Mystery Musings

My critique partner and I exchanged manuscripts last week.  We read and marked up each other’s pages and exchanged them again at writers’ club on Wednesday.  I value her comments, and hopefully, she values mine.  We write in different genres, but she reads mysteries now and again, and I read Regencies and enjoy historical mysteries from 1790 to the late 1890’s (I can be had by a Jack the Ripper time period story).

Unlike my friend, I’m not an expert on either the actual events of the prince regent or Queen Victoria’s England.  But Regencies, like Jane Austen, concentrate a great deal on social mannerisms and the aristocracy, and I enjoy both.  When I think of Queen Victoria, unfortunately, I think of squalor and social injustice.   One of the reasons I enjoyed Carnival Row on Prime TV was because it reminded me of Victorian England, which might make you think that I’d love everything Charles Dickens.  But you’d be wrong.  I struggled through his books, mostly because of his writing style.  Now mind you, there’s plenty of squalor and social injustice around today, but it’s too real, so I only read about it infrequently, and only if it’s the background for a great mystery.

Once you hit World War I or the roaring twenties or, even worse, Hitler and World War II, it’s slower going for me unless the story tempts me so much, I bite the bullet and plow through the rest.  I make an exception for Agatha Christie, who did include events surrounding World War II in her mysteries, but then, she didn’t dwell on them and they’re only there to add weight to her crimes.

I was a huge fan of Georgette Heyer, and my friend, Julia Donner, writes Regencies that remind me of hers.  They mix romance and dire circumstances into a stew that keeps me turning pages.  And there’s often humor.  One of the reasons I enjoy Anna Lee Huber’s Lady Darby series so much is the time period–1830.  Men ruled the world and practically owned their wives.  They could beat them as long as they didn’t kill them, but there were always women who proved to be the  exceptions.  Lady Darby’s first husband mistreated her cruelly, and his death brought scandal on her.  But she’s smart and resilient, and her second marriage to Sebastian Gage allows her to become his partner in solving crimes.  Her books offer intriguing chunks of history with clever mysteries.

Another writer who mines historical mysteries during the Regency years is Darcie Wilde with her Rosalind Thorne series.  Again, a noble woman is reduced to restricted circumstances but overcomes her near poverty by solving crimes for wealthy ladies who’d rather keep their secrets…secret.  I read and enjoyed the second book in the series, A Purely Private Matter.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t add Gothic literature to my list of time periods that tempt me.  Anna Lee Huber’s novels often have that same dark, brooding feeling, often in an isolated area like the ones old Gothic romances employed.  They make me think of Jane Eyre, an educated woman alone, sent to an imposing house with dark secrets, who falls for the brooding, often rude, man who employs her.  What fun!

Do you enjoy historical novels?  If so, does a particular period tempt you more than others?  Is there a period that you’d rather avoid?  I go back and forth between historical and contemporary novels.  That gives me variety, which I like.  Do you prefer contemporary?  (I love comments.)

Book Signings

My husband and I went to hear Anna Lee Huber at Barnes & Noble on Thursday night, and as much as I enjoyed it–and I enjoyed it a lot–I think he enjoyed it even more.  He has a thing for World War I and II history, and Anna’s new Verity Kent mystery series takes place right after World War I.   She had information neither of us had ever heard of.  Did you know that Britain recruited aristocratic women to be spies and go behind enemy lines when Germany cut off Belgium and occupied it?  The conditions of that poor country and German-occupied France was deplorable.  Never mind the conditions in the trenches.

Before Anna even started her presentation, she let us chatter with her about writing and publication.  John loves that, too.  He actually likes talking writing and the business end of it as much as I do.  Probably has to out of self-defense.  Anna writes TWO historical mystery series.  Both of them intrigue me.  Her Lady Darby series is set in 1830s England.  Now, as everyone must know by now, I’m a huge fan of Julia Donner’s Regency romances, which take place from about 1810 to 1820 (unless Julia reads this and corrects me).  Anna loves research as much as Julia Donner, but she purposely picked the 1830s because no one had written very much about that time period.  A good writers’ tip.  Find a niche of your own.  The 1830s were between the Regency period and the Victorian years.  A nice pocket to explore.  Too soon for Jack the Ripper–which always intrigues me:)  That series is her Lady Darby series, and I’ve already bought the first book (on sale as I write this) to try.

Her second series is the one John’s excited to start.  It’s the years right after World War I with plenty of flashbacks about the war.  It’s her Verity Kent (she’s a spy for England) series.  The second book in the series recently came out:

The good news is that Anna Lee Huber was interviewed on NPR the morning of her signing.  The sad news is that John and I and ONE other person showed up to hear her, besides her mother.  Fun for us, since we got to ask more questions and interact with her more.  And she’s DELIGHTFUL.  Just saying.  But not so good for her, because she didn’t sell many books.  She took it in her stride.  Book signings are like that.  Sometimes, people show up.  Sometimes, they don’t.  And only the heavens know why.

Talking about people showing up, I’m plugging the reading event (with Kyra Jacobs, Julia Donner, TG Wolff, L.A. Reminicky, and me in Decature on Nov. 17 at 6 p.m. again.  It’s hosted by The Next Page Bookstore and Monster Pizza.  Hope you can make it.

AND, it snowed today.  Just enough to let you know it’s cold outside.  So I hope you’re holed up inside and hitting the keys.  Happy writing!

 

P.S.  If you look up Anna Lee Huber on Goodreads and look at her reading lists, etc., she has a shelf of books she uses for research…in case you’re a history buff like someone I know who writes Regencies.