From the desk of Sophia Rose:
“If adventures will not befall a young lady in her own village, then she must seek them abroad.” Jane Austen says of Catherine Morland in the beginning pages of Northanger Abbey. However, what is true for Catherine is decidedly not true for Lady Juliette Thorndike or the young Bow Street Runner trying to solve his first big case. Erica Vetsch introduces a sparkling new mystery series set in Regency London featuring an intrepid and unlikely detecting pair and a cunning mystery.
Lady Juliette has been away seven years to a ladies’ seminary in Switzerland honing genteel accomplishments and studies while looking forward to the day she is to return home to the parents she is not embarrassed to miss terribly. After a harrowing journey home by way of Italy with her close school friend who will share her coming out, she is hurt to discover her parents gone away and not likely to return in time to help her through her societal debut.
They are met at the boat by her ‘man about town’ and slightly ramshackle Uncle Bertie who deposits her into the hands of the Dowager Duchess of Haverly’s hands for guidance to the London Season and chaperonage throughout. At her introductory ball, things go from mildly pleasant to intriguing when her host’s expensive new piece of art turns up stolen.
Daniel Swann knows he is a lucky man. Instead of growing up the illegitimate son of a servant and scrambling his way through life, an anonymous benefactor plucked him up and put him through the upper class schools and let him choose his own trade which the benefactor would subsidize through Daniel’s twenty-fifth birthday which is coming soon enough. Daniel wanted to help people and he has a yin for solving puzzles so he chose Bow Street as his vocation. Only, Daniel has run afoul of the superintendent’s own ambition to hire a nephew and was forced to take on Daniel in his stead. Now, his superintendent gives him tedious work and obscure cases and bides his time watching for Daniel to make the mistake that he can use to get rid of him. It infuriates the man when his veteran detectives are all busy on other cases and he has to give the high society art theft to Daniel. This is Daniel’s big chance and he won’t let a cranky boss, starchy aristocrats, or a young lady he suspects knows more than she’s saying get in his way. He hasn’t been on the case long when the art dealer who sold the painting is found knifed and his gallery turned upside down. Then there is another theft…
Meanwhile, Lady Juliette makes a cryptic discovery hidden in the piano that turns all her assumptions about her parents upside down. Agents of the crown? Her parents? Uncle Bertie cautiously lets her in on the truth and now she is sworn to learn and follow in the path of her parents by apprenticing with Uncle Bertie if she is ever to help bring about her parents’ safe return. Balancing her first season, pursuing her new training, breaking the codes cleverly hidden away, and tracking down the traitors keeps a young lady’s calendar quite full and right in the crosshairs of the disconcerting Bow Street Runner who she can’t shake from the trail or that of the shadowy danger who has already killed more than once to get what they want.
The Debutante’s Code was an amalgamation of all the good things with the bringing together of a Regency Romance and Historical Mystery with a fresh new class-difference partnership and a tantalizing whiff of romance between them. This book is a first in series and kept up a good pace though does have brief moments when it slows and strong development that happened naturally along the way.
Juliette and Daniel take turns narrating their side of the story and introducing their separate class worlds and characters as well as themselves. I appreciated that the author created a few extra curiosities surrounding Daniel with his unknown benefactor and Juliette and her hidden family heritage. They both demonstrate separate, but different, partnering talents so that they come at the same problem with different end games and motives, but end up on the same side in the end in spite of their sometimes antagonism of one another. The author didn’t stint on the minor character development, either. I’ll be glad to see several return in subsequent books.
All in all, I curtsey deeply in admiration to The Debutante’s Code and impatiently wait for further books in the series. Historical mystery lovers who don’t mind a dash of sweet, slow burn romance should slip this one into their book stacks when they get the chance.
4 out of 5 Stars
- The Debutante’s Code: Thorndike and Swann (Book 1), by Erica Vetsch
- Kregel Publications (December 7, 2021)
- Trade paperback, & eBook (320) pages
- ISBN: 978-0825447136
We received one review copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Austenprose.com is an Amazon.com affiliate. We receive a modest remuneration when readers use our links and make a purchase.
Cover image courtesy of Kregel Publications © 2021; text Sophia Rose © 2021, Austenprose.com