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Saturday, March 25, 2017

A Lady In Disguise by Sandra Byrd

Gillian Young's father has recently passed away under mysterious circumstances, leaving her a townhouse and a country manor. She has a home and can provide for her needs by designing and sewing gowns for a Lady and costumes for the theater. Thomas Lockwood, a viscount, is her country neighbor. Is he interested in her or her land? Francis Collingsworth, a constable, and son of her father's partner is also interested, but in what? Sandra Byrd has created a delightful mixture of gothic romance and Victorian morals with a touch of the Gospel added to the story. I loved the mystery of never knowing who was truly on Gillian's side. the plot was engrossing and I had trouble putting the book down to sleep at night. A truly enjoyable read.

From Amazon:
 In this intriguing novel of romance, mystery, and clever disguise set in Victorian England, a young woman investigates the murder of her own father.

After the mysterious death of her father, Miss Gillian Young takes a new job as the principal costume designer at the renowned Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. But while she remembers her father as a kind, well-respected man of the Police Force, clues she uncovers indicate he’d been living a double life: a haunting photograph of a young woman; train stubs for secret trips just before his death; and a receipt for a large sum of money. Are these items evidence of her father’s guilty secrets? His longtime police partner thinks so.

Then Gillian meets the dashing Viscount Thomas Lockwood. Their attraction is instant and inescapable. As their romantic involvement grows, Gillian begins to suspect even Lockwood’s motives. Does Lord Lockwood truly love her? Or is his interest a front for the desire to own her newly inherited property? And what should she make of her friend’s suggestion that Lockwood or men like him were involved in the murder of her father?

Soon Gillian is convinced that her father has left evidence somewhere that can prove his innocence and reveal the guilty party. But someone wants to stop her from discovering it. The closer she comes to uncovering it, the more menacing her opposition grows. With her life on the line, Gillian takes on an ingenious disguise and takes on the role of a lifetime to reveal the true killer—before it’s too late both for her and for those that she loves.

From the author:

From the Author
An interview with Sandra by Jenny Quinlan of Let Them Read Books.

What inspired you to take on the Gothic genre? I loved reading old-school Gothic romances, ones filled with atmosphere and suspense, such as those written by Victoria Holt, but I found it difficult to find many new ones still written with the "traditional ingredients."

As an author, I also wanted to update the concept a little for modern readers, and put my own spin on it, as authors will. I like more of the hero on the page than was present in many of the Gothic romance novels of years past, and I like my heroines to be a little bit less waifish and a little stronger minded than was popular then. I wanted to include just a wee bit more hard history, and I like weaving in an element of faith. But I tried my best to stick to the elements many readers expect from a Gothic romance, which might include:
A large country house in need of attention and affection, already in disrepair. In some ways, the house represents the heroine.

A Byronic hero, who might be questionable and always conflicted. The heroine falls in love, but she has to know before she commits - will he prove true?

Characters--especially servants, but others, too--that may be untrustworthy; our heroine does not know and must puzzle it out.

Psychological underpinnings, perhaps including madness or a suspicion of it.

A supernatural element, whether naturally explained or not.

Parents who are not present or who are dead, so the heroine must rely on her own wit and resources.
Women in the Victorian Era were defined and constrained by strict social mores and expectations. Can you talk a bit about creating a heroine from that era that today's readers can still identify with? They had major constraints, and the heroines in my books cannot just solve their problems like you or I might - but I love them the more for that; they are forced to cleverly use the tools at hand. Truthfully, all of us, then and now, are constrained in some way from the full self-determination we would prefer, and perhaps that is one way we identify with them. And yet ... the human spirit, a strong woman's spirit, faces those challenges head on, tries to think through what she wants, and then plots a way toward it. When roadblocks occur, she finds a way over, around, or through. That was true a thousand years ago and is still true, now.

The very freedom of our age has wrought a new set of challenges. But we still find a way to triumph. Seeing women do that, then, encourages me as a woman to do that, now. If they can be contenders, so can I!

Also - we must all be risk-takers to gain what we want: love, respect, a meaningful life, and personal fulfillment. Today's readers certainly have that in common with yesterday's women, my historical heroines.

How does your faith shape the inspirational aspects of your fiction? My faith is central to my worldview and interests, so it informs the subjects I pursue in my books. Honestly, I felt it would be anachronistic to write about 19th Century England and not have any mention of or interaction with faith; it was completely integrated into daily and weekly life. It interests me how a strong Christian woman approaches challenges in her era and setting. I don't set out, in fiction, to teach, only to show and reveal and understand through the heroine's eyes. Hopefully, that makes a good story whether the reader is a Christian or not!

I was given this book by for review purposes. All thoughts are my own.