Amazon UK, and on Kindle: