India Black and the Widow of Windsor

Written by Carol K. Carr
Review by Tess Heckel

Queen Victoria, perpetually grieving widow, hungers for news from “the other side” of her dearly departed Albert. Consulting a new medium from America in secret, the queen learns that Albert wants his beloved “Drina” to spend Christmas at Balmoral. In Scotland. A most startling suggestion, and scarcely conducive to warm merriment, but the queen agrees unconditionally. Meanwhile, an extremist group of Scots, the Sons of Arbroath, are secretly scheming for independence from the Crown, threatening regicide, and led by the secretive “Marischal.” Danger lurks.

Enter India Black, a lively buxom madam who runs her own brothel and possesses brains, humor, and some skill with a Wembley Bulldog pistol. Having assisted Her Majesty’s Government on a recent case involving Russians and state secrets, she’s now summoned by an aristocratic spy named French to assist in a covert operation at Balmoral Castle. To India’s chagrin, she must disguise her gorgeous self as a devoted lady’s maid to a half-blind marchioness with an explosive snuff habit and devotion to Bible readings during chronic insomnia. No sleep for India, who must insinuate herself among the enormous staff to uncover and report suspicious behavior to French who managed the better job – carousing with the Prince of Wales. Soon the plot thickens, and there are suspects galore both upstairs and downstairs.

For fans of Victorian antics, this confection of a tale, told by India with snappy metaphors, jaded views on practically everything, and laced with a surprising knowledge of Scottish history, is a comical treat. Twists, turns, and tension keep the reader turning the pages, and a good romp is had by all.