The Vanished Bride by Bella Ellis
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publishing Date: 7th November 2019
Series: Brontë Sisters Mystery #1
Source: Received from the publisher, thank you!
Number of pages: 352
Genre: General Fiction (Adults), Mystery, Historical Fiction
Before they became legendary writers, Charlotte Brontë, Emily Brontë, and Anne Brontë were detectors in this charming historical mystery…
Yorkshire, 1845. A young wife and mother has gone missing from her home, leaving behind two small children and a large pool of blood. Just a few miles away, a humble parson’s daughters–the Brontë sisters–learn of the crime. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë are horrified and intrigued by the mysterious disappearance.
These three creative, energetic, and resourceful women quickly realize that they have all the skills required to make for excellent “lady detectors.” Not yet published novelists, they have well-honed imaginations and are expert readers. And, as Charlotte remarks, “detecting is reading between the lines–it’s seeing what is not there.”
As they investigate, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne are confronted with a society that believes a woman’s place is in the home, not scouring the countryside looking for clues. But nothing will stop the sisters from discovering what happened to the vanished bride, even as they find their own lives are in great peril…
I loved the idea in “The Vanished Bride”, bringing the Brontë sisters and their works back to life. They become a setting of this mystery, in which a young woman, mother and stepmother, simply vanishes from her room in Chester Grange estate, leaving behind so much blood that not many hope for her to be alive.
Emily, Charlotte and Anne are spending summer in their father’s house. And they are bored. So when they hear that a young wife has disappeared, under gruesome circumstances, they decide to solve the mystery, becoming “Lady Detectors”, especially as Matilda French, an old friend, works as a governess in Chester Grange, so they not only wish to comfort her but they are, let’s be honest, curious. And so they set out to visit their friend, also determined to help to find the truth.
The story takes place before the Brontës wrote their classic works and it was such a clever idea – we know that they’re going to be immortal in their works but they didn’t know it yet, and don’t you think that much of this mystery hints at the novels that they have written? The author described them as curious, if not nosy, clever, different and bold personalities. The Brontë sisters work well as Lady Detectors – how charming is it? – pursuing the truth in this case of menace and deception, and they all prove themselves very adept, even though each of them has different fortes. Emily is bold, straightforward and all action. Anne is charming but also thoughtful and methodical and Charlotte is a bit sceptic but in her element when dealing with people. They simply come to life with their actions, their sibling banter but also reality and honesty to each other. They take it in turns to tell the story, which was a great and interesting idea, as it gave a chance to see different points of view and appreciate their own strengths.
Maybe I am not a devoted fan of the Brontës, but even I am intrigued by the lives of the sisters and it was lovely to be in their world for a while. The author has so well captured their personalities – even though I can’t be sure if that was all right, but oh my, it’s historical fiction, right – writing about their conflicts, joys, past and closeness to each other.
I have to admit, it was not too easy for me to get into this book, and I think it was probably because of the writing style. It was lovely – please, don’t get me wrong, it was lyrical, almost poetic, and it was so easy to imagine the bleak isolated house and the moors – but it was also very adequate to the times the book was set in, and so the syntax, the way the words and phrases were arranged was very Brontë – like but not so easy to read.
The mystery was really, really well plotted and executed, it was intriguing and kept me hooked, and well, yes, with my own detective skills I haven’t figured this all out, but I’m OK with it, as it’s always nice to have a surprise ending, right? Sure, now I can see that there were hints and clues leading up to the ending but I was probably too immersed in reading to spot them then.
Bella Ellis has delivered a unique and atmospheric story, effortlessly and quickly transporting the readers to Victorian England, meticulously researched and capturing the essence of the times, place and characters. This book had essentially all that you need to say that it’s a great read. The characters felt real and realistic, the plot was complex and clever, the pace was just right, unfolding well, there was enough humour to brighten the reading, there was mystery, intrigue and atmospheric setting. It was engaging and embedded in truth, brilliantly interweaving the fictional elements and fantastic descriptions of some truly macabre incidents and jaw dropping moments. The story also deals with some important and uncomfortable issues that women of those times were forced to face. Their lives have been controlled by their fathers and husbands which often ended in domestic abuse, but also infant mortality and, altogether, lack of help and lack of status of women in the society back in the days. An engaging, interesting story and I’m already looking forward to reading the next books in this series. Truly recommended!
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