I am excited to welcome Kate Parker today!
I stayed up late into the night finishing The Counterfeit Lady!
By Kate Parker
In The Counterfeit Lady, my heroine, Georgia Fenchurch, experiences a summertime heat wave. She lives in late Victorian London, before air conditioning, electrically run refrigerators, and swimming pools. Cooking or lighting a fire is going to give off lots of heat. What is Georgia going to do?
Open windows. Stay out of the sun. Enjoy summer fruits, including those brought from the Mediterranean countries on refrigerated steam ships that made a favorite summertime drink, lemonade, possible. Anyone who could afford it would travel out of London to the seaside or the countryside, looking for relief everywhere from the Isle of Wight to Scotland. This era began beach vacations in England with the arrival of inexpensive train tickets and the building of summer resorts along the coast.
Georgia is a bookshop owner. She expects to continue to suffer through the London heat wave selling books and magazines to people too hot to do anything but read. She and her assistant Emma are busy in the shop, leaving the front and back doors open to catch any breeze. She isn’t about to lay a fire or have Phyllida cook anything but the lightest meals. And since this story is told about late-Victorian times, all three women are working in the heat while wearing corsets!
Then the Duke of Blackford returns to Georgia’s life, asking her to help him with a case of murder and espionage. A set of blueprints for Britain’s revolutionary new warship have been stolen from the study of the ship’s designer and his wife has been murdered. The designer’s wife was a cousin of Lady Phyllida, and when Phyllida learns of the killing, she wants Georgia to find the person responsible.
The duke also wants Georgia’s help because Scotland Yard believes the designer killed his wife and burned the blueprints to give himself an alibi. Why else have a fire in the fireplace on the hottest day of the year?
Georgia has another theory. The windows to the study were wide open and the killer could have left that way with the ship drawings. But why did the dead woman order the fire?
The duke believes the theft was engineered by the spies of a nation embroiled with Britain in the naval arms race of the 1890s. And no one had a better spy network or had invested more in the warship-building race than the Germans. The duke believes a German diplomat is their master spy and is waiting for receipt of the ship plans.
The Archivist Society, the organization of sleuths that Georgia belongs to, is called in to help locate the plans and the killer. Georgia is assigned the task of entering aristocratic society as a newly-arrived widow from the British Empire. With the help of Lady Phyllida who enters the upper-crust society she’s been hiding from for many years, Georgia begins the role of the duke’s paramour. Emma serves as their lady’s maid while passing messages to the Archivist Society and questioning the servants.
Now Georgia learns how the other half beat the heat. Sleep during the day and attend soirees at night with all the windows open, or travel away from London to country house parties. But there’s no rest for Georgia, who works in her bookshop while society women sleep and plays her roll tracking the spy through high society in the cool of the evening.
My interest in how people beat the heat in Georgia’s time comes from stories I’ve heard. When I was young, an elderly relative told me about a heat wave in the city she lived in. People brought out blankets each night and slept under the stars in the city parks. The police had to increase their patrols to prevent burglaries in all these empty households. And this was from a very proper relative who never went camping!
The first books Kate Parker read as a child were Nancy Drew mysteries and her mother’s Agatha Christie novels, and now she can’t write a story without someone dropping dead by chapter five. After years living in the Nation’s Capital, Kate moved to the South and began crafting historical mysteries. The first of the Victorian Bookshop mysteries, The Vanishing Thief, came out in December 2013 with the next, The Counterfeit Lady, arrived this August.
The Counterfeit Lady
(A Victorian Bookshop Mystery)
2nd in Series
A Berkley Prime Crime Mystery
The Berkley Publishing Group (August 5, 2014)
Published by The Penguin Group
Cover Illustration by Teresa Fasolino
Cover Design by George Long
Trade Paperback: 320 pages
E-Book File Size: 1466 KB
Who would suspect antiquarian bookseller Georgia Fenchurch of leading a double life—as a private investigator for the clandestine Archivist Society in Victorian London? When England’s national security is compromised, Georgia must pose as a titled lady to root out a spy…
Georgia, Lady Phyllida Monthalf and Emma return in this second Victorian Bookshop Mystery, as do the members of the Archivist Society and The Duke of Blackford. This time of Lady Monthalf’s cousin Clara has been killed and a set of very important blueprints stolen. Clara’s husband has been arrested for treason and his wife’s murder. The Duke of Blackford enlists Georgia, Emma and Lady Phyllida’s help to catch the real killer. The fun begins when Georgia learns she will be playing the part of the duke’s new paramour, as if she doesn’t already get nervous enough around him. Georgia, a middle class bookshop owner posing as a titled Lady, what could go wrong? Well as we have learned with Georgia anything and everything.
Georgia is an extraordinary character and she is doing double duty trying to keep her bookshop afloat with a little help from her Archivist Society members while dashing off to party after party on the arm of the Duke, all in an effort to find the missing plans and the person responsible for a very brutal murder. She is a very intelligent woman but at times the clues take both her and the reader in circles. Plus she finds herself more and more drawn to the Duke of Blackford. Her mind knows a relationship between classes is highly unlikely but her heart is full of hope.
I thought the story had a real Cinderella vibe. From the moment the plan was put together both Georgia and Emma, who is acting at “Lady Georgina’s” maid, are treated to new clothes and all the accessories. Georgia attends fancy balls and dinners with the Duke arriving in the most beautiful carriages.
The mystery was quite good too as it appears that only Clara and her husband Kenneth were in a locked room when the robbery and murder took place. There are several suspects but placing them in that room is tough. Remember this story is set in Victorian times, no CSI techs checking for fingerprints and DNA.
I started reading this book on a beach during our recent Family Fun Day and I quickly noticed this was a book that needed my full attention, so I put it away and picked it back up as soon as I could the next evening and finished it at 2:14 a.m. the next morning. Once I started reading I just could not stop.
Parker takes us back in time and keeps us on our toes with very interesting characters, history and mystery. She adds a nice balance of humor and romance too. The dialogues were very entertaining. Anxious for book #3.
Thanks to the people at Penguin I have 2 copies to give away!
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. 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.”