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Scott-De Quincy Mysteries #1

Lady Helena Investigates

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A reluctant lady sleuth finds she’s investigating her own family.

Step into Lady Helena Whitcombe’s world with the first novel in a series that will blend family saga and mystery-driven action with a slow-burn romance in seven unputdownable investigations.

1881, Sussex. Lady Helena Scott-De Quincy’s marriage to Sir Justin Whitcombe, three years before, gave new purpose to a life almost destroyed by the death of Lady Helena’s first love. After all, shouldn’t the preoccupations of a wife and hostess be sufficient to fulfill any aristocratic female’s dreams? Such a shame their union wasn’t blessed by children . . . but Lady Helena is content with her quiet country life until Sir Justin is found dead in the river overlooked by their grand baroque mansion.

The intrusion of attractive, mysterious French physician Armand Fortier, with his meddling theory of murder, into Lady Helena’s first weeks of mourning is bad enough. But with her initial ineffective efforts at investigation and her attempts to revive her long-abandoned interest in herbalism comes the realization that she may have been mistaken about her own family’s past. Every family has its secrets—but as this absorbing series will reveal, the Scott-De Quincy family has more than most.

Can Lady Helena survive bereavement the second time around? Can she stand up to her six siblings’ assumption of the right to control her new life as a widow? And what role will Fortier—who, as a physician, is a most unsuitable companion for an earl’s daughter—play in her investigations?

A new series by Jane Steen, author of the House of Closed Doors series that has delighted thousands of fans (over 300 5-star reviews on Amazon and over 700 5-star ratings on Goodreads.) If you’re looking for an unputdownable Victorian mystery saga, here’s where you start!

391 pages, ebook

First published March 14, 2018

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About the author

Jane Steen

10 books819 followers
Dear Reader,

Welcome to my page. Now, I could talk to you about myself in the third person, as if my author-self were someone else, but instead let me give you the Most Important Fact:

I was named after Jane Eyre.

I swear that this decision of my mother's influenced my entire life. I've always felt that I lead only half my existence here (here being wherever I happen to be) while the much more interesting stuff goes on in my head.

It also doomed me to spend most of that head-time in the nineteenth century, hence my books. My aim is to write entertaining fiction that hovers somewhere in the PG range (no graphic sex or nasty stuff unless the plot totally demands it) and is neither dumbed-down nor pretentiously intellectual. In short, it's the type of fiction I like to read when I just need to RELAX.

You can get to know me a lot better by subscribing to my newsletter.

The short biography is that I've lived in England, Belgium, the United States and England. The problem with moving around is that you end up torn between different countries and cultures; the advantage is that you get to speak more languages (my second language is French).

I've had an interestingly varied employment history (editor in a law firm, translating a Belgian aerospace magazine into English and real estate marketing spring to mind, but there were others), and have absorbed more education than is good for me. I'm married to a nice American, and have two adult daughters.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 420 reviews
Profile Image for Jane.
Author 10 books820 followers
February 15, 2018
Don't think it's cheating to add my own book to my reading challenge...given that the reason I don't have enough time for reading these days is that I've read this puppy ONE THOUSAND TIMES. At least, it feels like it.
Profile Image for Phrynne.
3,219 reviews2,051 followers
August 7, 2018
I am a sucker for a good historical mystery series and I think I have found another one although only the first book has been written yet.

Lady Helena Investigates takes place in Regency England and the author handles the attitudes and the way of life at that time really well. The Lady Helena of the title is young and recently widowed and much of the story deals with how she struggles to remain independent from her big and busy family.

The mystery is the death of her husband and she is ably assisted in the search for his murderer by a charming French doctor who may not be all he seems. It will be interesting to see where their relationship leads and what crimes they will set out to solve in the future
722 reviews306 followers
April 8, 2018
(3.5 stars) It's hard to imagine that we really need another Regency or Victorian woman of the peerage running around solving mysteries in her very own series. After all, there's already Lady Julia Grey (Deanna Raybourn), Lady Emily (Tasha Alexander), Lady Darby (Anna Lee Huber), Lady Arianna Hadley (Andrea Penrose), Lady Katherine (Leighann Dobbs), and Lady Monfort (Tessa Arlen), to name just a few. And that doesn't count the female sleuths that are just plain Miss or Mrs.

But now let's add on Lady Helena Scott-DeQuincy. It's 1881 and her husband is found drowned on their estate. Only married for three years, she's a young woman and the second youngest of a spread of various siblings, the eldest a sister 22 years her senior and the very youngest her 23-year-old brother Michael, the Earl of Broadmere (after the death of their father some years earlier). This whole family is slightly dysfunctional and there will be certain secrets and lies to uncover about the past within the pages of this book.

Although Michael is the youngest, he is the only male and, as earl, is head of the family, so Helena, being the next youngest and also of the lesser female gender, is treated like a baby by the rest of her family. They even call her "Baby" instead of using her perfectly lovely name. Everyone knows what's best for her. She doesn't need to worry her little head about making any life decisions. She should just settle back and enjoy her new life as a rich and prosperous widow.

When her husband, Sir Justin Whitcombe, was found drowned, his death was ruled accidental. However, a certain mysterious French physician, Armand Fortier, who had been treating Sir Justin for a medical condition, expresses his concerns to Helena that the death might have been murder. Now the story is off and running.

Well, perhaps "running" is not really the word to use. The pacing of the story is somewhat slow and the mystery is not the most compelling part of it. What interested me the most was the character-driven storyline and the familial relationships. The siblings, who have such a range of ages from eldest almost 50 to youngest 23, the mother suffering from dementia, Helen's nephew Thomas with a stutter and some physical disabilities, brother Michael, who appears to be a high-functioning autistic suffering from a form of dyslexia. And, of course, there's Helena. She has to finally stand up for herself and learn to be her own person and to make her own decisions. One decision has to do with finally getting serious about her interest in herbal medicine and another has to do with certain relationships in her life.

This is the first in what appears to be a planned 7-book series. There is a "slow-burn romance" begun here which will continue to develop over the course of the series, and I'm assuming that we'll also be observing Lady Helena grow in confidence as a woman and as a solver of mysteries as the series progresses.

As a lover of bargains, I appreciate the economical price of this first book of the series and hope the rest will continue to be priced accordingly. Lots of bang for your buck here since the writing is good, the characters are well written, the relationships well developed, and the editing done well. The mystery itself wasn't my favorite part of this, but I expect that as the series progresses the mysteries themselves will become more compelling and complex. (At least I hope so.)
Profile Image for Cathy.
1,179 reviews215 followers
April 11, 2018
“I wonder – do we ever really know other people? Even those you see daily can have hidden lives.”

The book’s opening chapters provide helpful scene setting as recent tragic events in Lady Helena’s life are revealed and the reader is introduced to her extensive family. The death of her husband has turned Lady Helena’s life upside down. As well as the loss of a dearly-loved companion, as a widow her horizons are now severely constrained by the expectations of society. Not just expected to wear sombre mourning clothes for a year and a day but to remain in seclusion from society. To make matters worse, her brother is trying to persuade her to let him take control of the management of her estate and pressing her to consider marrying again as soon as the period of mourning is done. Still struggling to deal with her grief, Lady Helena also knows that to marry again, given the current law of the land, will have momentous consequences for her. ‘For the day I put my hand into a man’s – out of love, out of loneliness, or simply to please my family – the property that had once been Justin’s and was now mine, and the lives of those who had worked for us, would pass into the keeping of my new husband.’

Lady Helena’s interest in herbalism, inherited from her mother the Dowager Countess, now sadly losing her wits, is looked on with disdain by her brother and some of her sisters. For a woman in Lady Helena’s position, a husband, house and children is expected to be enough. However, Lady Helena’s studies play a part in revealing the true circumstances of her husband’s death. As events unfold, it transpires that the mystery of Sir Justin’s death is as nothing compared with the secrets within Lady Helena’s own family history.

French physician, Armand Fortier makes an engaging and amiable partner for Lady Helena in her investigations – very amiable, in fact. Not that he doesn’t have his own secrets it appears. However, it has to be said that external events and chance play a significant role in the resolution of the mystery, as Lady Helena is honest enough to admit. “Do you realize,” I said after a long stretch of silence, “that the truth has come to light with very little investigative effort on my part? This isn’t how it happens in novels.” [Love that the author allows herself that little joke.]

The enactment of an inconsequential sounding but actually quite significant piece of legislation offers Lady Helena the prospect of more control over her own future, allowing the author to adeptly set up events for the next book in the series.

I really enjoyed Lady Helena Investigates – a lovely example of a light, entertaining historical mystery. I received a review copy courtesy of the author and Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in return for an honest and unbiased review.
Profile Image for Merry .
575 reviews53 followers
April 18, 2022
I have been reading some books lately that do not fall into standard themes, and this is one of them. The title led me to believe it was a detective style book and it was not. It is a slice of life (and death) of the late 1800's Victorian era. How women are very restricted, and gossip abounds. I thought the book was about 100 pages too long and the mystery was solved in an odd way by the author. Also, there was some true evil that I never felt was really delt with by the characters. I am uncertain if I will read the next book, but I did enjoy the writing and character development.
Profile Image for Intisar Khanani.
Author 16 books2,204 followers
December 27, 2021
Gentle and slow moving, slightly off-kilter, definitely not an active murder mystery story, but I really enjoyed it. There *is* a murder, but Lady Helena only investigates it a little, and then just tries to do right by folks... and slowly, more comes out. This story is more about Helena's growth and recovery from her grief and loss (and also, a sometimes scathing portrayal of Victorian (?) society); the murder mystery is just the loose framework within which this takes place. I wasn't sure about the story at first, but Helena grew on me, and I'm glad I continued. Recommend, as long as you go in with a firm expectation that this is not your standard murder mystery.
Profile Image for Petra.
1,122 reviews12 followers
December 31, 2019
I stumbled on this book and thought it would make a good Summer read; and it did. I'm glad I picked it up.
This isn't so much a murder mystery as a maturing of self, family and society. At the start of this story, Helena is newly widowed, sheltered throughout her life and had no thought about her individuality, likes, dislikes or anything personal. Throughout this novel, Helena struggles to find her way and, in the process, finds herself on the path to independence. An interesting process. Set in a time when Victorian England was slowly beginning to see women as individuals, Helena's journey is timely.
This is also the story of a family of 7 siblings learning to live as a family of adults by accepting each other for who they are and to be there for the individual when needed. The maturation of this family as they bond was touching to read.
I admit that at the start of this book I thought it would be too light, too fluffy. But it became obvious that the author intended this as a way of showing Helena's naivity, her lack of control over her life and her disconnection from her Self, her needs, her wants.
I do hope the author continues this series. I would look forward to reading more about Helena and her family becoming more individual and accepting of each other while bonding as a solid, sturdy family.
Profile Image for Beth.
777 reviews314 followers
September 2, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Kal ★ Reader Voracious.
548 reviews189 followers
May 1, 2018
2.5 stars; more of a historical slow burn romance than a mystery. I would recommend this book to those who like slow burn romances and historical fiction surrounding English aristocracy; I likely would have enjoyed it a lot more had I not been expecting a murder mystery.

Lady Helena Investigates is a well written tale from the point of view of Helena, an aristocratic widow in 1881 England, shortly after the sudden and seemingly accidental death of her husband Justin. Jane Steen managed to capture the era of writing perfectly and I felt like I was reading a contemporary to Jane Eyre or Little Women, but unfortunately I struggled with this book from the very beginning and this book felt like 391 pages of prologue.

I will admit that a main reason that I did not like this book is that it was something other than I thought it would be. The description made it seem like the death and Fortier's theories of murder would play a larger role but was surprised to find that not to be the case. In fact there are a couple of mysterious deaths and other things that I would have expected Helena to... investigate. Essentially she uncovers the truth about things without any effort whatsoever in a strange deus ex machina fashion, only those revelations do not bring the narrative to a close.

While I know it was true of the period, I was also bothered by Helena's meekness and the fact that her family kind of bulldozed over her. I know that through the course of this book she is coming into herself and learning to stand up for herself, but personally I prefer female characters that are consistently strong and did not see that with Helena. Her brother's meddling and wanting to leverage her wealth for his own gain really just rubbed me the wrong way. And her sister Blanche is absolutely insufferable. And what is with trying to get her to remarry 9 days after her husband is dead, especially given the period's convention of a widow being in full mourning for a year?
It's like living in a pride of lions. The moment anyone in this family weakens, they're shoved to the margins and forced to feed on the scraps of attention the rest deign to throw their way.
I found this more of a period/historical drama with a slow burn romance being hinted at than a mystery and little character development - the entire book read like a prologue to me, so it is possible that the characters will be fully fleshed out in subsequent books in the series, but I do not think that I will continue with it.

cw: xenophobia, treatment of women as objects/unable to make decisions on their own

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher, Aspidistra Press, for providing me a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Misfit.
1,637 reviews279 followers
September 30, 2018
Ooops, I have been remiss in marking this one as read and rating it. I quite enjoyed this mystery, and it kept me guessing and looking forward to more as the widowed and wealthy Lady Helena is looking ahead to life on her own terms and lots of money to do it in, plus maybe a romance in the future?

Profile Image for Stephanie.
1,615 reviews74 followers
April 9, 2018
This is a very solid, enjoyable novel. The type of cozy mystery that you can curl up with on a rainy day, and have a nice time. I’m hoping the author continues this story in some way. And I may even read some of her other novels, soon!
3.5 stars, and recommended to anyone who loves Victoriana.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
Author 26 books550 followers
April 3, 2018
I haven't enjoyed historical fiction this much in years. While I was once a voracious reader and watcher of all things period and historical romance, I've since abandoned it for fantasy and it's many sub-genres. This year I decided to pick up historical titles again, which led me to Historical Fiction Book Tours and Jane Steen's Lady Helena Investigates.

From the beginning, Steen paints the era and imagery of the English countryside in beautiful shades, yet with air of mystery. I found it easy to step into Lady Helena's heeled boots as she suffers through the death of her husband, due to a tragic accident. Her large family attempts to micro-manage her life, as a woman naturally must need help managing such a richly-endowed title. Only now, with the freedom of widowhood, Helena chooses to assert her independent wealth. As she steps into her husband's shoes and begins an active role in her estate, unexplained questions arise surrounding her husband's death. An enlightened and mysterious French doctor aids her investigation, which soon leads them to places she never expected.

Jane Steen is a master storyteller, weaving the heartaches of grief with familial affairs and new relationships in a way which truly transcends time. Lady Helena Investigates challenges conventional period tropes while transporting the reader to a time as complex as ours, yet rife with the nostalgia modern audiences crave. Beautiful language and sensual prose, Jane Steen has gifted us with a modern classic.
Profile Image for Kylie H.
902 reviews
August 15, 2018
I really enjoyed this historical fiction mystery. Lady Helena finds herself a young, but wealthy widow struggling to prove to those around her, particularly her brother and older sisters, that she is capable of being independent and does not need to be married off again posthaste.
Through contact with the very handsome, but mysterious French physician Armand Fortier questions are raised as to whether her husbands sudden death was accidental or perhaps something more sinister. Helena finds her self discovering some ugly facts about her tenants and own family. Is the Frenchman to be believed? Is he attracted to her wealth or just a Frenchmen intent on seducing young women?
This book is a lovely exploration of a time when women were considered commodities and a lady of the aristocracy not to be exposed to vulgarities. It is Downtown Abbey meets Nancy Drew, as the lovely yet very naive Helena starts to become more worldly and wise to the needs of others. As well as finding a voice to stand up to her own family and take control of her life.
I am really looking forward to reading more in this series.
Thank you to Aspidistra Press and Netgalley for the opportunity to review this book.
Profile Image for eyes.2c.
2,429 reviews50 followers
April 24, 2022
Some fascinating threads to this mystery type Victorian gothic romance. I should have read this before I read Lady Ophelia’s Secret. Lady Helena’s brother Michael is an interesting character reminding me of a super scaled down Lord Ian MacKenzie. When oh when will Helena’s family stop calling her Baby!? So I drift between 3⭐️’s and 4 but have landed on three—though not convincingly.
Profile Image for Trish.
511 reviews
September 18, 2018
When we first meet Lady Helena of Lady Helena Investigates, she has just lost her beloved husband, Sir Justin Whitcombe. Her brothers and sisters have begun inserting themselves in her life and planning her future. When she meets her husband's physician, Armand Fortier, she is shocked to learn that the doctor thinks her husband was murdered. There is another mystery involving the tenant farmers on her estate ... and she is beginning studying herbalism as well.

I love historical fiction and especially enjoy historical mysteries. I found Lady Helena Investigates to be an engrossing novel from the first pages. Lady Helena is an intelligent, independent thinking woman in early 1880's England. I really enjoyed seeing her thought process and watching her emerging independence over the course of this novel.

I also found Armand Fortier a very interesting character, and I liked his interactions with Lady Helena.

The setting was beautifully done. The author, Jane Steen, has done a fine job of creating a world at the estate and the surrounding village. The period details were lovely. I loved some of the old fashioned words and phrases related to herbalism and 1880's life.

The mystery was well done and kept me guessing! I am glad to read that this is the first in a new series, because I already look forward to reading more.

I recommend Lady Helena Investigates highly for anyone who loves historical mysteries, Victorian manor house settings, and a smart, well written period piece novel.
Profile Image for N.N. Heaven.
Author 6 books1,822 followers
July 3, 2019
Lady Helena discovers her husband's body floating in the river and soon she investigating her own family. All families have secrets but it appears hers are much more deadly. A delightful Regency mystery I loved from the first page. If Jane Austen had written mysteries, this is what she would've written. Highly recommend and can't wait to read more from this author.

My Rating: 5 stars

Reviewed by: Mrs. N
Profile Image for Ivonne Rovira.
1,895 reviews196 followers
July 23, 2018
Imagine Silent in the Grave had been written with Lady Julia Grey as an easily bullied and extremely naïve young woman, one who cannot even stand up to her baby brother or a haranguing, fault-finding elder sister. Further imagine that talented author Deanna Rayburn had substituted a forgettable French doctor for the mercurial inquiry agent (and much more) Nicholas Brisbane. Leach out all the humor and charm and substitute a pretty lackluster mystery with plotting that drags a bit for the suspense of Rayburn’s debut novel in the Lady Julia Grey. You’d have the derivative Lady Helena Investigates, right down to the secret murder of the husband.

If I hadn’t read Rayburn’s novels, I would have just dismissed Lady Helena Investigates as a so-so mystery. So, based on what readers completely ignorant of Rayburn’s far superior series would feel, I’m awarding this mediocre book three stars. It’s clearly itself the start of a mystery series; I hope that its author, Jane Steen, finds others to enjoy the series. But I won’t be reading any further.

In the interest of full disclosure, I received this book from NetGalley and Aspidistra Press in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Hannah.
305 reviews15 followers
March 5, 2019
Do you realize... that the truth has come to light with very little investigative effort on my part?

And that is exactly how I feel about this book. In Lady Helena's defense, Im not really sure what this was all about, either. Or why it's literally called Lady Helena Investigates when she doesn't do that. It all is just kind of... happening to her. This book feels aimless and is therefore boring.

Its a shame they wasted such great cover art.

On top of the "non-mystery mystery" aspects, we have our title character, Helena, who is not a MC I care to read about. She is incredibly self centered; every time someone gets hurt or is in real pain, she talks about how she isn't a real healer or doesn't leave the room when an actual doctor tells her too. Everything has to come around to her feelings. Helena also thinks about/ seems more upset over her first loves death from when she was a teenager then her husbands death that happened like a month ago.

And the one think that made this book a 2 star instead of 1 is I found no fault with the prose. Needless to say I will not be continuing this series.
2,894 reviews41 followers
August 22, 2022
Captivating story, complex plot with a large cast of characters. The quality of the writing drew me into the story. Flawless pacing explored the prickly relationships between family, staff and tenants. I really enjoyed the subtle exchanges and friendship between the h and her lady's maid, even as they both strive to keep to their places in society. Wonderful writing.
Profile Image for W.R. Gingell.
Author 41 books920 followers
September 29, 2021
Exactly my cup of tea

as the headline says: this book was exactly my cup of still-water-running-deep, slightly off-kilter tea. sincerely hope there will be more coming soon
Profile Image for Alisha.
995 reviews63 followers
August 3, 2018
I enjoyed this introductory book to the forthcoming Lady Helena series. The characters were entertaining and I look forward to following them in future installments.

Lady Helena is newly widowed and surrounded by a multitude of older siblings (it's a bit difficult to keep track of them all at first), who all have advice for her. I liked that although she somewhat resents their influence at times, she mostly maintains warm family ties with them and communicates with them in a way that increases their respect for her. The story is at its best when it is focusing on her interactions with her family...and with Dr. Fortier.

Who is Dr. Fortier? A French physician with a certain air of mystery, rather disliked by the town, but intent on winning Lady Helena's trust. He comes to tell her of his suspicions about her late husband's death, and the two of them continue to cross paths throughout the novel.

Although Lady Helena is somewhat forward-thinking, she is not overly anachronistic or modern in her attitudes. Her personality hit the right balance for me, as being appropriate to a historical setting with modern readers.

The mystery and the scandal in the book felt very undeveloped to me. As they were revealed, I continued to find myself very puzzled by motive. I also could have done without the sordid aspect of the scandal. It got rather icky but, again, the motive for the actions didn't seem fully explained.

I will definitely be on the lookout for the next book!

Thanks to NetGalley and Aspidistra Press for the digital review copy!
Profile Image for Iset.
665 reviews473 followers
May 19, 2020

I had two main thoughts upon turning the final page and finishing this book. First, the writing style feels absolutely characteristic with what I've come to associate with Jane Steen. Quietly meticulous, thoroughly researched social mores and values, and with a focus on those social nuances and relationships to drive the plot. I compared Steen to Jane Austen once - what I meant at the time was that both write with a focus on the details of polite society life - which for some creates a sublime, perfectly pleasing romance, and for others creates a frothy concoction of inconsequential, trivial daily routine they'd rather not read about. Of course it's worth noting that Steen's work would be considered far more scandalous - writing about unmarried young mothers, and here, murder - but she is writing to a modern audience where we no longer have the same attitudes of two hundred years ago. Perhaps a better comparison might be Downton Abbey. It too tackled a few storylines of scandal and the darker side of 'society', but it was also the kind of show where you were never really worried that there was going to be a happy ending. 'Gentle period drama', I've heard it described as.

I'm not sure if that sort of thing is really my cup of tea - though obviously the legion of Austen fans and Downton Abbey adherents prove there is a considerable demand for it. I prefer my stories a bit more hard-hitting and dramatic than that. Nevertheless, I dabble from time to time, just to see if I can find a series I like, or perhaps when I feel I need a break from more intensive reading. I just don't feel like this one captured me, though I have nothing particular against it either.

The second thing was that I felt the mystery resolved itself with very little investigating on the part of our sleuths... which felt wrong for a book that is intended as a murder mystery. Perhaps too much deus ex machina. When I do consume historical mysteries, I've noticed that I enjoy an active sleuth with plenty of danger and drama to be had. I'm not much one for the quieter, pleasant series where it's all quaint country villages and sipping tea while unravelling a murder mystery at a leisurely pace.
Profile Image for Danielle.
58 reviews3 followers
August 16, 2018
Sussex, 1881. Lady Helena Whitcombe’s world is about to be turned on its head. Following the tragic death of her husband, Lady Helena must contend with her condescending older sisters and her controlling little brother who is eager to assert his role as “Head of the family.” If this wasn't enough, she must also face the doubts raised by the mysterious Frenchman, Dr. Fortier. Was her husband's death an accident or was it murder? Over the course of her year of mourning, Lady Helena must find her place in her family and in society. Along the way she will discover life isn't always what it appears.

I found Lady Helena Investigates to be an engaging novel, though the mystery fell a bit flat for me. As the first book in a series, much time is necessarily spent introducing the cast of characters who are each unique and well written. The mystery plays itself out in the background allowing the interpersonal family dynamics, vital to the story itself, to really shine. As a younger sibling myself, I can relate to Lady Helena’s difficulties with her sisters. I especially enjoyed the interactions between Lady Helena and Dr. Fortier and I look forward to seeing their relationship grow in future books.

I only have a couple of complaints. I enjoy novels from this time period and while at times this felt like it could have been written in the late 1800s, there were several references to modern issues and attitudes which served as a constant reminder that this is a modern book. That being said, however, the descriptions of health issues we are now familiar with are done in a very time period appropriate manner. My other complaint is the motive, once revealed, felt unexplained leaving me still somewhat confused as to why what happened, happened.

All in all, I enjoyed Lady Helena Investigates and I look forward to future Scott de'Quincy mysteries.
Thanks to NetGalley for an advance reader copy.
Profile Image for Cherry London.
Author 1 book79 followers
March 12, 2018
Lady Helena having recently lost her husband had to come to grips with life and what it had to offer her, she was willingly allowing the rest of her family to treat her as a child. She needed to grow some backbone to deal with her brother was trying his best to ride rough shoes over her. She was a bit naive on somethings until the death of her tenant farmer and her eyes and intellect truly became awakened to certain knowledge. To think the helping his daughter was going against her family, and the said daughter had planned to kill her too. Finding out that her parents were not as happy as she allowed herself to believe, was a jolt to her system and to top it off outside of her mom being ill, the knowledge that she had committed murder was a rude awakening. Within all this dark cloud was a ray of sunshine peeping through that maybe something was brewing between her and the doctor, only time will tell. The storyline was an interesting one and the characters were also interesting a moving sometimes irritating story, my irritations stem from Lady Helena acting so wimpy, and allowing herself to be browbeaten by her family a bit tiresome I believe, but all in all it was an entertaining read.
Profile Image for Shelagh.
1,387 reviews12 followers
February 27, 2018
From the moment I started reading this book I could see that Lady Helena was going to face all manner of challenges, not the least of them coming from her own family. Author Jane Steen has done an excellent job of depicting life in nineteenth century England with all its social mores, class differences and prejudices. Unfortunately for Lady Helena, she frequently finds herself at odds with the expectations of both her family and the small rural community in which she lives.
With characters that fairly walk off the page and a plot filled with fascinating twists and turns, this story kept me engrossed throughout. I loved the way that Lady Helena slowly discovered her inner strengths as the story progressed, at the same time growing stronger and more sure of herself on the outside.
I found the supporting cast of characters fascinating too. Gutteridge, Lady Helena’s lady’s maid, is one who really endeared herself to me with her no nonsense approach, loyalty and self confidence. I could go on and on, but really it’s better to read this story for yourself. I loved it and eagerly anticipate more from this author.
Profile Image for Nicola.
248 reviews3 followers
November 13, 2022

Started out ok, then lost interest around 25%. I kept reading till around 60% but was not enjoying it.

In the author’s afterword, she makes it clear that she wanted to shed light on certain social issues, but it wasn’t necessary to tell us that because it was only too obvious in the “novel.” It was just so didactic. It might be interesting for someone who doesn’t know anything about Victorians, but that is not the case for me. Even if it were, it’s not necessary to be so heavy-handed, or to try to cram all the social problems of the time into one book.

I was also surprised at some of the contemporary language used by someone with an MA in 19C literature! I don’t expect perfection, but don’t tell us you’ve got a graduate degree in the field, then write “go get him” or “me and…” to mention only two. And Lady Helena’s bestie is her lady’s maid? I don’t think so.

But my main complaint was just lack of interest. Other than the anachronistic dialogue, it is well written.
Profile Image for Camille Wilson.
244 reviews1 follower
November 2, 2020
I love the ensemble of multifaceted characters in this Victorian cozy mystery and the twists and turns of Lady Helena's life. Smart, well-written prose is another plus of this novel. Looking forward to the next installment of the irrepressible, insightful Lady Helena Whitcombe and her mysterious French gentleman physician, Armand Fortier.
Profile Image for Kristen.
2,205 reviews50 followers
January 11, 2019
This sounded like a great Victorian-era mystery with a strong female main character - and it was that. But it turned out to be a great deal MORE than just that, and I found myself unexpectedly, and pleasantly surprised several times as I read it and this turned out to be an excellent read!

First off, Lady Helena turns out to be a much more multi-faceted character than the reader might initially see her as being. She has depths, and capabilities that far out-distance her family's nickname of "Baby" for her [if this infuriates you, I encourage you to read the author's note at the end of the book before you begin the book for her explanation of why that happens]. While Helena certainly isn't perfect [but really, who among us is, after all?] but her growth through the book I found not only laudable, but inspiring and entertaining as well. Helena starts out a product of her time, but she manages quite well to learn and grow and become more than her society thinks she can - or even should - be, and good on her for that!

I think I would describe this book as much more than a mystery, although there certainly are murders that are investigated. This is a book about families - their good and bad, and their secrets, about the facts of human beings being who they are, in spite of a repressive societal structure that makes that difficult, for both women and men, and about the complexity of the British aristocracy and their role as caretakers of "their people" while society began changing around them.

If all that sounds boringly like a history book, then I am doing a great disservice to this story, because I found it engaging, interesting and entertaining as a first thing! The aspects I note above really do take a back-seat the the entertainment of getting to know Helena and the people around her as they go about the activities and intrigues that are happening around them. This was a terrifically entertaining read and I heartily enjoyed it.

The social aspects of the story really come through gently and as secondary thought-provoking moments that sort of float to the surface as you are enjoying Helena and her actions.

The plot contains some unexpectedly dramatic, and perhaps even disturbing components, but put into the context of the times and the societal strictures, not really that unbelievable, and they fit the overall structure of the story in what I felt was an appropriate way. It also made for a ready that kept me surprised and interested throughout the entire book. I like a book that surprises me more than once as I read, and this book did that multiple times.

This was a very unexpected book, but a hugely enjoyable one, and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys the Victorian era, mysteries with unorthodox and strong female main characters, and complex stories with more going on than simply a murder to be investigated.
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