Are We Having Fun Yet?

Are We Having Fun Yet?Are We Having Fun Yet?
by Lucy Mangan
Rating: ★★★★½
isbn: 9781788161084
Publication Date: November 1, 2021
Pages: 303
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Souvenir Press

From the deep rage of knowing where to find every single thing your husband is looking for to the joy of a friend's longed-for pregnancy, here is the pleasurable stab of fellow feeling you get over drinks with friends. Liz records her ups and downs, including the love of a good cat (up), not being able to find a babysitter (secret up) and the question of what 'we' really means when it comes to fixing the dishwasher (definitely, definitely down).

Spiky, charming and most of all loving, it's a hilarious skewering of the sweetness and nightmare that is modern family life.


This book is the literary equivalent of those visual illusions that psychologists try to hang meaning on depending on what you see – like the one that’s either an old woman or a candlestick.  Or is it an old woman / young woman?  Anyway, whatever, you know what I mean.

As someone who is voluntarily childless, this book was a hilarious – and I mean laugh-out-loud hilarious – justification that my decision to stick with the furry and feathered walks of life, rather than replicating my own DNA, was the right decision for me (and MT, who came to the same decision long before we met).  Her kids are hysterical, but they’re hard work and are constantly opening up avenues of conversation that I’d hurt myself to avoid having.  Mangen’s descriptions of child birth should be required reading in human development classes as psychological birth control.  I was made to be an Aunt.

There was another – unintended, I’m certain – consequence this book had for me, one that is again tied, I’m equally certain, to our choice to stick with non-human family members, and that’s the lack of suppressed rage that lies as an undercurrent in Liz and Richard’s marriage, that I recognise in the marriages of my friends with children.  It’s not all chocolates and roses here at chez zoo by a long shot, but without the stress and pressure of making new humans that will hopefully treat the world better than we have, MT and I have experienced more fun than festering resentment.  Of course, I also recognise the near-miracle that he’s one of the 1 in 100,000 men who seem to have been raised without the ingrained gender biases and learned helplessness most are saddled with when it comes to matters of home keeping.  Still, the book really gave me a few moments of “do you really appreciate how lucky you are? really, truly?“, which I think constitutes healthy self-reflection.

Putting all that aside, I have to figure out how to get my sister-in-law to read this, because, as the mother of 2, she will appreciate this book for all the opposite reasons: because Lucy Mangen wrote her truth, and she will laugh as she nods her neck stiff in righteous agreement of the trials and tribulations of an all-human family of 4.

I read so much of this out loud to MT (honestly, it’s almost been a nightly story-time around here lately) that he actually insisted I rate this 4.5 stars.  As he said, it made us both laugh out loud and the writing was excellent (which gives you an indication of how much I read out loud; he was able to judge the quality of the writing).  I’d been thinking more 4 stars, but since he put up with all the reading out loud, I acquiesced.

If you need a laugh, you won’t go wrong with this one.

Venomous: How Earth’s Deadliest Creatures Mastered Biochemistry

VenomousVenomous
by Christie Wilcox
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9780374283377
Publication Date: September 13, 2016
Pages: 236
Genre: Natural Science, Non-fiction, Science
Publisher: Scientific American

In Venomous, the molecular biologist Christie Wilcox investigates venoms and the animals that use them, revealing how they work, what they do to the human body, and how they can revolutionise biochemistry and medicine today.

Wilcox takes us from the coast of Indonesia to the rainforests of Peru in search of the secrets of these mysterious animals. We encounter jellyfish that release microscopic venom-packed darts known to kill humans in just two minutes, a two-inch caterpillar with toxic bristles that trigger haemorrhaging throughout the body, and a stunning blue-ringed octopus with saliva capable of inducing total paralysis. How could an animal as simple as a jellyfish evolve such an intricate, deadly poison? And how can a snake possess enzymes that tear through tissue yet leave its own body unscathed? Wilcox meets the fearless scientists who often risk their lives studying these lethal beasts to find out, and puts her own life on the line to examine these species up close. Drawing on her own research on venom chemistry and evolution, she also shows how venom is helping us untangle the complex mechanisms of some of our most devastating diseases.


Venomous and I did not get off to a great start.  You’d think it would be a sure bet, since Chapter 1 kicks things off with the platypus, possibly my most favourite non-domesticated animal, and one she visited with – as she notes on page 1 – at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary “in Melbourne Australia”.  I’ve been to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and I have a picture of myself and the koala that peed on me to prove it (fun fact: koala pee smells sooooo bad).  The thing is, Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary is in Brisbane, not Melbourne.  Not a small error, either; one is at the bottom of the continent and the other at the top.  Plus, Wilcox was there, so you’d like to think she knew she was in Brisbane and not Melbourne.  Unless the koala pee stench got to her.

Anyhoo … I was understandably feeling a bit cynical after that illustrious beginning, and the first few chapters were not enough to sway me either way, but I began to find myself invested – as measured by how much I started reading out to MT (I am a trial to this poor man, I know) – by chapter 6: “All the better to eat you with”.  This is the chapter about necrotising venoms, proving that I’m really no better than a 12 year old boy sometimes.  But chapter 8 was even better: Mind Control.  OMG.

Chapter 9 is about the pharmacological miracles that have been wrought by venom research, and reading it made me want to rush out to the world and scream nobody touch anything! simply because at the rate humanity is going, we’ll exterminate the cure for cancer, et al long before we ever knew it existed.

Venomous is a popular science book and as such is filled with anecdotes that make it easier for the average arm chair science nerd to connect with the material being discussed; it also has a not insignificant amount of the harder science in the form of detailed descriptions of neural chemical pathways, etc. but I wouldn’t call it inaccessible.  In comparison, my recent read, Venom, is a far more hard-core scientific discussion and breakdown of the study of venom.  (And it had much better pictures).

In an interesting six-degrees-of-separation chain of my TBR reads, Venom cited this book, Venomous, in the text, and Wilcox has cited The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan, so I guess I know what my next non-fiction book is going to be.

My Family and Other Disasters

My Family and Other DisastersMy Family and Other Disasters
by Lucy Mangan
Rating: ★★★★½
isbn: 9780852651247
Publication Date: June 16, 2009
Pages: 260
Genre: Essays
Publisher: Guardian Publishing

'Hi Dad.'
'Who's calling, please?'
'It's Lucy ...Your daughter.'
'Ah, yes. Which one are you again? The one that reads or the one that shops?'

For Lucy Mangan family life has never exactly been a bed of roses. With parents so parsimonious that if they had soup for a meal they would decline an accompanying drink (soup is a drink), and a grandmother who refused to sit down for 82 years so that she wouldn't wear out the sofa, Lucy spent most of her childhood oscillating between extreme states of anxiety.

Fortunately, this hasn't affected her ability to write, and in this, her first collection of "Guardian" columns, she shares her hilarious take on everything from family relations to the credit crunch and why organized sport should be abolished.


I so thoroughly enjoyed Lucy Mangan’s writing in Bookworm that I wanted to try some of her other titles.  I ordered two of them, and this one was the first to arrive.

A collection of essays/columns written for The Guardian that covers a multitude of topics, My Family and Other Disasters easily met and exceeded my expectations.  I hoovered these down, laughing and often – very often – reading parts aloud to MT; her writing is so good he rarely even minded when I did.

This is a woman who does not hold back her inner misanthrope; she lets it rip and in the process tears a strip off anyone and anything she considers irrational or stupid.  I might have a tiny book crush on her, but only because I agree with her about most all of it, and she makes me laugh.

Mangan writes for the UK Guardian so there’s a highly British slant to most of her essays, but many of her topics cross the international barriers – especially the essays pertaining to television; I don’t watch TV, but the essays are old enough to refer to the shows that aired when I did.  Saying that, they were also the essays I enjoyed the least, although I whole-heartedly agree with her views on Seinfeld.

All up, a delightful collection.

Don’t Tell Alfred

Don't Tell AlfredDon't Tell Alfred
by Nancy Mitford
Rating: ★★★★½
Publication Date: January 1, 1960
Pages: 248
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Hamish Hamilton

Fanny Wincham—last seen as a young woman in The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate—has lived contentedly for years as housewife to an absent-minded Oxford don, Alfred. But her life changes overnight when her beloved Alfred is appointed English Ambassador to Paris.

Soon she finds herself mixing with royalty and Rothschilds while battling her hysterical predecessor, Lady Leone, who refuses to leave the premises. When Fanny’s tender-hearted secretary begins filling the embassy with rescued animals and her teenage sons run away from Eton and show up with a rock star in tow, things get entirely out of hand. Gleefully sending up the antics of mid-century high society, Don’t Tell Alfred is classic Mitford.


Oh this was a lot of fun.  Ostensibly the third book of the series that includes Love in a Cold Climate and The Pursuit of Love, it’s been so many years since I read the first two that I barely remember the important characters, but it made not a lick of difference.  Don’t Tell Alfred takes place 30 years after the events of the first two books, and anybody who is still alive is almost too different to recognise anyway.

Fanny is now the main character, rather than just the narrator, but it seems she’s also a helpless bystander in the three ring circus her life has become when Alfred becomes the Ambassador to France.  One hilarious calamity after the other – most involving her extended family, if not her own children – has her scurrying to keep one step ahead of the chaos, and if not one step ahead, arranging the fall out so that Alfred comes out looking his best.

Not quite under the surface of these calamities – it bubbles up regularly throughout the story – is every parents lament over their childrens’ avowal to reject every principle they were ever taught.  This being the late 50’s, the rejection is, as the age of Aquarius looms, that much more outsized and outrageous.

Throughout the narrative, Mitford takes potshots in turns at the British, the French and, of course, the Americans (I’m pretty sure it’s a national sport in the UK); about the only country to come out unscathed from her pen are the Irish, which she feels a rather lot of sympathy for.  It all reads as though it’s meant in good fun and it adds to the often manic laughs.

So far, Mitford is 3 for 3; I have a couple of her other titles on my TBR and I’m curious how well the humor will hold with a whole new cast of characters.

Miss Benson’s Beetle

Miss Benson's BeetleMiss Benson's Beetle
by Rachel Joyce
Rating: ★★★
isbn: 0857521993
Publication Date: June 11, 2020
Pages: 389
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Doubleday

Margery Benson's life ended the day her father walked out of his study and never came back. Forty years later, abandoning a dull job, she advertises for an assistant. The successful candidate is to accompany Margery on an expedition to the other side of the world to search for a beetle that may or may not exist. Enid Pretty is not who she had in mind. But together they will find themselves drawn into an adventure that exceeds all Margery's expectations, eventually finding new life at the top of a red mountain.

This is a story that is less about what can be found than the belief it might be found; it is an intoxicating adventure story and it is also a tender exploration of a friendship between two unforgettable women that defies all boundaries.


My rating is not an accurate portrayal of the quality of the book, my rating is an accurate portrayal of my enjoyment of the book.

I say this because it’s not the book I thought it was going to be.  That’s entirely on me, because I’ve read another of her books and I should have known better.  But I got sucked into the summary about the expedition in search of a golden beetle, and allowed myself to be seduced by images of New Caledonia, beetle hunting, and elusive orchids (which depend on the golden beetle, of course).

This was not that book.  This is a wonderfully written book about deeply flawed and lonely people who come together under the guise of searching for the golden beetle.  Also motherhood, mental breakdowns and devastating nutritional deficiencies.  There’s a lot of baggage in this book and very little of it is related to the beetle expedition.

They do make it to New Caledonia and they do hunt for beetles; those moments were the best parts for me, but they were all too brief.  For the rest of it, I just kept thinking this was Thelma and Louise Get on a Ship.

This book is a lesson in the power of titles, covers and summaries.  I have a friend who wouldn’t look twice at this book, and it is perfect for her; if I can get her to read it, she’s going to love it.  Whereas I, who thought everything about the ‘wrappings’ of the book screamed “this is the book for you!”, found it to be not at all what I expected and was a little disappointed.

That does not mean it’s not a good book; it’s an excellently written book, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a book about emotionally broken people persevering and finding their happiness.  It’s just not the book I was looking for.

The Jewels of Paradise

The Jewels of ParadiseThe Jewels of Paradise
by Donna Leon
Rating: ★★★½
isbn: 9780802120649
Publication Date: October 1, 2012
Pages: 244
Genre: Fiction, Mystery
Publisher: Atlantic Books

Donna Leon has won heaps of critical praise and legions of fans for her best-selling mystery series featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti. With The Jewels of Paradise, Leon takes readers beyond the world of the Venetian Questura in her first standalone novel.

Caterina Pellegrini is a native Venetian, and like so many of them, she s had to leave home to pursue her career. With a doctorate in baroque opera from Vienna, she lands in Manchester, England. Manchester, however, is no Venice. When Caterina gets word of a position back home, she jumps at the opportunity.

The job is an unusual one. After nearly three centuries, two locked trunks, believed to contain the papers of a baroque composer have been discovered. Deeply-connected in religious and political circles, the composer died childless; now two Venetians, descendants of his cousins, each claim inheritance. Caterina s job is to examine any enclosed papers to discover the testamentary disposition of the composer. But when her research takes her in unexpected directions she begins to wonder just what secrets these trunks may hold.


A compelling, yet weird, no-body mystery that reminds me in many ways of Josephine Tey’s Daughter of Time.  Set in modern Venice, Italy with our MC researching the recently discovered papers of Baroque composer and bishop Agostino Steffani, in an attempt to settle a centuries old dispute over who inherited.

So much of this book is research, which was sometimes interesting but never what you’d call fast-paced, and while I love classical music, I dislike opera (no singing please, just the music), so at the beginning I worried for my attention span.  It soon becomes clear that the letters have very little to do with his ‘side’ career as composer and more to do with his diplomatic mission for the Vatican.  Even that sounds more exciting that what you get, but it is interesting.

The writing is good but the structure is wobbly and the characters all fail to set and feel half-formed or as though Leon couldn’t commit.  Leon obviously has issues about her own faith that bleed out through the pages.  The book remains an academic exercise until just past the mid-way point, when suddenly Leon throws connections to Opus Dei in, but never explains them, nor develops them.  Morretti’s motivations are never explained; we’re supposed to believe he’s a ‘bad guy’ but with no tangible reason or proof.  But she also seems unable to commit to whether this was going to be a suspenseful mystery, or an academic one.  A scene of menace is jarring and effective for its psychological impact, but nothing ever becomes of it and its eventual explanation is ineffective, at best.

I loved the ending though – such a perfect twist on importance between the secular and the religious.  The ending was almost perfect.

It was a good read, though as a standalone, it left too many threads dangling, and the author was too transparent about her own feelings about faith in my opinion; I thought it was good, but had it been better balanced and better executed it could have been amazing.

Heroic Hearts

Heroic HeartsHeroic Hearts
by Anne Bishop, Charlaine Harris, Chloe Neill, Jim Butcher, Kerrie L. Hughes, Kevin Hearne, Patricia Briggs
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9780593099186
Publication Date: May 3, 2022
Pages: 350
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Ace

In this short story collection of courage, adventure, and magic, heroes—ordinary people who do the right thing—bravely step forward.

In Jim Butcher’s “Little Things,” the pixie Toot-Toot discovers an invader unbeknownst to the wizard Harry Dresden . . . and in order to defeat it, he’ll have to team up with the dread cat Mister.

In Patricia Briggs’s “Dating Terrors,” the werewolf Asil finds an online date might just turn into something more—if she can escape the dark magic binding her.

In Charlaine Harris’s “The Return of the Mage,” the Britlingen mercenaries will discover more than they’ve bargained for when they answer the call of a distress beacon on a strange and remote world.

And in Kelley Armstrong’s “Comfort Zone,” the necromancer Chloe Saunders and the werewolf Derek Souza are just trying to get through college. But they can’t refuse a ghost pleading for help.

ALSO INCLUDES STORIES BY Annie Bellet * Anne Bishop * Jennifer Brozek * Kevin Hearne * Nancy Holder * Kerrie L. Hughes * Chloe Neill * R.R. Virdi


This sounds like a romance, but as the cover makes clear it’s an urban fantasy anthology, and the title refers to acts of heroism by characters that would normally be considered bit players or underdogs.

And it’s an excellent collection; with the exception of one (The Vampires Karamazov, which felt like a story fragment, or at least, a story with an incomplete ending), I enjoyed all of them; not something I can often say about anthologies.  Of course this collection’s deck is stacked, if you know what I mean, with authors like Jim Butcher, Patricia Briggs, Anne Bishop, Kevin Hearne, and Chloe Neil, each of them offering short stories that complement or extend their most popular series.

I’m not sure I can come up with a favourite.  As much as I enjoyed all my favourite authors’ entries, when I think back across all of them the two that immediately come to mind as stories that ‘stick’ are Jennifer Brozek’s The Necessity of Pragmatic Magic – perhaps because I might overly identify with Felicia, who only wants to be left alone, and Kerry L. Hughes’ Troll Life which somehow charmed me in ways I can’t quite pinpoint; maybe the sentient trains?

Patricia Briggs’ story features Asil, Dating Terrors, and while it’s always fun to read about Asil – he makes me laugh – and the story is good, I have to admit I think he plays to best advantage when he’s surrounded by Charles, Anna, Bran and the rest of the pack.  For those interested, this short story is not the same one as Asil and the not-date found in the Laurel K. Hamilton anthology Fantastic Hope; it’s related, I suspect, and I’m certain Dating Terrors takes place after Asil and the Not-Date.  It also appears to have long-reaching implications for Asil and his fans; I’m wondering if they’ll play out in the next Alpha and Omega book?

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir

The Chilbury Ladies' ChoirThe Chilbury Ladies' Choir
by Jennifer Ryan
Rating: ★★★★
isbn: 9780008163716
Publication Date: February 20, 2017
Pages: 453
Genre: Fiction, Historical
Publisher: Borough Press

Kent, 1940. The women of Chilbury village have taken umbrage at the Vicar's closure of the choir now that its male singers are at war. But when spirited music professor Primrose Trent arrives, it prompts the creation of an all-female singing group. Resurrecting themselves as The Chilbury Ladies' Choir, the women use their song and unity to embolden the community as the war tears through their lives. Dependable Mrs Tilling sees the choir as a chance to finally put herself first, and a welcome distraction from thoughts of her son fighting on the front line.

For Kitty Winthrop, the precocious youngest daughter of Chilbury Manor, singing is the only way to outshine her glamorous sister Venetia, who isn't letting the war ruin her plan to make every bachelor in the county fall in love with her. Meanwhile, when midwife Edwina Paltry is presented with a dastardly job which she's convinced will make her rich, she will have to misuse more than the trust of the choir's women to carry out her scheme – and nothing is going to stop her.


This book starts with the About the Author and includes this bit:

Many of the characters’ stories in the book are based on real life, discovered through [the author’s] extensive research and her grandmother’s experiences.

and I have to say, it made the read somehow more enjoyable.  As a book of pure fiction, I think I would still have enjoyed it, but might have felt less satisfied with the characters’ stories; as a work of fiction based on read people and events, the loose ends and un-satisfactory resolutions for some of them felt authentic and more tolerable.

In structure, this is an epistolary novel told from multiple POVs that come from letters and diary entries written in 1940 England, just as the war really begins to hit the home front.  I’d argue it’s not a truly epistolary structure though; while I’m sure some people wrote very detailed letters and diary entires, I can’t imagine very many would go so far as to write long narratives that include setting a scene and transcribing exact dialog.  It works, but those who don’t care for epistolary structures might find this more tolerable.

Told from 6 POVs, which sounds like a lot, but works really well, this is the story of a small village near Dover whose vicar disbands their choir because there are no men left.  The women and children in the choir find strength, comfort and an outlet for their anxiety in their choir performances – a good thing because lots of terrible things happen in the course of 1940, both war related and not.

There’s an obvious love story, a sneaky love story and many non-romantic mini-plots.  The ending of a few are satisfying, the ending of a few others are realistic and left open, and a few – at least 1 – left me thinking there wasn’t enough information given for me to believe in their finality.  Overall though, it was a book that started slow, but efficiently pulled me in until I didn’t care to put it down again.  An enjoyable read.

Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading

Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood ReadingBookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading
by Lucy Mangan
Rating: ★★★★½
isbn: 9780224098854
Publication Date: March 1, 2018
Pages: 322
Genre: Books and Reading, Memoir
Publisher: Square Peg

When Lucy Mangan was little, stories were everything. They opened up different worlds and cast new light on this one.

She was whisked away to Narnia - and Kirrin Island - and Wonderland. She ventured down rabbit holes and womble burrows into midnight gardens and chocolate factories. No wonder she only left the house for her weekly trip to the library.

In Bookworm, Lucy brings the favourite characters of our collective childhoods back to life and disinters a few forgotten treasures poignantly, wittily using them to tell her own story, that of a born, and unrepentant, bookworm.


Were you a bookworm as a kid?  I was.  I was even voted “Class Bookworm” in 7th grade – a category they made up just for me.  I was the kid with the book inside the text book during school lectures.  So when I saw this a few years ago, I thought … maybe.  As much as I enjoy most books about books, I figured the title was likely to be an overstatement and I’d be reading a sedate, literary criticism of childhood books.  The front flap reinforced this suspicion.  Which is why it sat on my shelves for so long.

Oh, how wrong – and kinda right – I was.  Lucy Mangan is a true bookworm; back in the day, she’d have given me a run for the title and the award.  She was also way better read than I was, so there is some lit criticism here, but it’s fabulous lit criticism; she’s hilarious and she’s rational and she’s so very real.

On Enid Blyton:

I can barely bring myself to talk about my Enid Blyton.

Like generations of children before me,
and like generations since (she still sells over 8 million
copies a year around the world) I fell head over heels in
love. No, not love – it was an obsession, an addiction. It
was wonderful.

It was an older girl that got me into the stuff. Becky-
next- door lent me her copy of something called Five on a
Secret Trail. It was a floppy, late 1970s Knight Books
edition with, I believe, the original 1950’s illustrations
inside. I read it. It was good. Very good. I enjoyed it. I
enjoyed it very much. I asked Becky if she had any more.
She did. It was called Five Run Away Together. I read it. It
was good. Very good. Possibly even better than Five on
a Secret Trail. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it very much. I
noticed it had a number ‘3’ on the spine. Five on a Secret
Trail had a ’15’. What did that mean? I decided to look for
clues. Even without a loyal canine companion to help me,
it didn’t take long. The endpapers carried a
list. Apparently Enid Blyton had written twenty-one
books! What excellent news! What riches! What vital.
absolutely essential riches!

I took the news and the list to my parents. I’m going
to need all of these,’ I said, gently.

And so it began.

And on C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series being a Christian allegory:

The tale of Lucy Pevensie discovering the secret
world beyond the wardrobe door is a story about
courage, loyalty, generosity, sacrifice and nobility versus
greed, conceit, arrogance and betrayal. You can call the
former Christian virtues, or you can just call them
virtues, let the kids concentrate on the self-renewing
Turkish delight, magically unerring bows and hybrid
man-beasts and relax.

Reading this, I feel like I missed out on something amazing by not living down the road from Lucy.  I suspect we’d have had a lot of fun swapping books and comparing notes.  But it was a joy to read her memoirs now and in so doing take a trip down the memory lane of my own reading.

Mangan primarily recounts her childhood reading in a fun and often funny style, but she also dips lightly into the historical aspects of Children’s literature here and there, when the subject matter seems to call for it – a specific genre, or the roots of illustrations.  These bits are less engaging, more straightforward, and in context with the whole, makes the pace drag a tiny bit when you get to them.  They’re interesting, but they’re not entertaining.

Because Mangan’s writing style is very conversational, the sentences that include many clauses and often long parentheticals can sometimes be hard to follow.  This was probably my only criticism – not that I didn’t enjoy the style, because I absolutely did – it’s just once or twice, by the time the sentence ended, I had forgotten how it began.

Admittedly, a large number of the books that Lucy Mangan covers are books unknown to me.  I expected this because she was growing up in London, and I was growing up in tiny town Florida.  But I was delighted at how often our book titles did converge, and how many titles that, even if I didn’t read them, I was familiar enough with to easily follow along.

The author has written a few other books, and I enjoyed this one so much, that I’m interested to discover what they’re about and see about getting my hands on one or two.

DNF: A Fiancée’s Guide to First Wives and Murder

A Fiancée's Guide to First Wives and MurderA Fiancée's Guide to First Wives and Murder
by Dianne Freeman
Rating:
isbn: 9781496731609
Series: Countess of Harleigh Mystery #4
Publication Date: October 8, 2021
Pages: 295
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: Kensington

For Frances Wynn, widow to the late Earl of Harleigh, life has a cosmopolitan flavor of late. No sooner has she sent her mother and daughter off on a shopping trip to Paris than she and her fiancé, George Hazleton, are socializing with visiting members of the Russian royal family. Yet amid this whirlwind, scandal also comes calling when Inspector Delaney turns up outside Frances's house with a young French woman with a shocking claim: she is Mrs. George Hazelton.

As the future Mrs. George Hazelton, Frances assumes the woman is either lying or demented. "Mrs. Hazelton," aka Irena, makes other outrageous statements. Among them, she insists that she is the illegitimate daughter of Russian royalty, that she has been abducted and held for ransom many times, and that someone is sending her threatening letters. When George arrives, he clarifies that he is certainly not married to Irena--though he can confirm her royal parentage. But even as he agrees to investigate whether Irena's life is in danger, her claim proves tragically true. Irena is found strangled in Frances' garden.

To uncover a killer--and clear their own names--Frances and George must determine which of Irena's outlandish stories were based in fact, and who stood to benefit from her death. And as the search reaches a shocking conclusion, they may find that villainy lurks all too close to home...


It’s rare that I DNF a book, and I enjoyed the first three of this series, but I got 45 pages in and … a big fat no.

I’m never going to be able to suspend my belief enough to read about a spoiled rotten by-blow of the Russian royal family who baldly lies about being the MC’s fiancé’s wife so she can blackmail him into investigating someone sending her letters.

In an age where a woman would be sent to a sanitarium for merely reading the wrong book, the idea that this silly child could successfully throw this tantrum and manipulate the main characters is beyond ridiculous.  I don’t care that she does end up dead, it’s a terrible, weak premise.