From the desk of Laurel Ann Nattress:
Hello Dear Readers,
Are you a fan of Bridgerton and historical mysteries and wish there was a series that combined the two sub-genres? Look no further.
Let me introduce you to the Wrexford & Sloane mystery series. It mixes Regency-era detectives, period accurate culture and events, and a slow burn romance that will curl your toes.
Are you intrigued? If so, the good news is that the latest novel in the series, Murder at the Serpentine Bridge, just released, and author Andrea Penrose is here to graciously tell us all about it.
Welcome Andrea. Murder at the Serpentine Bridge is the sixth mystery in your Wexford & Sloane mysteries. For the benefit of those who may not have read the series to date, can you give us a bit of the back story on the main characters?
Thanks for having me! My ongoing heroine, Charlotte Sloane is a satirical artist who uses a nom de plume to keep her real identity a secret, as a woman would never be allowed to criticize the leaders of Society. In the first book of the series, Murder on Black Swan Lane, Charlotte is alone—save for two orphan urchins she has taken under her wing—and struggling to survive while teetering on the edge of poverty. She’s taken up the pen of her late husband in order to make ends meet, and it turns out she has a real gift for careful observation and seeing through the lies and hypocrisy of the rich and influential who run the country.
This idea of a gadfly with a pen is all based on fact. In Regency England, the satirical artists, especially in London, were the sharp-eyed and sharp-tongued social commentators of the day—the equivalent of Trevor Noah, Steven Colbert and Saturday Night Live. The individual artists, men like James Gillray and Thomas Rowlandson, became famous in their own right and a powerful force for shaping public opinion. They created large, beautifully detailed color prints, which were sold at local print shops around the city, and the general public would gather around the display windows every morning to see what was REALLY going on in society. (Just like we check out the newspapers and social media with our morning coffee!) The prints poked fun at the high and mighty and lambasted the political leaders, skewering their foibles and making public their scandals.
My ongoing hero, Lord Wrexford, is a brilliant but irascible man of science. (I don’t use the word ‘scientist’ because that wasn’t coined until 1834.) His world is ruled by logic. In the first book, the Earl is accused of murder because he has been waging very public quarrel with a pious cleric, and the man is found murdered. Circumstances force Wrexford and Charlotte into an unwilling partnership to solve the crime.
The pairing of Reason and Intuition has been interesting to develop. Wrexford analyses everything. Charlotte trusts her intuition. They both are very careful observers but see things in different ways. And to their surprise, they come to have a grudging friendship.
What was your inspiration for Murder at the Serpentine Bridge? How did you puzzle out the storyline?
There are times when an author gets extraordinarily lucky and history provides a setting for a mystery more perfect than any writer would dare to imagine! The actual Peace Celebrations held in London during June of 1814, which play a leading role in this book’s plot, brought the major sovereigns of Europe, along with a host of leading political figures and military brass, to the city for a non-stop whirl of sumptuous parties and entertainments—state dinners, gala fireworks, a naval battle on the Serpentine, horse races at Royal Ascot, to name just some of the activities. As an author, I thought, ‘Hmm, how could there not be international intrigue going on at the same time!’
All of the plots in my series revolve around developments in science and technology. One of the reasons I love the Regency is that the era is so much more than fancy balls, drawing room teas, and country house parties. It’s considered the birth of the modern world. Radical new ideas were clashing with the conventional thinking of the past. People were questioning the fundamentals of society, and as a result they were fomenting changes in every aspect of life. Politics, art, music, science, social rules—the world was turning upside down.
In the course of going down many research rabbit holes, I had discovered a lot of interesting information on firearms, so I decided an innovation weapon would make a good catalyst for a mystery. Using historical facts, I created a fictional inventor and a lethal new invention. In the first scene of the book, he is murdered and when it turns out the plans and prototype for his weapon have gone missing and have been put up for secret auction to the highest bidder, Wrexford and Charlotte find themselves drawn into the hunt to retrieve them before the world is plunged back into war.
What are the strengths and weaknesses of the personalities of the Earl of Wrexford and Charlotte Sloane? How do these qualities present challenges or make them great detectives?
First of all, what makes both Charlotte and Wrexford excellent sleuths is that they are both very careful observers—but they see they in very different ways. The pairing of Reason and Intuition has been really interesting to develop. Lord Wrexford analyses everything. Charlotte Sloane trusts her instincts. They come to respect each other in the first book, and to their surprise, they develop a grudging friendship . . . which deepens over the subsequent books.
As to their weaknesses, they each have vulnerabilities which slowly reveal themselves during investigations and force them to confront their own inner fears and preconceptions, and I hope that makes them more interesting and sympathetic to readers.
What was the political atmosphere in Regency England during the time of the novel, and how does it fit into the storyline?
There was a certain euphoria because a seemingly endless war was finally over, and Napoleon had been exiled to Elba. But as one of the characters says in the novel, “Nature abhors a vacuum . . .” So it seemed to me that beneath the show of friendship, the Allies were likely all scheming for power.
Can you share some insights into your research process? Were there any books or resources that you enjoyed that you can recommend to those who enjoy British history?
I love research! Books, websites, boots-on-the ground—they are all wonderful ways to learn about all the period details that make stories come to life. Two of my favorite books are The Birth of the Modern by Paul Johnson, a magisterial work on world society 1815-1830, and The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes, a marvelous book on science and its relationship to the Age of Romanticism. English-heritage.org.uk is a website that is rich with details and history, and British Museum and British Library offer fascinating archives. (There are so many specialty sites, too.)
I also love the small, esoteric museums in London, like the Docklands Museum, Sir John Soanes Museum, the Guards Museum and the Science Museum, to name just a few.
The book covers for this series are stunning. Who creates them, and do you have any input in the design?
Ha! Funny you should ask! I happen to have an MFA in Graphic Design and I worked for a number of years in publication design. So I have very strong ideas about visuals. Kensington has a fabulous art department, and they do occasionally allow me to offer a suggestion. But they do get a little ruffled if I ask for too much. So what I try to do is give them lots of sample vintage art showing elements in the story, and describe what scene I would like to see on the cover before they begin their design process. And that has worked out very well.
What’s up next in your writing career?
I will be continuing the Wrexford & Sloane series for at least three more books. And I’m currently working on an historical fiction book for Kensington. It’s a novel on the life of Lady Hester Stanhope, an extraordinary woman of the Regency era. It’s a fascinating project, with a lot of research involved, and I’m very much enjoying the challenge. (Now, if only I could add another 12 hours to a day!)
Andrea Penrose is the acclaimed author of Regency-era historical fiction, including the USA Today bestselling Wrexford & Sloane mystery series, as well as Regency romances written under the names Cara Elliott and Andrea Pickens. Published internationally in ten languages, she is a three-time RITA Award-finalist and the recipient of numerous writing awards, including two Daphne Du Maurier Awards for Historical Mystery and two Gold Leaf Awards. A graduate of Yale University with a B.A. in Art and an M.F.A. in Graphic Design, Andrea fell in love with Regency England after reading Pride and Prejudice and has maintained a fascination with the era’s swirling silks and radical new ideas throughout her writing career. She lives in Connecticut and blogs with a community of historical fiction authors at WordWenches.com.
WEBSITE | TWITTER | INSTAGRAM | FACEBOOK | GOODREADS
For fans of Bridgerton looking for a mysterious twist on the glittering ballrooms of the Regency—a masterfully plotted story from a USA Today bestselling author that combines engaging protagonists with rich historical detail and international intrigue, plus a touch of romance that readers of Amanda Quick and Deanna Raybourn will savor.
Charlotte, now the Countess of Wrexford, would like nothing more than a summer of peace and quiet with her new husband and their unconventional family and friends. Still, some social obligations must be honored, especially with the grand Peace Celebrations unfolding throughout London to honor victory over Napoleon.
But when Wrexford and their two young wards, Raven and Hawk, discover a body floating in Hyde Park’s famous lake, that newfound peace looks to be at risk. The late Jeremiah Willis was the engineering genius behind a new design for a top-secret weapon, and the prototype is missing from the Royal Armory’s laboratory. Wrexford is tasked with retrieving it before it falls into the wrong hands. But there are unsettling complications to the case—including a family connection.
Soon, old secrets are tangling with new betrayals, and as Charlotte and Wrexford spin through a web of international intrigue and sumptuous parties, they must race against time to save their loved ones from harm—and keep the weapon from igniting a new war.
- “A charming, action-packed mix of historical mystery and Regency romance.”— Kirkus Reviews
- “Fascinating and well-researched historic events… a colorful depiction of Regency England.”— Publishers Weekly
- “[Penrose] mixes well thought out mysteries, early forensic science, great details of the era and a slow burning attraction creating a compulsive read.” —The New York Public Library
- Murder at the Serpentine Bridge: A Wrexford & Sloane Historical Mystery (Book 6), by Andrea Penrose
- Kensington (September 27, 2022)
- Hardcover, eBook, & audiobook (368) pages
- ISBN: 978-1496732538
- Genre: Historical Mystery
ADDITIONAL INFO | ADD TO GOODREADS
Cover image courtesy of Kensington © 2022; text Laurel Ann Nattress & Andrea Penrose © 2022, austenprose.com, an Amazon affiliate.
I have been reading this series from book one and love them. The latest one is her best yet I think.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Great to hear, Teresa. Andrea always infuses amazing historical elements with her characters’ storylines. So much talent.
LikeLiked by 1 person