A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 28 Jun 2019

Member Reviews

I read the first book in this series and couldn't wait to read the sequel.  I was not disappointed.  Frances has another American young lady that she is going to introduce to London society, Lottie, and Frances' sister Lily and her Aunt Hettie are still in residence too.  I liked the introduction of the new characters of Lottie and cousin Charles.  In this installment a woman of Frances' acquaintance is murdered and she and George get involved to try to find out what happened to her.  I was quite surprised by the ending, as I had one person in mind as the killer and that is not who it was.  I like the way that George trusts Frances to help with the investigating, and that he worries about her safety also.  I am looking forward to seeing what happens between them in the next book.

I received a complimentary copy of this ebook from Kensington Books through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
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I think the main reason why I disliked this book was because Frances was an insufferable character. Her sensibilities and jumping to conclusions got boring really fast.
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A fun second offering to this new light and frothy mystery series. I really enjoyed the character development and love seeing the main character navigate the British Aristocracy as she solves mystery after mystery,
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5 Stars

She's back, the Countess of Harleigh, Aunt Heddy, and Mr. ::cough:: George Hazelton. The second book in this series is just as delightful as the first.

Gossip, Murder, Intrigue, Manners, new money and old money, The Americans & the British

The pacing, character, and development in Freeman's books have yet to disappoint.
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Dianne Freeman brings her wit and wordsmanship (wordswomanship?) to the second in her debut series. After establishing herself with the oh-so-charming, Agatha Award-winning "A Lady's Guide to Etiquette and Murder," Freeman returns in "Gossip and Murder" with an expanded cast of characters to love (and hate) and another murder mystery that will keep you guessing until the end. One part mystery, one part history, a dash of romance, and overall a whole lot of fun.
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Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele

A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder, the sophomore entry in the Countess of Harleigh Mystery series, is an enjoyable romp through London’s upper crust’s dirty laundry and murder. 

Readers find this story pick up shortly after the first book A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder concludes with Lady Frances once again drawn into investigating a murder.  Her friend Mary Archer is found dead and parcels containing society’s secrets discovered lead to a motive, but Mary is not the type of person to blackmail others, is she?  Frances slips easily into the role of sleuth when her neighbor and “friend” George asks for her assistance going through Mary’s files. When Frances’s cousin (by marriage) Charles, who recently ended his courtship with Mary, becomes the primary suspect, the stakes are even higher to unmask the real killer.  Mary’s notes lead Frances, George, and Inspector Delaney down an enlightening path of gossip to unearth an even bigger secret.

Gossip and secrets are very much the theme of this mystery, and author Freeman does a good job of presenting a historically accurate depiction of the damage a bit of tittle-tattle can do and the struggles a widowed woman like Mary would face on her own in the late nineteenth century.  The mystery is well thought out and comes to a satisfying conclusion. That said, Frances rehashes the same information over and over throughout the story, and it becomes a bit tedious and boring. These moments are short lived, but they make the pace drag on here and there. I did not figure out whodunit until shortly before Frances did.

Frances is a wonderful character with sparkling intelligence and common sense.  Here she does come across a bit narrow minded by latching onto one particular suspect, but she is otherwise quick and bold without veering too far away from being period correct.  I do wish that either she had no children or that her daughter would appear more often. As it is, Rose seems like an afterthought. I adore George and Aunt Hetty, and Frances’s young house guest Lottie is a lovely diamond in the rough. 

A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder lacks the charm of the series debut, but it is still an engaging, well plotted murder mystery.  I look forward to reading many more books featuring Frances and friends.

*OBS would like to thank the author for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review*
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Thank you to NetGalley, the publisher and the author, for an ARC of this book, in exchange for an honest review.
A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder is the 2nd book in the Countess of Harleigh Cozy Mystery Series and it was a great follow up to the 1st book, A Ladies Guide to Etiquette and Murder.
This book is original, witty, clever and very entertaining. There’s a great murder mystery, some romance, great characters and it takes place in an interesting time period, England 1899.
I can’t wait to read the next book in the series, A Ladies Guide to Mischief and Murder.
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Lady Harleigh and her neighbor George Hazelton form a crime fighting investigative duo to rival those in Remington Steel and Moonlighting.  The tension of attraction and the soupcon of danger add fuel to their investigations.

Book two in the series begins tragically with the death of Mary Archer, Lady Harleigh's friend and fellow widow.  George has been asked by his "employer" to assist the police in investigating Mrs. Archer's death as a packet of notes full of scintillating tidbits were found under some floorboards in her house. It is suspected that Mary was blackmailing members of the ton and someone murdered her for it. George asks Lady Harleigh, Frances, to go through the documents and pick out the bits possibly worth murdering over. 

What the two uncover goes much deeper that gossip and possible blackmail, investment fraud, newspapermen and bilking members of the ton for thousands of pounds.  Romance is also blossoming in unexpected ways around the couple but will Frances and George also succumb to the call of love.
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The Countess of Harleigh  and the gang are back to help her cousin, Charles who is accused of murder,  I love the historical fiction aspect of this series along with and inside peak at the homes of England's elite.  I am looking forward to the next book of the series.
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Dianne Freeman’s new series, A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder, blends a manners novel with a mystery.

Frances, the recently widowed Countess of Harleigh, is one of the dollar princesses. She’s an American heiress married to an impoverished British title—a bit like Lady Jennie Jerome Churchill, or Lady Cora on Downton Abbey.

Frances’ first mystery to solve is getting her own resources back from greedy in-laws, but that soon gives way to a more dramatic mystery. The blend of formalized manners and dangerous investigation makes a great series.

The second one, A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder, develops the secondary characters, and sets up a strong possibility of recurring mysteries for Frances and her friends to solve.
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Though I’m no fan of the new stylized covers, Freeman’s Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder WAS pink and I love pink as much as a murder mystery set in late Victorian times among the aristocratic and privileged. If only there’d been a murder at Downton … (well, there was, but it was in a hotel room). I thought Freeman’s plot convoluted, but I wanted to find another historical murder mystery series to follow, as if I didn’t already have quite a few.

Ah, the complicated plotting: young,  widowed, single mother, Lady Harleigh, American Frances Price by birth, aristocratic British by marriage of convenience, much like Lady Grantham, is our amateur sleuth. When the novel opens, we learn Frances has refused marriage to her charming neighbour and partner in sleuthing (does he work for the Home Office?), George Hazelton. Frances lives with Rose, her seven-year-old daughter; recently affianced sister, Lily; Aunt Hetty, and the comic-relief, klutzy, American heiress, Charlotte Deaver (left to Frances’s care by her globe-trotting, toy-boy-collecting mother). Frances has a lively social life, now she’s out of mourning, and a wide circle of friends, one of whom is Charles Evingdon, a harmless, handsome, air-headed aristocrat. Frances has tried to set Charles up with one of her friends, Mary Archer. Sadly, Mary is murdered and Charles is implicated. With George’s help, Frances extricates Charles from the police. However, as she, George, and their coterie of friends, including Charles, learn more about Mary Archer, things are curiouser and curiouser.   

Like Frances, Mary is a widow, but one of greatly straitened financial circumstances. Mary’s widow’s weeds and circumspect life reveal themselves to be anything but to Frances and George. They discover that Mary was a collector of from potentially embarrassing to surely illegal secrets on the part of many in English high society. How was Mary going to use this information and who might kill her to prevent her from exposing them? George and Frances, Charles and Charlotte, as well as Inspector Delaney work together and apart to find how Mary’s secrets, personal and in her possession, led to her demise.

Freeman’s Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder had the accoutrements to make me love it. An 1899 setting, practically Downton (yes, I was an unabashed fan-girl), a potential romance in Frances and George, English setting, aristocratic antics, comeuppances, and a modicum of Frances-George banter. It was, however, so very very plotty, to the detriment of my feeling any sympathy, or liking for the characters. Not that I disliked them; they were flat. And yet, there were moments when Frances’s connection to the RIP Mary, as a fellow widow who has to make her way in the world, was expressed with elegance and sympathy. Take for example, Frances’s comment about how Mary chose to make a living: “A woman would give a great deal for that sense of independence and self-sufficiency. Mary chose a way to support herself by making use of her skills … I might not approve, but I certainly understood. And I was in no position to condemn.” I wish there was MORE of George and Frances and more of these moments of connection and introspection. That being said, if you love a plotty murder mystery, smoothly, though not charmingly written, this may be the novel for you. I will, however, pass on any others in future. With Miss Austen, we say A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder offers “tolerable comfort,” Mansfield Park.

Dianne Freeman’s A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder is published by Kensington Books. It was released on June 25 and may be found at your preferred vendor. I received an e-ARC from Kensington Books, via Netgalley.
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Dianne Freeman continues her series of light historical mysteries with A Lady’s Guide to Gossip And Murder, which combines cozy mystery and playful period romantic drama to create an entertaining – though not exceptional – historical mystery.

Frances Wynn, Countess of Harleigh, is an American heiress for whom death has been an uncomfortably close companion.  Her elderly, philanderer of a husband, Reggie, kicked the bucket before the start of the first book in the series and left her alone with a seven-year-old daughter named Rose.  As this book opens, Frances is still mourning her sister-in-law, Delia, who died in book one. It’s the late summer season in London – just heading towards, the Glorious Twelfth (the start of grouse shooting season), boredom is everywhere and most of the gentry have retired to their country estates.  Frances has no interest in hunting and is planning on spending some time with her younger sister Lily in quiet peace as Lily angles for a proposal from her sweetheart, Leo.  But all hope of peace goes dashing out the window when Frances receives word that her friend Mary Archer has been murdered.

Mary was the sweet-seeming darling of the fashionable set, and Frances had hoped to marry Mary off to her cousin, Charles, but the courtship fizzled out, and in the end, Mary and Frances never became terribly close. Frances is stunned to learn from the investigating detective, Inspector Delaney, that Mary was a confidence keeper; she had hundreds of notes detailing the most intimate secrets of the elite stashed away in her home.  Some of them were about Charles, making him a suspect; and some were about another cousin - Graham - and a bank dispute they were embroiled in, adding him to the suspect list.

Wanting to protect her family and find Mary’s killer, Frances once again aids the police – and once again her handsome bachelor neighbor, George Hazelton, is there to help her.  Soon she learns that Mary has a complicated secret; she was the pseudonymous gossip columnist Miss Information in a local paper. Clearly, Mary held back some juicy tidbits, and clearly one of those tidbits was motivation for murder.  But who is the murderer?

Part Harriet Vane, part Phyrne Fisher, Frances Wynn is a spirited and independent character whose cleverness remains tragically unnoticed by the light-minded society in which she lives.  Her universe is familiar and yet not; and the way she digs out her clues and presents them to readers is intriguing.

I generally enjoyed the mystery to which Frances applies herself and many of the supporting characters. Her romance with George develops and percolates along nicely, and Charles, Lily and Rose are all believable.  But while I definitely enjoyed the mystery, this book lacked that special spark that made The Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder so lively.  The procedural works, the mystery makes sense, Frances and George are a delight, the family is interesting, and Frances is as fun as ever – but the intensity feels lower and a little less compelling in this one.  That doesn’t make The Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder any less fun, but it does mean that my recommendation is less urgent than it might be were it quite as fun and fresh as the first novel. Oh well.  Consider this a quick, breezy summer beach mystery.

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An excellent follow-up to the first Countess of Harleigh mystery! A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder is a cozy Victorian mystery with a smart female lead, a man who respects her, and a cast of supporting characters who are entertaining without becoming caricatures. The mystery was strong with clues and suspicions delivered at a good rate, and there’s just enough romance to keep my heart happy. This was a very fun read, and I cannot wait for book three!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
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American by birth, the newly widow Countess of Harleigh has adapted to English ways--somewhat. She looks forward to seeing her sister who is maybe almost engaged. But a murder throws a spanner into her plans. Her friend Mary has been murdered; her cousin Charles is a suspect, and her neighbor, George Hazelton is at the ready to lend a hand. A fun historical mystery.
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A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder is the second book in the Countess of Harleigh Mystery series by Dianne Freeman.  This series features Frances Wynn, an American who has lived in England since her marriage to a British peer (now deceased) 10 years earlier. Lady Harleigh lives in Victorian London with her daughter (Rose), sister (Lily), aunt (Hettie), and protégé (Lottie).   When Frances hears of the brutal murder of an acquaintance, she is saddened by the news.  Little does she know that she will end up trying to clear her cousin (by marriage) of being the murderer!
First the good: I think this series does a solid job with the historical details.  I especially like that the books discuss the financial difficulties the peerage and upper class society are finding themselves in, as it foreshadows the changes to come in the world as well as making the characters more relatable to readers today.  I also think Freeman does a great job with the slow burn romance between Frances and her neighbor, George.    As someone who greatly enjoys the slow burn, the pacing feels just right to me on this.  
On the mystery front, however, I don’t think this book was as strong as it could have been.  The characters are very slow to reach conclusions that seemed obvious to me.  I really felt like information was being doled out very slowly and, unlike the romance, the slowness with the mystery didn’t work for me.  
Another concern I have was how nearly every member of the household had some talent that just happened to come in handy for solving the mystery.  I feel like we are setting up an overly cute series with a kooky cast of characters that always help our main characters solve the mystery.  This is a trend I have noticed developing in other series and it is not one that I like.   I don’t want the kooky traits of the supporting characters to end up serving as a distraction from the mystery rather than the author creating actual clues and red herrings to draw our attention away from the solution.
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3,5 Stars

I read the first book of the Countess of Harleigh mysteries a while ago and enjoyed it a lot. The second book did not disappoint either.
Once again, a Lady Harleigh finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation, and once again she tries solving the mystery with the help of her "friend" and neighbour Mr. Hazelton.
The mystery was interesting, not over intriguing but with some captivating characters, some we already knew from the previous book and it was nice meeting them again. 
I enjoyed reading it and following the evolution of the relationship between Frances and George. I can't wait to see what happens next.
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This was such a fun cozy mystery.  I love Frances and George, the main characters in this series.  Frances, an American living in England in 1899, is also the widowed “Countess of Harleigh”.  She’s loved by many in her circle of friends, and tries to be a help to her family.  George is the very picture of a noble English gentleman who practices law.  He’s also somewhat mysteriously employed by both the police and The Crown, and has a talent for handling those “cases” where utmost discretion is required.  (He also seems to have a talent for breaking into houses and following suspects.).  Frances and George are also next door neighbors, and together they make a great sleuthing team.

There’s not a false note in this book.  The dialogue is witty; the characters fit their roles; and the mystery is interesting and not easily solved.  This is a clean cozy mystery story—there’s no foul language or bedroom scenes.  You do not have to have read the first book in this series to enjoy this one, but I recommend it, too.  

I received a copy of this book from the publisher.  All opinions are my own.
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In fact, Mary should be with us now. She’d simply been trying to earn a living. 
What could she possibly have written that was so wrong she must pay for it with her life? 
I felt such anger on behalf of the sisters, I didn’t just want to bring the killer 
to justice, I wanted to hurt him just as he’d hurt these two women.
Dianne Freeman, A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder, Kindle Loc. 2453

Though American by birth, Frances Wynn, the now-widowed Countess of Harleigh, has adapted admirably to the quirks and traditions of the British aristocracy. On August twelfth each year, otherwise known as the Glorious Twelfth, most members of the upper class retire to their country estates for grouse-shooting season. Frances has little interest in hunting—for birds or a second husband—and is expecting to spend a quiet few months in London with her almost-engaged sister, Lily, until the throng returns.

Instead, she’s immersed in a shocking mystery when a friend, Mary Archer, is found murdered. Frances had hoped Mary might make a suitable bride for her cousin, Charles, but their courtship recently fizzled out. Unfortunately, this puts Charles in the spotlight—along with dozens of others. It seems Mary had countless notes hidden in her home, detailing the private indiscretions of society’s elite. Frances can hardly believe that the genteel and genial Mary was a blackmailer, yet why else would she horde such juicy tidbits?

Aided by her gallant friend and neighbor, George Hazelton, Frances begins assisting the police in this highly sensitive case, learning more about her peers than she ever wished to know. Too many suspects may be worse than none at all—but even more worrying is that the number of victims is increasing too. And unless Frances takes care, she’ll soon find herself among them.

If you missed Dianne Freeman’s first book in the Countess of Harleigh mystery series, A Lady’s Guide to Etiquette and Murder, do yourself a favor and get a copy. The second in this series, A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder, is every bit as entertaining. 

Although Frances’s little sister, Lily, is still living with her, Lily is sidelined in this adventure by her own engagement. Aunt Hetty has taken over Frances’s office, much to Frances’s dismay, while helping Graham, of all people, with his finances. But while Aunt Hetty is sidelined by that chore, she discovers invaluable financial information that assists Frances and George’s investigation. In this adventure, Lily’s friend Charlotte (Lottie) from NYC is visiting, she provides Frances with the help she needs as does Charles Evingdon, Frances’s cousin by marriage, who is under investigation. 
I love the mix of old and new characters found in this series, which provides continuity while freshening each book. Set during the summer, it’s the perfect addition to your summer reading pile.

Please welcome Dianne Freeman back to WWK.					     E. B. Davis


What is the difference between full and half-mourning?

In the Victorian era, full or deep mourning meant total immersion in one’s grief. The door knocker would be draped in black crape so people would think twice about visiting. Clocks might be stopped and mirrors turned to the walls as if time and one’s appearance no longer mattered. Only black fabric with no sheen could be worn. Women would trade their hats for a bonnet with a veil of black crape and all jewelry would be made of jet. Men, who tended to wear dark clothing anyway, didn’t have to alter their wardrobes much.
Half-mourning usually evolved six months to a year after the death, depending on how close the relationship was. The house would return to normal, and color slowly crept into the wardrobe. Dull colors at first; gray, purples, and a bit of white trim. The bonnet and veil could be replaced with a hat as long as it had no flowers or plumes. Half-mourning could go on for another six months, but the general idea was to transition gradually from mourning to bright colors. By the late Victorian era, the rules had relaxed and left the form and period of mourning up to the bereaved. 

What was “The Glorious Twelfth?” Was it celebrated in-town before most of the gentry retired for the summer to the country? Was this an upper-class only celebration or did everyone celebrate it? Is it celebrated today?

The Glorious Twelfth was a catch-phrase for the Twelfth of August—the first day of shooting season. For most of the land-owning gentry, it was a reason to get out of town, away from the summer heat and smoke of the city, and back to their estates. It used to be a sport reserved for the very wealthy, but by the mid-to late Victorian era, with improved train systems, and higher earnings among the upper and middle classes, anyone who could afford to rent a country house and pay for an arranged shoot, would make the pilgrimage. 

Shooting tourism still generates a large income for the UK, and they still call the opening day the Glorious Twelfth.

Lily has found a young man, Leo Kendrick, she wants to marry. They seem perfectly matched, something Frances should appreciate. And yet, she isn’t enthusiastic about the engagement. Why?

Frances’s goal for her sister has always been to keep Lily from making the same mistakes she made. In this case, the mistake would be marrying in haste. That did not work out well for Frances, and Leo and Lily met barely four months earlier. Though she likes Leo, she just wants the couple to take some time to get to know one another before jumping into marriage.

Lily’s friend Charlotte (Lottie) Deaver is visiting London from NYC. Why is her quick and astute thinking a surprise to Frances?

Frances is guilty of a bit of pre-judging in the case of Lottie. In the few weeks she’s stayed with Frances, she’s managed to spill, break, tear, or trip over nearly everything she’s come into contact with. Frances attributes this to absence of mind and is surprised to find that while Lottie is indeed a bit of a klutz, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with her mind.

Although Frances wishes she could afford country trips in the summer, it hasn’t prevented her from matchmaking. Who does she pair together?

Frances would probably take exception to the term “matchmaking.” *wink wink* She’s sponsored her sister’s season and is attempting to do the same for Lottie. She ensured that the met worthy gentlemen as opposed to scoundrels, but the choice was always up to the young ladies themselves. She also introduced her cousin, Charles to Mary Archer, but she’d rather forget that introduction.  

Why does Frances (even if by “gift” only) and Mary have to hide their livelihoods?

Though times were changing, at this point in history, particularly among the upper crust, working for a living was a middle-class lifestyle, beneath the aristocracy. Men could get away with it to some extent. Men needed something to occupy their minds and challenge them, as long as it didn’t interfere with their social obligations. Women were still expected to be satisfied with domestic pursuits and allow their families; husbands, fathers, sons, to take care of them. If an aristocratic woman let it be known she worked for a living she was both accusing her family of neglect, and being “mannish,” a double whammy. Society wouldn’t put up with such eccentricity and the woman would likely be dropped from many invitation lists and lose her social standing. Having said that, women of the day headed many charitable and social organizations, but they didn’t earn an income from doing so.

How does Charles Evingdon become a murder suspect?
Charles was in the wrong place at the wrong time and it didn’t help that he’d just broken off a courtship with the deceased. It also didn’t help that Frances mentioned that detail to Inspector Delaney.

Why does Fiona, Frances’s good friend, think Evingdon is “dim-witted?”

Poor Charles. He’s not exactly dim-witted, but he tends to arrange his thoughts in such a way that when he opens his mouth, they all flow out at once, leaving the listener confused. Those who give him a chance learn he is a kind and caring man who simply doesn’t express himself very well.

Although Frances and her brother-in-law, Graham, seem to be getting along, I was surprised that Aunt Hetty, a financial expert, is helping Graham get his finances in order. Why would she help him after he tried to gain control of Frances’s finances?

Frances and Graham may not have buried the hatchet, but they’ve come to terms with it. Graham is still family. Helping to put him on a better financial path might keep him from asking for loans in the future. 

Fiona’s brother, George Hazelton, who is also Frances’s next-door neighbor, has already proposed marriage. Why has she resisted and continues to do so?

Frances is sure George’s marriage proposal was just an offer to protect her. That’s not the kind of marriage she wants. She’s not entirely sure she’s ready for marriage again at all. Her first one was a disaster and her first taste of independence has been intoxicating—but then, so is George. If she doesn’t have to give up one for the other, she may stop resisting. 

The sensitive nature of the notes and correspondence Mary had hidden in her house indicates she was either a gossip or a blackmailer. How did George get hired to attend to these malicious missives? Why wouldn’t the police take charge of them? Why does he delegate the chore of going through them and evaluating them for murder to Frances?

Many of the hundreds of notes Mary had hidden away contained very salacious information about nearly everyone in the upper class, including the Prince of Wales. Delaney would have taken the notes to his superior, who would have taken them to his superior, who was probably a member of the upper class and would have balked at the idea of handing this scandalous material over to a working-class policeman, who might be tempted to sell it to the press. Through his work at the Home Office, George had connections within the Metropolitan Police. Not only was he trustworthy, but his acquaintance with many of the people named in the notes gave him an advantage over the police in that he’d have a better knowledge of how far one of them might go to keep their secrets safe. When his friend, Charles, becomes the prime suspect, he needs to focus his time on investigating. Since Frances is already somewhat involved, and eager to help, he hands the notes off to her.

When Frances discovers that Mary had information on Frances’s own finances, she concludes that servants must be involved. How does she prove that Mary gained much of her material from servants?

Frances learned early on that she was one of Mary’s victims herself. In her collection of gossip and scandal, Mary had some very personal information about Frances. With the help of her housemaid, Jenny, she traced it back to its source—her brother-in-law’s valet.

Lily uses the term “underworld of criminals,” which Frances seems unfamiliar with. When did this word/concept come into existence?

The term underworld was used to define a place for departed souls since the middle-ages. It was first used to define career criminals or organized crime in 1890 though the concept of organized crime has been around much longer.

I love Aunt Hetty. Will she ever make her own fortune or help Frances build her estate?

Henrietta Chesney, or Aunt Hetty has a tidy little fortune of her own. She can well afford to help Frances, and she offered when her niece ran into some financial problems, but Frances worries about becoming dependent on the generosity of others, even her beloved aunt. 

Lily wants to do all the “right” social things for her marriage. Frances remembers, “I’d forgotten how important it was to do everything right at her age.” (Loc.2312) It must have been such a different time. Today, it seems it is only the old who abide by convention or rules. The young tend to do whatever they want. Have things changed?

Frances and Lily are Americans stepping into a society ruled by tradition. A young woman raised in this society would already know things like order of precedence—who should sit where at a dinner table, how to address a duke, or if you should speak at all, until he addresses you. Even things like who should pass through a doorway first can cause trouble. Lily would not want to embarrass her new family or show herself as ignorant of these rules. 

Today, unless you’re attending a state dinner, or dealing with royalty, most of this protocol doesn’t apply. While it’s nice to have a knowledge of proper etiquette and good manners, I’m relieved I don’t have to deal with this level of correct behavior.

What’s next for Frances and her posse?

Next is the wedding for France’s sister, Lily and her fiancé Leo. They want to forgo the fanfare of a society wedding in favor of a quiet ceremony, and George Hazelton offers his family home in the countryside for the festivities. The groom’s family joins Frances and Lily at Risings where a shooting party is already in progress. While Frances and Lily plan for the wedding, the houseguests amuse themselves with the usual country pursuits—shooting, riding, and the random romantic dalliance. But this bucolic setting harbors a menace, and their pleasure is marred by injury, and even death, when mysterious accidents befall the household and guests. Before long, Frances suspects these “accidents” are deliberate, and fears the intended victim is Leo. 
As Frances and George search for the killer among the groom’s family and friends, more victims fall prey to the mayhem. No one is safe. If they don’t flush out the culprit, this house party, the wedding, and the groom, could all meet with a deadly end.
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A Lady’s Guide to Gossip and Murder by Dianne Freeman
Book #2: Countess of Harleigh Mystery Series
Source: NetGalley and Kensington
Rating: 4½/5 stars

There are few things I like better in my books than a character, male or female, living his/her life totally outside the standards and norms of the time and place.  In round two of the Countess of Harleigh Mystery series, Frances Wynn is once again living her life outside of society’s bounds and boundaries in order to reveal a murderer and clear her hapless cousin’s name. 

With much of London society retired to the country for the remainder of the summer, Frances thought it would be a quiet time in the city among her set.  Unfortunately, one devious and ruthless murderer has other plans entirely and when Frances’s friend, Mary Archer is brutally murdered, Frances sees her quiet end to summer come to an abrupt end.  As if dealing with the loss of her friend and preparing for a funeral weren’t enough, Frances has also been notified her cousin is a solid suspect.  Knowing her cousin as she does, Frances is certain he did not kill her friend.  Trouble is, if her cousin didn’t commit the crime, who did?  

With a mystery on her hands and more than a little motivation to solve the crime, Frances plunges in with both feet.  As before, by her side and aiding in her investigation is her neighbor and romantic interest, Mr. George Hazelton.  Unlike Frances, George has been called into the investigation in an official capacity and he promptly reads in Frances in order to enlist her help.  What George turns over to Frances is a pile of notes and half-written bits and bobs concerning the darker side of much of London society.  Though most of the notes are easy enough to translate there are a few that are truly confounding.  What’s more, neither Frances nor George can explain why the quiet and unassuming Mary Archer was in possession of such intimate and potentially damaging information.  If they can just understand Mary’s motivation for having such information, they’ll most certainly understand the motivation for killing her and the person responsible for her untimely and grisly death.  

The Bottom Line: I am quite involved with this series and we’re only on book two!  I simply adore Frances Wynn, her family, and her discerning, logical, and quick mind.  Frances is most certainly defying the standards of her station and living her life as she sees fit and I love her for that unconventionality.  I am also completely in love with Mr. George Hazelton: Hazelton is kind, intelligent, respectful, and caring of Frances.  When Frances and George work together, it’s a special kind of magic I sincerely hope will continue in the later installments of the series.  Finally, I am quite enjoying the uniqueness of the challenges in this series; Frances and George aren’t dealing with average run of the mill crimes, but with fun and interesting crimes that involve all levels of society and often call into play the rules and regulations of proper English society.  In short, I enjoy every aspect of this series and look forward to more crime solving from the most unconventional Countess of Harleigh!
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A Lady's Guide to Gossip and Murder is a terrific sequel to Dianne Freeman's 2018 historical mystery A Lady's Guide to Etiquette and Murder. 

I am a big fan of the first book in the series, so a sequel brings about conflicting emotions: excitement that you get another book by a favoured author; and dread that the sequel will not stand up as well as the first did. I need not have worried. This book is delightful.

Frances Wynn, Countess of Harleigh, is embroiled in the murder of her friend Mary Archer. In this installment George Hazelton -- her neighbour, partner in crime (investigation), and love interest -- delegates much of the work to Frances, which shows her capability and his respect. (I really like George!!) There remains the lingering question: Did he really propose in book 1? If he did, will she marry him?

Frances mulls this early on: "I'd only just gained my independence and the single state suited me well for the time being." Independence was a theme in the first book and happily we get more perspectives on it here.

Only after widowhood are Frances and Mary able to gain some measure of independence, financial as well as living in their own homes. Frances has the money her father set aside for her at the time of her marriage, but Mary has to work to support herself. This is doubly problematic in the eyes of society. 
Women living on their own (without a father or husband to control their rampant sexuality) are suspect. Aunt Hetty, being a woman past child-bearing, lends Frances a veneer of respectability. Mary does not have that. Earning one's keep is scandalous and Mary would have been shunned if people knew. A woman, alone, providing for herself?? That way lies gender equality and anarchy. Obviously. 

Lily and Lottie also make bids for independence, in different ways. Lily wants to marry Mr. Kendrick. Frances tries to slow the process, fearing her sister is rushing into marriage as she did. (Remember, once married Lily will have no rights at all and her life will revolve around the whims of her husband.) Lily fights back against her sister, demanding her right to make her own decisions.

Lottie, sent to England from America to be married off in the "Season", gains the respect of Frances and George with her work on the murder investigation. Early attempts to shield her 'delicate female sensibilities' are thwarted by Lottie's skills and her refusal to be pushed aside.

A Lady's Guide to Gossip and Murder is a terrific fun read. It's a good mystery. (I really had to work to figure it out!) We get an advancement of Frances and George's love story. But at its heart, I think Freeman wrote a study of female independence within the repressive stultifying patriarchy of English society in 1899.

I received a copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for my honest review.
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