Book Review: The Lady’s Guide to Death and Deception by Katherine Cowley

Posted September 3, 2022 by meezcarrie in historical, Jane Austen, Katherine Cowley, mystery/suspense, romance / 1 Comment

The Secret Life of Mary Bennet #3

GENRE: Historical Mystery / Austenesque / Clean Romance
PUBLISHER: Tule Publishing
RELEASE DATE: September 6, 2022
PAGES: 349

What is a spy willing to do when both her heart and her country are at risk?

Life changes once again for British spy Miss Mary Bennet when Napoleon Bonaparte escapes from the Isle of Elba. Mary quickly departs England for Brussels, the city where the Allied forces prepare for war against the French. But shortly after her arrival, one of the Duke of Wellington’s best officers is murdered, an event which threatens to break the delicate alliance between the Allies.

Investigating the murder forces Mary into precarious levels of espionage, role-playing, and deception with her new partner, Mr. Withrow-the nephew and heir of her prominent sponsor, and the spy with whom she’s often at odds. Together, they court danger and discovery as they play dual roles gathering intelligence for the British. But soon Mary realizes that her growing feelings towards Mr. Withrow put her heart in as much danger as her life. And then there’s another murder.

Mary will need to unmask the murderer before more people are killed, but can she do so and remain hidden in the background?


Other Books In This Series


I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect when I picked up The Lady’s Guide to Death and Deception by Katherine Cowley. This is, after all, my first book by the author, and it’s usually not a good idea to jump into a series on the 3rd book. However, that’s exactly what I did in this case – and my reading experience did not suffer in the least. While I do have the first two books, I haven’t yet had time to read them, but it did not affect my enjoyment or understanding of this book at all. I found the plot to be easily followed, delightful to read, and engaging in every way. In fact, the romance only really comes into play in this third book so, although I’m definitely going back to read the whole trilogy in order, I’m also kinda glad I started with the romantic book. Because…. #kissingbooks

Mary Bennet is often the most overlooked character in Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. She’s awkward and bookish and overly prim. However, in the hands of Katherine Cowley’s creative imaginings, Mary blossoms into an endearing character with a heart of gold and a courageous spirit. Because – wait for it – Mary Bennet is now a spy for the Crown. Isn’t that just perfect?!? I thoroughly enjoyed watching how the author incorporated Mary’s quirks – which some might perceive as flaws – into assets and even into qualities that capture her partner Mr. Withrow’s heart. Readers get the sense that he has fallen in love with her because of these eccentricities (and what they show of her heart), not in spite of them. He also definitely brings out a new, bolder, side of her, as her feelings for him increase. I love this summary of Mary’s feelings toward one of their kisses:

“It was as if someone had managed to capture a year of happiness, put it in a jar, and then dispensed it all at once.”

Shortly after this book opens, Napoleon has escaped Elba and retaken France and is mounting an army, bringing the work that Mary, Mr. Withrow, Lady Trafford (and others) are doing all the more important. Brussels provides the stage for their drama to unfold – and there is definitely drama! Murders of high-ranking officials and rumors of war nip at their heels, causing Mary & Henry (Mr. Withrow) to employ whatever means necessary to root out critical information … and a killer. I especially loved the scenes where they go undercover as detectives Fothergill and Pike (both male – it was super fun to watch Mary deal with a mustache and male mannerisms), and I would love more books to that effect. Amid the intrigue swirling around them, Mary is also reacquainted with her sister Lydia – which brings about an entirely different kind of drama, one that will engage a wide range of emotions for readers.

Bottom Line: Oh, Mary Bennet – who knew you could be such a delight? I absolutely adored the way this author brought Austen’s underrated character to life on the pages of The Lady’s Guide to Death and Deception – with dignity, quirkiness, lots of heart, and incredibly plausible what-ifs. Before reading this novel I would never have said I could see Mary Bennet as a spy for the Crown; now, I can’t imagine her having any other future in the years after Pride & Prejudice. Warmth, wit, and a dash of swoony romance (those kisses!!) merge fabulously with the high-stakes intrigue in which she and Mr. Withrow (a lovely mix of Darcy & Knightley, with layers all his own) must engage. Fans of Jane Austen, Regency romance, and historical mysteries should not miss this book!

(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the publisher. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)

My Rating: 4.5 stars / loved it!

KissingBook Level: 3 / may forget to breathe on occasion

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Audiobook also available

Katherine Cowley read Pride and Prejudice for the first time when she was ten years old, which started a lifelong obsession with Jane Austen. Her debut novel, The Secret Life of Miss Mary Bennet, was nominated for the Mary Higgins Clark Award. Her Mary Bennet spy series continues with the novels The True Confessions of a London Spy and The Lady’s Guide to Death and Deception. Katherine loves history, chocolate, traveling, and playing the piano, and she has taught writing classes at Western Michigan University. She lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan with her husband and three daughters.

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Read an in-depth interview with author Katherine Cowley revealing insights into her new historical mystery novel, The Lady’s Guide to Death and Deception.

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