A NOVEL DISGUISE by Samantha Larsen
SERIES: A Lady Librarian Mystery #1
GENRE: Historical Cozy Mystery (Clean)
PUBLISHER: Crooked Lane Books
RELEASE DATE: May 16, 2023
When Miss Tiffany Woodall assumes the identity of her half-brother after his death, she realizes she isn’t the only one with a secret to hide in this historical series debut, perfect for fans of Deanna Raybourn and Sherry Thomas.
1784 London.Miss Tiffany Woodall didn’t murder her half-brother, but she did bury him in the back garden so that she could keep her cottage. Now, the confirmed spinster has to pretend to be Uriah and fulfill his duties as the Duke of Beaufort’s librarian while searching Astwell Palace for Uriah’s missing diamond pin, the only thing of value they own. Her ruse is almost up when she is discovered by Mr. Samir Lathrop, the local bookseller, who tries to save her from drowning while she’s actually just washing up in a lake after burying her brother.
Her plan is going by the book, until the rector proposes marriage and she starts to develop feelings for Mr. Lathrop. But when her childhood friend, Tess, comes to visit, Tiffany quickly realizes her secret isn’t the only one hidden within these walls. The body of a servant is found, along with a collection of stolen items, and someone else grows mysteriously ill. Can Tiffany solve these mysteries without her own disguise being discovered? If not, she’ll lose her cottage and possibly her life.
“Of all the ridiculous predicaments to find herself in.”
What a fun & original historical cozy! It’s unlike any cozy I’ve read to date, and the author’s charming writing voice immediately drew me into the story world and its characters. Murder, secrets, and books abound, and the English village setting is perfect for the drama that plays out on its pages.
We meet Tiffany right away, a spinster celebrating her 40th birthday in a most unique way – by burying her odious and recently-deceased half brother in the back yard of their cottage and concocting a desperate plan to keep him alive. Because if Uriah doesn’t appear to be dead, then Tiffany can stay in the home she loves and not be left to the community’s mercy – with the added bonus of being out from under his oppressive control. Luckily, she could pass as his twin, in appearance and mannerisms, so it’s merely a matter of dressing in his clothes & wig and showing up for his job as the Duke’s librarian – the dream job for someone who loves books as much as Tiffany does! Sounds simple enough, right? Yeah… well… “what a tangled web” and all that. Cue some comedic tight spots for our intrepid heroine, but also be prepared for your heart to swell as Tiffany tastes freedom for the first time in years.
I loved the layered exploration of prejudice and injustice, not only toward women in that time period but also by race and by class. It doesn’t bog down the story or turn it into a treatise on rights. Rather, it lends authenticity to the plot, lightly turns the mirror toward society then and now, and provides a framework for the main narrative – namely, that of murder and mystery. You see, it’s not long before Tiffany is both falling in love with the local bookseller and entangled in a murder mystery – either of which could unravel her dual identity with dire rapidity. I enjoyed watching her navigate these obstacles, juggle being two people at once, and solve at least one murder just as much as I loved the spark of a possible romance between Samir and Tiffany for future books (what did he want to say there at the end? I must know!).
Bottom Line: A Novel Disguise by Samantha Larsen thoroughly entertained me from beginning to end, and I wasn’t yet ready for it to be over when I turned the final page. In fact, I hope that it’s the first of many books to come in this series. While the murder mystery and a couple of other subplots are neatly tied up by the end, the author has also done a fabulous job of setting the stage for Tiffany’s life from this point forward and I’m dying (bad pun) to see where she takes it. There are also a couple of ramifications from the way things ended here that make me curious to see how they affect her further down the road. The mystery itself is cleverly presented, and I didn’t start to put the actual pieces together until about the same time that Tiffany did. Most of all, I loved watching her breathe in her newfound freedom even despite her need for subterfuge, and I really loved that she continued to think of others in the process.
(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!
Samantha Larsen has degrees from Brigham Young University, the University of Reading (Berkshire, England), and the University of North Texas. She met her husband in a turkey sandwich line. They live in Salt Lake City, Utah, where she spends most of her time reading, eating popcorn, drinking tea, and chasing her kids. She also writes historical romance under Samantha Hastings.
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