A Lady in Disguise by Sandra Byrd
Reviewed by: Pam Graber
Genre: Victorian Gothic Mystery, Suspense, Romance
Publisher: Howard Books
Publication Date: March 21, 2017
I’ve said this before and it bears repeating, Sandra Byrd’s Daughters of Hampshire series is nothing short of amazing! The mystery, the intrigue, the daring disguises, the romance – all will have you turning the pages until WAY past your bedtime and that is the voice of someone who read until after 4 AM because I just couldn’t stop. In many ways, Ms. Byrd’s books take me back to my high school days when I devoured every Victoria Holt novel I could get my hands on. I read every one the school library had then I progressed to the town library and the Bookmobile. Ms. Byrd’s stories have the same feeling – kind of dark and foreboding – with a strong female lead character and an equally strong male. This one gripped me by the throat and kept me in suspense until the exciting finish.
Gillian Young was the daughter of a constable and an actress. Her mother chose acting over life as an heiress and married a commoner over the titled man her father chose for her. In so doing, she was banned from her family home and ignored by her father any time she visited her mother. Gillian has many fond memories of her visits to her grandmother so when her father dies mysteriously she takes him to Hampshire to be buried next to her mother. Her first clue that all is not right is the lack of police presence at the funeral. If her father was the well-respected police Inspector that she believed him to be, why had so few officers paid their respects? Her second clue followed quickly on the first. She arrived home from the funeral to find the police searching her house for evidence of her father’s misdeeds as an officer of the law. Disbelieving, Gillian begins an investigation of her own. When she’s not sewing costumes for the Drury Lane Theatre, she’s asking questions that can get her in trouble. Will she find the answers she seeks?
Viscount Thomas Lockwood grew up next door to Gillian’s grandparents. He remembers Gillian visiting as a little girl and offers to help Gillian keep an eye on her property. The more time he spends with her, the more intrigued he is with the little girl who is all grown up. Can he convince her that his interest is genuine – that he loves her for herself and not for her land? Can he keep her safe when she refuses to stop trying to clear her father’s name?
Gillian careens from one misadventure to another. As she investigated the disappearance of a young girl, I kept expecting her to disappear in much the same way. The historical detail in the story is stunning – right down to the lines from Henry V and Cinderella. I loved that Ms. Byrd used wording from actual playbills of the time period and wording from actual newspaper clippings. It seems like lately I’ve read a lot of books that deal, however obliquely, with child sex trafficking. I hate to think that over 200 years later, humans are still battling this evil. Knowing that 200 years ago the “age of consent” was 13 horrifies me. I’m glad that organizations like The Salvation Army, like The Cause in this book, made it their business to help these children.
Mystery, suspense, romance – even some humor – all find a place in A Lady in Disguise. If you love even ONE of those genres, you need to pick this one up. You WILL NOT be sorry you did!
Rated PG: Girls as young as 13 are lured into working in brothels when they “age out” of working as pantomime children in the theatre. Also, several people die (off camera) in pretty gruesome ways. This is probably too scary for young children.
Reviewer’s copy was provided by the Publisher via NetGalley. Thank you!