Jane Steen is a new to me author, so when I won a copy of Lady Helena Investigates, I really had no expectations for it. It seemed like something I might like, and as it turns out, I did like it quite a lot.
The Scott-De Quincy family is an old, aristocratic family. Helena, regrettably called "Baby" by her older sisters, is the sixth daughter in a rather spread out family of seven siblings, older only than her brother Michael, the much anticipated male heir. Because of the huge gaps in their age and because of her arrival later in her parent's life, Helena was quite doted upon as a child. In adulthood, this translates to everyone thinking they know best for her and a few even thinking they can control her life for her. Despite being a married, and now widowed woman, her family is very slow to realize that Helena is her own person. Added to this tension are the questions about her husband's untimely death and the suspicion raised by a local doctor that it may not have been accidental. Several secondary figures play a key role in the mystery, but it's unclear on the outset how everything adds up.
I do admit that the story started out a bit slow for me. Though now I know exactly who everyone is, there are a lot of siblings and because they are so much older, many nieces and nephews as well. I think a cast of characters before the novel starts would be helpful especially at the beginning of the novel. However, now having "met" everyone through the pages of this book, I feel quite familiar, and don't think I'd have trouble remembering everyone in a second book. The siblings themselves all have varying and unique characteristics. I especially loved her artistic sister, Ophelia, and her younger brother, Michael, who has trouble socializing and communicating with others, but as the only son, feels utterly responsible for them all.
The mystery is also a bit of a slow burn, however, it ends up being very layered, and it turns out, there is more than just the suspicion surrounding her husband's death. As a mystery, the novel is good, but as a study of the times as well as the dynamics of a family with big and varied personalities, and where Helena fits into it all is probably what kept me reading. Helena herself even admits that the mystery was solved with very little action on her part, but rather out of circumstances and her own curiosities that happened to coincide with it. Although one could argue, acting at all was out of character for a woman in Victorian times, so in that way, it felt realistic. As this is the first in what the author says will be a series with several books, perhaps her more investigative side will come out later. As it is, Lady Helena is an easy character to support, and despite finding this one to start out slow, it won me over easily with the lovely characterization and the hints of romance (and even a bit of mystery in that regard as well).
I won a copy of this book in a giveaway. I was not required to post a review; this review is my honest opinion.