A Lady in Disguise
By Sandra Byrd
Published by Howard Books
384   pages

ABOUT BOOK: In this intriguing novel of romance, mystery, and clever disguise set in Victorian England, a young woman investigates the murder of her own father.

After the mysterious death of her father, Miss Gillian Young takes a new job as the principal costume designer at the renowned Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. But while she remembers her father as a kind, well-respected man of the Police Force, clues she uncovers indicate he’d been living a double life: a haunting photograph of a young woman; train stubs for secret trips just before his death; and a receipt for a large sum of money. Are these items evidence of her father’s guilty secrets? His longtime police partner thinks so.

Then Gillian meets the dashing Viscount Thomas Lockwood. Their attraction is instant and inescapable. As their romantic involvement grows, Gillian begins to suspect even Lockwood’s motives. Does Lord Lockwood truly love her? Or is his interest a front for the desire to own her newly inherited property? And what should she make of her friend’s suggestion that Lockwood or men like him were involved in the murder of her father?

Soon Gillian is convinced that her father has left evidence somewhere that can prove his innocence and reveal the guilty party. But someone wants to stop her from discovering it. The closer she comes to uncovering it, the more menacing her opposition grows. With her life on the line, Gillian takes on an ingenious disguise and takes on the role of a lifetime to reveal the true killer—before it’s too late both for her and for those that she loves.

REVIEW: Gillian leaves her father’s poorly attended funeral and stumbles upon a plain clothed police officer searching her home without permission. Why? What are they looking for?

“...Louisa said, “Scared us to death, it did, when he broke in. Didn’t expect to find us here, no doubt.” “Why would a policeman break in, I ask you, and one your father worked with at that?”

Gillian is a woman whose unexpectedly orphaned when her loving father turns up dead on a city street under questionable circumstances; accident-murder?  This left her in a precarious and dangerous predicament. She now understood how with no man to oversee her well-being; a woman can be taken advantage of and saw how it was possible some women found themselves in prostitution and/or sold. Why is she threatened by people who were once considered close friends? Who can she trust? Every time Gillian tries to uncover clues about her father’s accident and reputation-threatening people try to ruin her livelihood. Why? Gillian must decide if finding the truth is worth losing everything, including two potential romances and the ability to help a local charity that mentors young girls past the pantomime age for kids in the theater.

First potential suitor; Thomas Lockwood handsome next-door neighbor – every inch a gentleman. He’s eager to help her decide what needs to be fixed in her newly inherited house. Did he have feelings for her? Or was he after her house? She hadn’t a clue.

Then there’s Francis Collingsworth a childhood friend whose father was her father’s partner on the force. Suddenly Francis has the interest to court her. Why? At whose request did he do this, his or his fathers?

I loved the theatrical side to this story. I was fascinated by the method and materials Gillian worked with to make stunning seasonal dresses. I was also amazed at how Gillian went about designing gowns for the theatrical performance of Cinderella.

Gillian is strong willed, a woman of faith, naive to the ways of the world and often rushed out (by herself) to get information with little thought to her safety. I found myself holding my breath and wanting to yell, “what are you thinking? Don’t go in that empty house alone.” But she didn’t listen. Grin. …”I sat my bag down and began to walk through the rooms… “I laughed nervously. Why should I be thinking of screaming?”

I liked what the author said in notes to readers, “This book is a tribute to all those who invest in the lives of others, whether it be by providing means for them to escape the human misery that is trafficking, by providing jobs and a future through employment.”

This author saved the best for last in the newest Daughters of Hampton series. I was spellbound by this Victorian romance, suspense story. I was sorry to have it end. This makes for a wonderful summer read, a great book club pick and delightful conclusion to the series. I highly recommend it. It’s a keeper.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”

Nora St. Laurent
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