A Useful Woman
In 1817 London, Rosalind Thorne tries to live down the shame of her father’s disappearance after he accrued numerous debts. Her mother has died and her godmother, Lady Blanchard, steps in to rescue the gently-born Rosalind, until Lord Blanchard demands Rosalind leave his house after an unfortunate incident. Set up in small lodgings, Rosalind makes herself useful by planning parties and preparing debutantes for their debuts as she scrimps to survive, clinging to the edge of society thanks to Lady Blanchard’s sponsorship. Her good sense and organizational skills keep her from sinking into poverty.
Lady Blanchard, a patroness of the famous club Almack’s, asks Rosalind to meet her there, where Rosalind discovers a dead body in the ballroom. The corpse is Jasper Aimesworth, a wastrel from a high-placed family. Is it an accident or murder? Rosalind is caught up in the investigation, where the suspects include her former beau, now a duke, for whom she still has feelings. At first reluctant to pursue the reason for Jasper’s death, she seeks the truth at the request of Jasper’s sister and finds the people closest to her, of the loftiest rank, may be involved.
Rosalind is an interesting, dare I say “plucky” heroine, a once-rich girl now lowered to live by her wits. She still follows the strict etiquette of her time and lost position, no matter the cost. The asides on what is proper in each situation are amusing, reminiscent of Jane Austen. A handsome Bow Street Policeman – so far beneath her – complicates her struggle to stay respectable. The mystery gets convoluted, but is no less compelling. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and look forward to the next book in the series.