Saturday, November 23, 2019

Review: The Vanished Bride by Bella Ellis

The Vanished Bride (Bronte Sisters Mystery, Book #1)
by Bella Ellis
Release Date: September 10th 2019
2019 Berkley Books
Kindle Edition; 293 Pages
ISBN: 978-0593099056
Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Historical
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Stars

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...

My Thoughts
The Vanished Bride is the first book in a new series featuring the Bronte sisters and I was thrilled to receive an ARC of this book.  I have been a huge fan of the sister when I first discovered them years ago during my Gothic literature phase having devoured Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre.  This story actually takes place before any of the sisters became famous and had actually written their famous works and due to circumstances beyond their control, has them all at home again. The author has taken actual facts from their lives and woven them into an interesting tale of intrigue and deception.

First of all, we meet the sisters who are all at home again struggling to find their purpose in life, unmarried, independent women who were striving to achieve something more than simply getting married and raising a family and living by the dictates of a man.  Being intelligent, with strong opinions, and a desire to learn and seek out adventures, the sisters quickly became interested in an intriguing local case involving a close friend as they learn the friend's mistress has simply vanished in the night leaving behind a lot of blood.  The sisters declare themselves 'detectors', something of which they recently read, and seek to solve the case.  What really intrigued me about the story was the way the women were treated by those around them and how they accomplished their 'detecting' which was often by being sneaky and bold.  Being unaccustomed to lying, they quickly realized they had to withhold the truth from their father and others in order to pursue their investigations, something with which they struggled.  I thought the author did a fantastic job showing a woman's limitations through the sisters' actions and how they interacted with others.  As women, finding ways to be sneaky in order to get one's way, seemed to be quite common.  Being independent, having to present oneself as meek and mild to men simply to get on in the world would have been frustrating for someone who was strong-willed, like the sisters.

The plot itself was quite interesting, with many more twists and turns than I expected, some of which I did not figure out.  The way the author wrote at the beginning, I thought it would be easy to figure out, but I was very, very wrong which totally intrigued me.  When you read a lot of mystery novels, it's easy to pick up on the red herrings after a while so I love it when I get 'caught', so to speak.  Turns out the mystery was more complex than I originally thought and enjoyed every minute of the explorations and investigations.  The meticulous research that went into the plot and the book is quite evident and how much the author cares about her subjects is quite evident.  I also thought the author did a great job showing how Emily and Charlotte may have gotten their inspiration for their books which was quite interesting.  

The Vanished Bride had a very subtle layer to it that was intriguing, a layer that explored women's rights and independence, or lack thereof, through the sisters investigations and explorations.  While the 'detecting' may have seemed light, the theme behind it was definitely not light at all and worthy of further exploration.  It was fun getting to know the sisters and their lives and I thought fact and fiction worked very well together in this book.  I am definitely looking forward to further 'detecting' adventures by this trio.