Review copy was received from Author. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
The Secret Life of Miss Mary Bennet by Katherine Cowley
Series: The Secret Life of Miss Mary Bennet #1
Published by Tule Publishing Group on April 22, 2021
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery
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Upon the death of her father, Mary Bennet’s life is thrown into turmoil. With no fortune or marriage prospects, Mary must rely on the kindness of her relatives. When a mysterious late-night visit by an unknown relative—a Lady Trafford from Castle Durrington—leads to an extended stay and the chance for an education, Mary gratefully accepts the opportunity.
But even as she arrives at the castle, she’s faced with one mystery after another. Who is Lady Trafford really and what is she hiding? Do her secrets and manipulations place the small seaside community at risk of an invasion by Napoleon Bonaparte? Always curious, Mary sets out to discover the truth. But when she discovers the dead body of a would-be thief she outed prior to her father’s funeral, Mary jeopardizes her position at the castle and her family’s good name in her quest for the truth.
Never underestimate the observation skills of a woman who hides in the background.
Always the overlooked, plain daughter, but what will she do with the chance to become something more? Lovers of underdog heroines, curious mysteries, and historical settings that bring the past to life need look no further for your reading pleasure. I was tickled to give this delightful debutant book in the series a go.
The Secret Life of Miss Mary Bennet is technically a sequel of Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen, but it is also something a great deal more. Mary Bennet is no one’s idea of a heroine with her social awkwardness, plainness, and prickly wall of defense she has learned to mount against neglect and hurtful remarks from her own family and beyond. However, the author brings the reader behind Mary’s wall and inside her heart and head to spy a young lady who wants what we all want- acceptance, friendship, love, find her place in the world, and to be comfortable in her own skin.
This book faithfully portrays this stumbling, bumbling attempt on Mary’s part to grow and become more in the face of a recently deceased father who she wished had thought her worthy, and an indifferent mother who feels nothing for her but exasperation and sisters, older and younger, who have always been too caught up in their own lives to see past her prosy, pedantic speeches to the quivering bundle of socially inept girl inside who uses what she thinks are her great accomplishments to mask her inability to hold a normal conversation let alone display pleasing manners to others.
But, she does grow when she steps out of her comfort zone and accepts the invitation of a mysterious Lady Trafford and her nephew who agree to teach her while letting her stay with them in a castle on the English Channel near Worthing.
She falls down a few times and my heart ached for her, but, in her own way, this woman was scrappy and learned from her mistakes to get back up stronger and wiser to keep going. I was emotionally invested in her.
A murder happens, but Mary has already spotted some odd occurrences. Perhaps because others find her inadequate, like Lady Trafford’s nephew, Mary is determined to discover the truth behind the murder and determines to spy on several pivotal characters around her to find the answers on her own. I wanted Mary to succeed so much because here in lies her true skill. This gal observed so much and not only that, but her mind worked out the significance of her observations and discoveries. The book was slow at times, but when Mary was in investigation mode, I was riveted and was as anxious to get to the bottom of things as Mary.
As the reader, I had an inkling about some of the secrets going on around Mary and I really hoped I was right. At first, I didn’t realize that this was only the start of a series, The Secret Life of Miss Mary Bennett, which would follow Mary’s life adventures, but near the end, I was ecstatic to realize there was going to be more beyond the end of Mary’s discovery at the truth of the murder and I was right about those reveals. The author left things at a good place showing Mary had come far, personally, and that Mary had solved the mystery, but I love what was also liked where her future is headed.
All in all, this was a tough-fought character-driven and gently-paced, but engaging suspense-driven start of series. I suspect the later books will take off with the suspense and the character will grow even more intrepid in this Regency Era Napoleonic War Espionage mystery series I can definitely recommend.