*I received a free ARC of this book with thanks to the author, NetGalley and Hodder & Stoughton. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: Yorkshire, 1845, and dark rumours are spreading across the moors. Everything indicates that Mrs Elizabeth Chester of Chester Grange has been brutally murdered in her home – but nobody can find her body.
As the dark murmurs reach Emily, Anne and Charlotte Brontë, the sisters are horrified, yet intrigued. Before they know it, the siblings become embroiled in the quest to find the vanished bride, sparking their imaginations but placing their lives at great peril . . .
The Vanished Bride places the female experience firmly at the centre of both mystery and investigation, as the Brontë sisters are brought to fictional life as intrepid lady-sleuths.
A local woman has mysteriously vanished under sinister circumstances and the sisters manage to persuade themselves that it is their bounden duty to investigate the disappearance and whether it was voluntary, enforced, or murder most foul. Along the way they find clues, uncover secrets and genteelly interrogate potential suspects and witnesses, determined to stand up for the missing woman in her absence.
The author, Bella Ellis, has clearly thoroughly researched the factual details of the Brontë’s real lives and cleverly embroidered them with fictional quirks and opinions to bring them to sharp and witty life. Particularly enjoyable here are the nods to their various works of fiction, as bitter orphan boys and masters appearing on horseback from the fog occur to them.
At the heart of the story is the perception of the sisters as capable, adventurous, perceptive and bold; hampered only by society’s view of their limitations. In contrast, it is clear that they feel that their father and brother need protection in their fragile masculinity and must be shielded from having their world view disturbed unnecessarily. Hence competence and intelligence must be masked under a demure and ladylike exterior and feminine pursuits. Only in their private lives, their writing and amongst other women can Charlotte, Emily and Anne be free to expose their true personalities and talents fully.
Classic mystery fans will enjoy this clever and entertaining new envisioning of three of literature’s most powerful female figures exploring and dominating an entirely new field.
‘Emily, I fear that I have recklessly launched us into something with which we are not equipped to deal. I imagined that the uncovering of the truth would be somehow plain, and clearly visible to an honest eye, but rather it is like the complicated plot of a particularly implausible novel. And this is not a gothic fairy tale, but involves real people, real lives, real blood spilt. What if we get it wrong? Who are we to meddle in such reallife horrors? Lives are at stake, perhaps even our own!’
– Bella Ellis, The Vanished Bride
You can follow Bella Ellis on Twitter or Goodreads, or catch up with the author behind the pen name, Rowan Coleman, at her website, or on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
The Vanished Bride is available on Amazon right now!