Book Review (and a Giveaway!): Once Upon a Murder by Samantha Larsen

Posted February 17, 2024 by meezcarrie in Book Review, cozy mystery, giveaway, historical, mystery/suspense, Samantha Larsen / 12 Comments

Once Upon a Murder book review

Once Upon a Murder by Samantha LarsenONCE UPON A MURDER by Samantha Larsen
A Lady Librarian Mystery #2

GENRE: Historical Cozy Mystery (Clean)
PUBLISHER: Crooked Lane Books
RELEASE DATE: February 20, 2024
PAGES: 298

Miss Tiffany Woodall must sleuth the slaying of a footman to clear her beloved’s name in the second Lady Librarian mystery, in the vein of Deanna Raybourn and perfect for fans of Bridgerton.

1784 England. Officially hired as the librarian for the Duchess of Beaufort, Miss Tiffany Woodall is through with masquerades and murders for good. That is, until she stumbles upon the frozen dead body of former footman Mr. Bernard Coram. The speed with which her peaceful new life is upended is one for the record books: the justice of the peace immediately declares her the primary suspect in the murder.

As Tiffany hunts for the truth to clear her name, she learns that Bernard got into a fight over a woman at the local pub the night of his death–but he was also overheard blackmailing Samir. The justice of the peace arrests Samir, and Tiffany realizes that her life may have more in common with a tragic play than a light-hearted romance.

With her love locked up in jail and her own reputation on the line, Tiffany must attempt to solve the murder before the book closes on her or Samir’s life.


Other Books In This Series

When I closed the final page of A Novel Disguise (book one in this series), I was eager to see where the author would take Tiffany’s character from there. She is such a unique historical fiction protagonist – a 40 year old spinster who masqueraded as her dead brother so people would think he was alive and therefore she could continue living in her home – and I couldn’t wait to see how the ramifications of the events in that book (including her growing feelings for the local bookseller) and the new independence she subsequently experiences would play out in Once Upon a Murder.

Poor Tiffany. It’s bad enough that she’s suffering from her time of the month (complete with cramps), the weather is abysmal, and she is running late for work at the palace library. But of course she has to literally stumble over the body of an odious rogue and land face-first in the mud to boot. The mystery that progresses from there has some intriguingly unpredictable layers, not to mention several women around town sporting unexplained bruises and several men willing to come to their defense. I admit to falling for a couple of red herrings and hadn’t quite pieced it all together yet by the time Tiffany did so. Mainly because I was distracted by several twists in Tiffany’s personal life that I didn’t see coming (and I’m still not sure how I feel about the way everything ended up). And for all that Tiffany delighted me in the first book, in this novel the Duchess and her young son stole the show – and my heart. I loved the friendship that develops between Catharine and Tiffany, and the Duchess’s little boy is so precociously adorable. He made me smile every time he was on the page.

If I’m being honest though, aside from the enjoyable mystery elements, Once Upon a Murder felt unnecessarily – and oddly – earthy to me. There was too much focus on Tiffany’s menstrual cramps and her bloody rags, as well as the messy and intimate details of childbirth and nursing and babies. There is no shame in any of this, of course, but so much time given to them in a historical cozy mystery felt incongruous and ultimately proved off-putting for me.

Bottom Line: Take one unique amateur sleuth, a complicated bookseller, an adorable little boy, a powerful Duchess, a villainous victim, and a town full of suspects. Mix them into the Georgian era of British history and raise the personal stakes, and you’ve got an entertaining mystery that is more complex than it first appears. In Once Upon a Murder, author Samantha Larsen also explores deeper and important layers such as racism, assault, infidelity, and abuse, though the out-of-place (at least to me) focus on bodily functions was distracting. While I didn’t enjoy this book quite as much as I did the first one, I nevertheless stayed engaged in the mystery from start to finish.

(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: 3.5 stars / liked it!

Reviewer’s Note: Readers may want to be aware that there are some crude terms for women scattered throughout this novel.

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Samantha Larsen

Samantha Larsen 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, having tea parties, and chasing her four kids. She has degrees from Brigham Young University, the University of North Texas, and the University of Reading (UK). She also writes historical romances under Samantha Hastings. Learn more at

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12 responses to “Book Review (and a Giveaway!): Once Upon a Murder by Samantha Larsen

  1. Kay Garrett

    Thank you for your review on ONCE UPON A MURDER by Samantha Larsen and for introducing me to a new to me author.

    Sounds like a wonderful cozy. I’d love the opportunity to read and review it.

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