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Unnatural Fire (Countess Ashby de La Zouche, #1)
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Unnatural Fire (Countess Ashby De La Zouche #1)

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3.56 of 5 stars 3.56  ·  rating details  ·  216 ratings  ·  37 reviews
Restoration London, 1699 -- Anastasia Ashby de la Zouche, Baroness Penge, Countess of Clapham, and former mistress to King Charles II, has astonishingly been jailed in debtors' prison. Joining forces with her loyal ex-maidservant, Alpiew, the formerly pampered and proper Countess sets out to make a living by working for the scandal sheets -- a line of work that inevitably...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published February 5th 2002 by Harper Perennial (first published January 1st 2000)
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Ruby Rose Scarlett
First things first: you HAVE to read this. What a find, I can't believe it's not more of a bestseller, it was so good! Unnatural Fire is the first in a series of mysteries featuring Countess Anastasia Ashby de la Zouche and her former maid Alpiew in Restoration England. It's for you if you like historical crime and it's definitely for you if you like comic mysteries or just want a good laugh really. It's such bawdy, outrageous fun! From the very first lines till the very last, time just flew by....more
Marnie
I started reading this thinking it would be a typical historical mystery and quickly disabused myself of that notion.Think Monty Python meets Mrs. Marple. Once I wrapped my head around the fact that this book was a farce I enjoyed the ride. The opening scene, where the Countess and her eventual sidekick Alpiew are introduced to the reader, had me laughing out loud.
The author obviously did her research and was historically accurate about the times. The Countess and Alpiew were well developed and...more
Susan
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Gail
"Romp" is exactly the right word for this book, although I didn't find it particularly light reading, which would seem counter-intuitive to a romp, but there you have it. It's not light, for me, because it's crammed full of Restoration-speak and references that I wasn't quite equipped to muddle through. So, a bit slow-going at first, but nonetheless fascinating and fun. The mystery had me going until the end, and the characters were funny and engaging and delightfully odd. What struck me, though...more
Judith
A former mistress of King Charles 11, fallen on hard times, is forced to become a hack for a local Scandal Sheet,,in cahoots with her former Maid...they are given a "case" to follow a supposedly Errant Husband..and
The Games Begin..

And here is where i give my Warning:
This book is a wonderful Comedy of Manners..a Satire..Slapstick Glorious...surrounding a not-bad Mystery...Ms Morgan is an expert in Restoration Comedy..and it shows...I loved this book for the Comedy (I needed a good laugh)..but th...more
Bee
This has, as Val McDermid said (it is quoted on the cover of my book) "a heady compound of wit, wisdom and wildness", but not in spades. I'd say it is a tangled mass of historical tidbits, intrigue, and silliness.

It reads as an overwritten but pleasantly amusing script for something not as good as Blackadder but trying to get there. When I say trying to get there sometimes it is bloody trying, other times it is amusing but forgettable.

Likes - the main characters aren't bad. I like that they're a...more
Lacey Lane
I really liked parts of this book and didn't like others. I like Alpiew, I can totally understand how having big breasts keep getting her in trouble. The countess on the other hand had moments of compassion and lucidity but other times was completely in her own reality. How she could ever let her husband come back and the ending....really! I'm having a hard time trying to comprehend their completely penniless state to her still being a somewhat respectable member of society. And the whole myster...more
Almeta
Really a fun series. What a great pair the brash Countess and her resourceful "maid" are!
Martin
Countess Ashby de la Zouche and her maid Alpiew trample around England during the Restoration period to uncover a mystery that reaches from the darkest alley to the highest wardrobe. As they run around London in the year 1699 they meet people from all walks of life and engage in every possible adventure that period had to offer.



I think I must have read this book with a skewed eye. I was expecting a historical murder mystery but instead this novel is a historical farce that plays lightly with mys...more
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
Set in Restoration England, this is the first in a series of mystery novels involving Lady Anastasia Ashby de la Zouche, former mistress to King Charles II, and her long-lost personal maid, Alpiew. Abandoned years ago by her ner-do-well husband, Anastasia is in debtors prison, struggling to eke out a living selling gossip to newspapers. After a quick reunion with Alpiew, they begin working together to make ends meet, and are hired to follow a noblewoman's philandering husband. Unsurprisingly, th...more
Beth
this book was strange. I really didn't think I was going to like it at first...it just took me a little longer to get into it. The writing and language of the book were a bit strange for me at first but later became quite endearing. I especially liked how the author used modern phrases although the book was set in the 1600's (I think- I'm horrible with history, I know it said in the book but I forget :) Anyway the little jokes were kind of a little nod to the modern reader. A fun little mystery...more
Susan
Actually, it's 'currently re-reading.' I'm a sucker for historical novels, and anachronisms and other suspicious slips just get me started on trying to find out what historians think 'really' happened. History isn't all that far from fiction, after all...
Alchemy and Newton are some of the really fascinating details of this book. I have some trouble with the rotten teeth, body odor and general poor hygiene of everybody involved, but it's true to life in the period, so I live with it. The story is...more
Debra
A fun romp in London in 1699. I read words I'd never seen before and learned, again, what a horrible place London was at that time... filthy stinky streets, unwashed people in dirty clothing, polluted Thames river, constant smog. No wonder people were getting sick all the time. But aside from that I really enjoyed this amusing little mystery that is investigated by a has-been countess and her maid. Great characters. Easy, quick read.
Sarah Wagner
I had trouble getting into this historical mystery set in late seventeenth-century London. While the author does an excellent job of invoking the spirit of the times and providing a rich picture of life during the period, the writing itself simply failed to entice me into the story. I did manage to finish it, though, and was rewarded by a interesting conclusion to the tale as well as a very amusing scene featuring Sir Issac Newton.
Garen
I am throwing in the towel. This book is a study of tortured language, (let's see, where can I insert a popular phrase from my 'restoration' thesaurus), mixed diction, inconsistent use of quotation marks, and a lot of wink-wink-nudge-nudge -eh-?which is neither bawdy nor witty . If there is a story here, and I've heard there is one, it would take a reader of greater tolerance than I to suss it.
MB
A very complicated mystery, with unconventional characters, and an interesting historical setting. I did find it confusing; scattered and a little difficult reading, but it is a first book. (And maybe I was just too distracted at the time.)

BTW, does anyone know how to pronounce Alpieu? (That bugged me the entire time.) Please comment if so.
Jana
I didn't care for the first few pages and almost gave up on this--but I'm glad I stuck with it. What an interesting period 1699 in London--and she really puts you there with so many possible scenarios-and a reader would never guess the ending. Strange, but great characters. The scene with Sir Isaac Newton hiding under the bed had me laughing out loud.
Dennis Fischman
The setting, Restoration-era England, is authentic. The characters are something out of a comic opera, but still likeable. The mystery is a real potboiler, but not a chear: all the elements needed to solve it are there. It's just that it takes alchemy to turn those elements into a solution.
Louise
A zany but clever mystery set in London in 1699. I had already read the second one in the series; this one was a little bit harder to get into but worth the effort. I am looking forward to the third one!
Sarah
Made it about halfway through before finally giving up. And I hardly ever throw in the towel with novels. This one had dry characters and a slow-moving plot, I just couldn't stay interested.
Phair
This was such a delightful story- hilarious cast of characters, fascinating and colorful setting, language that kept me chuckling away. This is a series I want to continue reading. More! more!
Elizabeth
Oh a delightful, distracting read. Little literary value, but certainly an entertainment. It was worth the $1 I paid at the Newark Public Library used book sale :-)
Clover White
It's an interesting time period, but I didn't really care for the main character, the Countess. Probably wouldn't bother reading the rest of the series.
Elizabeth
The fact that the Countess could be so smart on the one hand some times and so very, very stupid and blind two seconds later is what did me in.
Edward Butler
Vivid characterizations are the highlight of this sprightly historical mystery set in late 17th century London. I'll definitely read more of these.
jjl
I had so much fun reading this book. The characters were funny and the mystery was fun. It was just an all around enjoyable book.
Christine Verstraete
I like it. The time and title intrigued me. The writing can be a little "literary" and heavy at times, but the story is good.
Marguerite Kaye
I loved this, a totally new take on the historical genre, and it was so witty, in places I was laughing out loud. Fabulous.
Delphine
Très drôle. Des choix de traductions laissant à désirer, mais le roman est merveilleux, et merveilleusement coquin par moments.
Hope
Feb 13, 2011 Hope marked it as abandoned
Shelves: mysteries
I gave it a good try, but I am not really enjoying this. The main characters are rather tiresome.
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Actor, writer, director and historian, Fidelis Morgan is the author of a series of mystery novels featuring the Countess Ashby dela Zouche and a cast of outrageous characters. The books have been described as ‘A 17th century Armistead Maupin’, ‘Flashman for Girls’ ‘A bawdy PG Wodehouse’ and ‘Cagney and Lacey in Corsets.’
She has published many influential non-fiction works, mainly about the sevent...more
More about Fidelis Morgan...
The Rival Queens (Countess Ashby de La Zouche, # 2) The Ambitious Stepmother (Countess Ashby de La Zouche, # 3) Fortune's Slave (Countess Ashby de La Zouche, # 4) The Murder Quadrille Wicked: Women's Wit and Humour from Elizabeth I to Ruby Wax

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“— Так, мальчик… — Графиня пошарила в кармане. — Ты доведешь нас еще за несколько пенсов до Солсбери-Корта?
— До Солсбери-Корта? Этого логова грубых и жестоких дикарей? Поздно ночью? В туман? И без мужской защиты? — Мальчик скорчил гримасу и пустился наутек, крича на ходу: — Ни за что на свете!”
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