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A Novel Disguise

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It's been a minute since I've read something new that involved a woman disguising herself as a man; it's very Twelfth Night in that she specifically is pretending to be her brother, but while her brother was a stuffed shirt she is ready to stretch her wings and be a librarian on her own terms.

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A woman in 1784 England does not have many reputable means to keep herself afloat and lead a decent life. Our lead protagonist, Miss Tiffany Woodall, keeps house for her brother. One fine morning, she finds her brother dead, and this sends her on a spiral. She does the unthinkable and starts to impersonate him. It is tough going in the beginning, but she slides into the role soon enough, with enough people on her side just for being a better person than her obnoxious brother.
I must admit that the writing itself felt a little stilted. The author backs up the content with historical facts that she wove into her narrative. It is one of those times when I actually enjoyed the plot than the delivery itself. For several years now, it has usually been the other way around.
Once Tiffany steps into the role her brother is holding, she encounters a lot of two-faced people and another dead body quite shortly after. Mr Lathrop is the love interest as well as the person for whom Tiffany actually tries to figure things out.
A plot with a solid historical foundation had me interested enough to jump into the next in the series immediately after.

I received an ARC thanks to NetGalley and the publishers but the review is entirely based on my own reading experience.

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The beginning of the story was enjoyable when Tiffany was pretending to be her brother. However, when the murder investigation occurred, the character began to feel too modern.

One thing that bothered me was when Tiffany and the black protagonist were put in jail together. She stated that she understood the challenges that black people face with the police. (Historically, the English police would not have discriminated based on skin color but rather on class such as a servant, but I believe the author was trying to draw a parallel to modern times.) However, the question arises, how does Tiffany know about police prejudices? Although she is middle-aged, she has lived a sheltered life, first with her father and then with her brother. She never talks of meeting people outside of her brother. Despite this, Tiffany behaves as if she's wise because she's forty, even though she hasn't experienced enough to gain wisdom.

Additionally, Tiffany claims to be unattractive, but every male character in the story thinks she is beautiful.

This review is based on an advanced reader copy provided through Netgalley for an honest review.

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Such a fun historical mystery in a brand new series!

I paired the e-book with the audiobook for an immersive experience, often times neglecting the e-book and listening along as I completed a puzzle. I entered A Novel Disguise knowing nothing about the plot beyond the fact that it is a historical mystery set in late 18th-century England and our sleuth is, as the series name suggests, a woman librarian.

Little did I know that this would involve disguises and misidentification the likes of Shakespeare (in the best way). Miss Tiffany Woodall lives a solitary life under the roof of her half-brother, Uriah. She is relies upon him financially, and her social standing as a single woman in her thirties marks her as an "undesirable" dependent. Uriah works as a librarian for the Duke of Beaufort, and he is a brute to his half-sister. One day, Tiffany discovers Uriah dead in his bed. Thinking he died in his sleep, she immediately fears for her future security. So, she elects to dress as Uriah and pretend to be the Duke's librarian in order to keep her home. She realizes her half-brother's death is far more suspicious that first-assumed, and now she must find the killer before they strike again...killing her this time.

I thoroughly enjoyed my listening experience, and I already plan on reading book 2, Once Upon a Murder. The ease in which Samantha Larsen provides diversity, and the amount of research she proves to have performed by her notes in the back of the book, demonstrate the historical fiction narratives do not need to be restricted to an all-white cast of characters. I loved it!

Thank you Netgalley and Crooked Lane Books for the e-ARC in exchange for this honest review!

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A Novel Disguise had a great premise: a 40 year old woman takes on her brother's role as Librarian to the local Duke and must solve his murder. If only the book was a good as the premise. The characters and the plot were there but it lacked the spark to bring it all together. It felt rushed and not completely thought out. The mystery element was good, but I expected more life from the characters.

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This is a great new mystery by Samantha Larsen. I loved the characters and the premise. I thought the twist and turns in the story were well done and the story was very engaging. I’m looking forward to reading more by this author and more in this series.

I received a complimentary book from publishers, publicists, and or authors.  A review was not required and all opinions and ideas expressed are my own.

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A Novel Disguise has an excellent premise to a fun historical cozy mystery. However, I really struggled with this book. It was slow moving and a predictable mystery. I also did not like how there were a few loose ends. Nevertheless, I recommend it for fans of Of Manners and Murder, The Lone Fox, and Murder at Mallowen Hall!

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A Novel Disguise is the first book in a new historical cozy mystery series by Samantha Larsen. Released 16th May 2023 by Crooked Lane, it's 320 pages and is available in paperback, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links and references throughout.

This is a charming historical cozy with an appealing protagonist who employs creative intelligent solutions to counteract some of the harsher realities of Regency history (women often lived lives of tenuous and terrifying insecurity). She's smart and honest (mostly) and clever as well, and generally appealing.

The book is well written and the author has a firm grasp on the nuts and bolts of plot, setting, and characterization. It's a light cozy with a strong romance subplot and a surprising amount of effective humor. It's a bookish book, and there are book titles and period book/library trivia and title-dropping throughout. Eagle eyed readers might spot an anachronism, but I found no glaring errors.

Four stars. The second book in the series, Once Upon A Murder, is due out first quarter 2024 from the same publisher.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

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Book Review: A Novel Disguise by Samantha Larsen

Rating: ★★★★☆

A Novel Disguise by Samantha Larsen is a captivating historical fiction novel that takes readers on a thrilling journey through 1784 London. With an intriguing plot, well-developed characters, and a touch of romance, this series debut is sure to captivate fans of Deanna Raybourn and Sherry Thomas.

The story revolves around Miss Tiffany Woodall, a confirmed spinster who assumes the identity of her deceased half-brother, Uriah. Tiffany’s motive behind this disguise is to maintain ownership of her cottage, which she can only do by fulfilling Uriah’s duties as the Duke of Beaufort’s librarian. Alongside her responsibilities, Tiffany embarks on a quest to find Uriah’s missing diamond pin, their only valuable possession.

Larsen’s writing style is excellent, immersing readers in the vivid world of 18th-century London. The pacing of the narrative is well-executed, keeping readers engaged from start to finish. The author artfully incorporates red herrings throughout the plot, adding suspense and keeping readers guessing as Tiffany tries to solve the mysteries that unfold within Astwell Palace.

One of the highlights of A Novel Disguise is the sweet romance that blossoms between Tiffany and Mr. Samir Lathrop, the local bookseller. Larsen skillfully weaves their relationship into the story without overshadowing the main plotline. The chemistry between Tiffany and Mr. Lathrop adds depth to the narrative and creates an endearing dynamic.

The cast of characters in this novel is well-developed and diverse. Each character has their own secrets and hidden agendas, which adds complexity and intrigue to the story. The author masterfully intertwines their paths, creating a web of mystery and suspense that keeps readers on their toes.

Furthermore, the book features an enchanting cover that perfectly captures the essence of the story. The attention to detail in both the cover design and the storytelling enhances the overall reading experience.

In conclusion, A Novel Disguise is a delightful read that combines historical fiction, mystery, and romance seamlessly. Samantha Larsen’s storytelling prowess shines through in this series debut, leaving readers excited for what’s to come. With its excellent writing, well-paced narrative, interesting setting, and a cast of captivating characters, A Novel Disguise is a must-read for fans of the genre.

**ARC Via NetGalley**

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Thank you to NetGalley and to the publisher for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

A Novel Disguise is a cute and clever read that is perfect for fans of historical mysteries. I loved the escapades Tiffany went through in the novel. It was compelling and fun to read.

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At this time this book isn't for me. I like the concept of the book, but there is one character that when he is involved I can not get past. I understand this is how he is written for the story, but I can not get past it. The book is slow moving for me. I would like to come back to this book at another time.

Thank you NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book.

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I enjoyed this and look forward to more. Thank you to the author, publisher and NetGalley for my eARC in exchange for an honest review.

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History with a mystery

This was a fascinating look at history with a murder-mystery. Tiffany was a likable character. The historical detail was fascinating. I enjoyed this story and look forward to more from Samantha Larsen.

I would rate this PG, maybe PG-13 for references to affairs, poisoning, dressing as a man, and murder.

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A Novel Disguise was a fun read! It was light-hearted, for the most part, but also tackled some harder topics along the way.

I liked Tiffany as a main character, and her gumption to simply disguise herself as her horrible half-brother so she didn't have to leave her home. The fact that she loved books a reading was, obviously, relatable, and I liked how we followed her interactions with the books and being able to borrow them from the library when she's posing as the librarian.

The classic drama that comes with being two people was fun in this era, with its own 1700s challenges to deal with, but the murder mystery side of the story wasn't great. 

While I thought it started off well, it sort of slowed down in the middle quite a lot and then raced towards the end. That pace was a little jarring at times, or snore-worthy when it was too close. I think it could have been fleshed out a little more, and the pace could have been adjusted a little. 

But! It was a really fun book and I had a good time reading it. It was a short, historical fiction book, with a dash of romance, a bit of murder, and some family and friend drama along the way.

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Such a quirky book and unexpected. Not in a bad way just a different way. I don’t even know how to leave a review without spoiling the entire story. Life is not what Tiffany thought it would be and when she decides to become her deceased brother life gets weirder.

It’s a mystery. And a romance. With all kinds of suspicious characters to wonder about their life choices.

A very different book and a pleasant surprise! Enjoyed it.

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This wasn't my type of story. I didn't really get into the character development and struggled with the story line.

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Set in 1784, I immediately googled the heroine's name--Tiffany. The rabbit hole of what is known as the Tiffany obstacle is fascinating, many authors shy away from using it. Tiffany was the English version of Theophania, generally given to children born around Epiphany. Tiffany and her brother Uriah live in a cottage on the grounds of the Duke of Beaufort's estate, where Uriah serves as librarian. As a spinster, Tiffany cares for the house for her brother. One morning, she finds Uriah dead in his bed. She rather quickly decides to bury him in the back and take his place at the estate. The time period works well for her masquerade--face powder and wigs help disguise her. When another at the estate is found dead in a similar manner, Tiffany begins to put things together with the help of local bookseller and magistrate Samir Lathrop. The big question is how long she can keep up the charade. I was invested in all parts of the story and hope to read more about Astwell Palace.

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I had a lot of fun in reading this series: witty, fast paced and entertaining.
Many thanks to the publisher for this ARC, all opinions are mine

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A Novel Disguise is the first in A Lady Librarian Mystery series by Samantha Larsen!

We follow Miss Tiffany Woodall who has just buried her half brother in the yard. She didn’t kill him! But she can’t let anyone know he’s dead because what would become of her life? So what was she to do other than to assume Uriah’s identity and work as the Duke of Beaufort’s librarian. While Tiffany is at Astwell Palace, a maid ends up dying in what seems to be the same way Uriah does. It’s up to Tiffany to figure out if it is murder! And who in the world would’ve murdered Uriah? And what are they thinking seeing “him” alive!?

This was such a fun story and I CANNOT wait for the next installment! I was lucky enough to read an early eARC of this story.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me an early ARC of this story! As always, all opinions are my own!

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Miss Tiffany Woodall lives with her half-brother Uriah, a controlling, humourless man in a small cottage on the Duke of Beaufort's property. Uriah works as the Duke's librarian; Uriah had taken Tiffany in many years earlier when her fiancé died, though Uriah not particularly well off himself. He, however, did her no more favours. She kept house for him, but he constantly controlled her life, restricting her circle of acquaintances, her wardrobe, stifled her spirit, and ensured she had no money of her own.

When Tiffany finds her brother dead one morning, after having vomited himself to death, she's not sad. Her first impulse is to tell no one; his death would mean she would be turned out of the cottage, so she buries him. While cleaning off the copious mud, Tiffany meets the local bookseller (and constable) Samir Lathrop.

Tiffany decides that she needs everyone to believe Uriah is still alive, so she disguises herself as him, and heads to the Duke's palace and library. No one is the wiser, and she begins her new job, enthralled by all the books, and soon finds herself getting to know Samir better when she must fulfill the Duchess' requests for novels, which the Duke's library lacks.

Tiffany also soon sees that not all is well at the Duke's. There have been a series of small thefts of jewellery, candlesticks and the like, and Tiffany begins to suspect a chambermaid, who soon turns up dead. And before too long, a young, Black footman whom the Duke's wife has a fondness for is arrested for the murder.

Tiffany decides to investigate, and gradually uncovers infidelity, jealousy and other things behind the façade of wealth, while also having to find off the odious advances of a local rector, and friend of Uriah, while also dealing with her attraction for Samir.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I read the summary for this book, and did not expect to love Tiffany so much. She's very frustrated with her circumstances, and when presented with the opportunity, jumps in to save herself. Tiffany must not only pretend to be her brother for her own safety, but she even becomes a quick change artist, going from portraying herself, to her brother, to herself, all during at a dinner party.

The book is funny, but also doesn't shy away from the grim financial prospects for an unmarried gentlewoman with no way to legitimately support herself. I loved how the author also added in lots of historical details, and a bibliography for the naysayers who insist that only white people lived in England, when the truth is a quite different and interesting.

Tiffany begins to forge a new life for herself by the end of this book, and there are relationships she's just starting to build by the last page. This makes me hope dearly that we get more of Tiffany Woodhall reading novels and solving mysteries.

Than you to Netgalley and to Crooked Lane Books for this ARC in exchange for my review.

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