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A delicious story from a new voice in suspense, Lev AC Rosen's Lavender House is Knives Out with a queer historical twist.
Lavender House, 1952: the family seat of recently deceased matriarch Irene Lamontaine, head of the famous Lamontaine soap empire. Irene’s recipes for her signature scents are a well guarded secret―but it's not the only one behind these gates. This estate offers a unique freedom, where none of the residents or staff hide who they are. But to keep their secret, they've needed to keep others out. And now they're worried they're keeping a murderer in.
Irene’s widow hires Evander Mills to uncover the truth behind her mysterious death. Andy, recently fired from the San Francisco police after being caught in a raid on a gay bar, is happy to accept―his calendar is wide open. And his secret is the kind of secret the Lamontaines understand.
Andy had never imagined a world like Lavender House. He's seduced by the safety and freedom found behind its gates, where a queer family lives honestly and openly. But that honesty doesn't extend to everything, and he quickly finds himself a pawn in a family game of old money, subterfuge, and jealousy―and Irene’s death is only the beginning.
When your existence is a crime, everything you do is criminal, and the gates of Lavender House can’t lock out the real world forever. Running a soap empire can be a dirty business.
Set in 1952-San Francisco, Lavender House follows disgraced former-police officer, Evander 'Andy' Mills. Andy was recently fired from the SFPD after being caught in a compromising position during a raid on a gay bar.
Without steady work and shamed by former acquaintances, Andy is floundering, so when he is approached by an older woman named Pearl with a proposition, he readily accepts.
Pearl needs an experienced investigator to look into the death of her wife, soap magnate, Irene Lamontaine. Even though Irene's death appears to be an accident, Pearl has her doubts. She needs the truth.
Thus, she invites Andy to their estate, Lavender House, to look into the incident. It seems like a simple, yet interesting assignment, and may be exactly what Andy needs to get his life back on track.
Arriving at Lavender House, Andy discovers something he has never experienced before. A safe haven filled with a found-family of Queer people.
Andy is astounded by how comfortable everyone is with just being themselves. There is no need to hide, no risk of hateful repercussions. How could any violence come to this place?
Before long, as Andy gets to know the individuals living within the gated estate, he begins to think that maybe Pearl is onto something after all. Perhaps Irene did fall at the hands of another, but was it a stranger, or someone the women consider family?
Lavender House was such a delightful change of pace for me. I'm not quite sure I have ever read a Queer Historical Murder Mystery before, but I sure would like more!!
I absolutely adored the setting and tone of this novel. Rosen brought a real film noir quality to it, which fit so perfectly with a 1950s-detective story, enhanced even more by the wonderful narration from Vikas Adam.
The themes and topics explored within were handled so tactfully and blended perfectly with the overall mystery. I liked how neither aspect was heavy-handed; they each contributed evenly to the overall course of the story.
I enjoyed all of the characters and loved the idea of this safe space set amidst a very unsafe world.
My one slight critique would be that the mystery felt almost too simple. The linear narrative and minimalist investigation left me wanting more. I do understand that there is something to be said for sticking to the basics and nailing what you do. I do get that.
I just feel like Rosen definitely has the talent to push this even further.
It sort of felt like driving a performance car on the highway. It's comfortable and enjoyable, but you definitely miss the exciting twists and turns of a back-country road.
I just wish this could have been built out a little more. However, with this being said, can we talk about this ending!? This has to be the start of a series, right?
I mean, there could not have been a more perfect set-up for the continuation of this story. I really hope it happens, because I feel like there is a big need in the market for this type of story.
I would absolutely, 100%, no doubt in my mind, pick up the next book if there ever is one. I feel like I have so much to learn about Andy and I would love to tag along with him as he solves more mysteries!!!
Thank you so much to the publisher, Forge Books and Macmillan Audio, for providing me with copies to read and review. I will be keeping my fingers crossed that I get to see more of Andy Mills!
Lavender House, 1952 Irene Lamontaine of the Lamontaine soap empire is dead. Her scents were always her secrets. But behind the gated home lies more secrets. Irene's widow, Pearl, has hired Evander Mills (Andy), a disgraced former police officer who was fired after being caught in a raid at a gay bar. He accepts the offer and comes to Lavender House. He finds it to be an accepting place and learns that most of the inhabitants are gay as well.
As he begins his investigation, he learns that people seldom enter the home so the killer must be one of the occupants. But who would want to harm, Irene? What could the motive be?
Described as a queer Knives out, Lavender House does not disappoint. This is a layered whodunit taking places in a unique living arrangement. The book is full of secrets and has a few twists. Plus, it's fun! I enjoyed watching as Andy conducted his investigation and coming up with conclusions.
Unique cozy mystery that looks at identity and secrets. What a delight this book was!
Thank you to Forge Books and Edelweiss for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All the thoughts and opinions are my own.
2.5 Love the cover, love the name Lavender house and it was a very original concept. A house where queer folks could live openly, a soap making empire and of course a dead body. A queer policeman thrown off the force when he is discovered in a gay joints bathroom doing, well you can imagine. He is brought into the mystery because of who he is and was, to discover if this was murder or an accident.
But....after the beginning I have to admit I was bored, this was extremely slow and didn't really pick up for me until the last 25 percent. The comparison to Knives Out didn't play for me as there was little in the way of any type of humor.
Just didn't work for me but there are many, many four and five star reviews, so read and judge for yourself
Lavender House is a queer historical fiction cozy mystery set in 1952 San Francisco. The matriarch of a soap empire, Irene Lamontaine dies suddenly and her widow Pearl hires a recently disgraced policeman, Andy to investigate the death to rule out murder. He gets invited to live at the Lavender House, a sort of sanctuary for the queer Lamontaine family, while he figures out whodunit and whether or not Irene's death was an inside job.
I found the book highly imaginative with interesting multi-layered characters. I enjoyed learning about their backstory and I was as curious about them as the mystery. There are heavy themes in the book as can be expected. 1950s san Francisco is a world apart from today's San Fran.
I am hoping that there will be more books in the future with Andy as the investigator, the ending leaves us with that possibility.
This book was so good! I enjoyed the realness that the author put into it. I think people can relate to all the emotions that the characters have, even without ever having been in their situation.
I wasn't thrilled with some of the repetition of themes in the beginning, but the reason for it is explained later in the book. It makes sense within the context of the story.
I loved the combination of historical fiction and mystery. I thought both were really well done. I enjoyed getting to know the characters and trying to figure out what happened. The setting and time period fit perfectly.
This is the first book I've read by Rosen and I look forward to reading more of his work. There is potential for this to become a series at the end and I would LOVE that.
I listened to the audio version narrated by Vikas Adam. I initially didn't love the narration because there were a couple parts where it didn't fit. For example, a woman described as having a "deep, sharp voice" and I was surprised to hear her represented with a high-pitched female voice. There was also a line where a man was described as pleading and the sentence he spoke sounded aggressively angry. So, early on I thought the narration would be awful. However, those seemed to be the only issues. Mr. Adam was was able to give all of the characters different voices and personality without ever mixing them up. I always knew who was talking based on the variations. As the book progressed, I was won over and impressed by the narration. I am happy to to be able to recommend it.
Thank you to NetGalley and Macmillan Audio for providing me with a complimentary electronic copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Lavender House is an ambitious undertaking of intersecting queerness in a historical setting with the classic who-dun-it household mystery, and I think it does great. Recently fired from the police force for being outted as gay, the main character is struggling to find employment, until a woman hired him as a private detective. As he comes to learn, a woman has been murdered--and the suspect just may live in her house.
The setting is quite distinctive and well developed: a house in which queer people live together in lavender marriages--a safe haven from the extremely homophobic society they live in. I can definitely see the comparison to Knives Out, although I will say this book doesn't contain the element of humor that makes Knives Out so great, so coming into this with that expectation may set you up for disappointment. The characters at times blend together--especially the female characters. Still, the story is intriguing, and had me turning pages rapidly.
One thing I love about this novel is that it doesn't shy away from the period-typical homophobia. Not that I have anything against queer novels that completely decenter homophobia--they're great! But I really appreciated not only how candid this book is about the queer experience, but how poignant it is centered within the mystery.
While I don't keep track of trigger warnings while I read, I do want to give a HUGE TW to gaybashing. There's one specific scene, written extremely graphically, where a character is hate crimes after being outted as gay, and it was really difficult to read--please take care of yourself!
Andy is a former detective at the end of the line. He's ready to call it quits in a very real way—trigger warnings right out the gate—and he has nothing left to strive for. He's gay in 1950s America. Recently outed at a raid by his own former police officer coworkers and ruthlessly fired from the force, Andy doesn't know what is next, and if it's worth finding out at all.
The last thing he expects is to be offered a job sitting at the bar, blind drunk at 11 am. A well-dressed, wealthy older woman wants him to solve a murder. Well, maybe it was a murder. Either way—she wants to know what happened, and she's willing to pay Andy and house him for his trouble.
Oh, and the best part? This woman and her surviving found family live in a hidden utopia of queerness. The dead woman is her wife, and their blended family are all queer on the estate.
Andy doesn't know how to receive this news, but he takes the lifeline for what it is and accepts the job.
However, the family is hiding secrets. (Aren't they all?) And Andy's stepping into a much bigger scene than he's anticipating. When you factor in the dead woman's soap dynasty... things are about to get interesting.
Lavender House was the perfect read for me at the right time. It was surprisingly cozy, the right blend of serious with quaint, and a remix of the classics bringing something fresh to the character tableau of the "classic" murder mystery setting.
It also deftly handled the line of realism vs. utopian ideals surrounding the concept of a hidden queer family living happily in the 1950s. They were a wealthy family who kept to themselves and had the resources to keep their happiness separate from harsh realities, true, but the doses of reality in this novel kept this story grounded for me.
I will caution my queer friends and those reading this review—given the contents, there is a lot of potentially triggering content for period homophobia and other elements. Please proceed with caution.
Overall, a fantastic cozy read that I would be happy to pick up again when I'm in need of a quaint escape.
Thank you to TOR Forge for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
Loved Lavender House! The fifties, a disgraced inspector, a dead matriarch of a soap emporium, and a house full of queer people. Those ingredients together gave the story a tense undercurrent.
The mystery part is pretty standard, but I didn’t mind at all. From the first page on, I immediately felt the unease in the book, and I just didn’t want to guess the ‘whodunnit’. Instead, I wanted to immerse myself in the atmosphere and read on and on and on. I wanted to know more about the (queer) characters, their relationships, and how Andy’s life would go on. I smiled at Cliff’s flirting, shivers ran down my spine when Andy and Elsie hunted for rabbits, and a warm feeling passed through my chest when Gene cared for Andy when he got beaten up.
I think this story is a perfect beginning of a wonderful series and I really hope there will be a sequel!
Lev A.C. Rosen's first adult book has been described as a queer Knives Out, and that description holds up. Whodunits usually aren't my cup of tea, but Lavender House was the perfect blend of fun, unpredictable, and gay as hell.
In 1950s San Francisco, Evander Mills has just been thrown off the police force for being caught pants down in a gay nightclub. He's thinking about jumping into the bay when an older woman named Pearl approaches him with an interesting offer. Her wife, Irene, was the owner of one biggest soap companies in the country until she was found dead from an apparent fall a few weeks earlier. Pearl isn't so sure the death was accidental and would like Andy to look into things.
The catch is that Irene and Pearl lived in an estate in the hills of Marin County with their son, who's gay, and the lesbian woman whom he married for appearance's sake. The son and daughter-in-law's respective romantic partners also call the estate home, as do the son's mother-in-law and three queer members of the household staff. Because it's the 1950s and homosexuality is largely illegal, almost no one else is ever allowed into the home. Pearl refuses to believe any of them could have killed Irene in cold blood but the fact that they so tightly control access means that's almost certainly the case. But who had the motive and who had the means?
If I'm being completely honest, this mystery isn't the twistiest of tales out there. Most of the secrets revealed to Andy aren't that shocking, but Rosen does a nice job of throwing in some red herrings and not telegraphing the answer of whodunit right from the outset. He seems more interested in exploring how the characters' queer identities inform their choices and their freedoms than in giving his readers a salacious tale. Some readers might find that a little boring, but I found it fascinating. The tone of the story is just cheeky enough to be fun without being flippant, and I found myself completely pulled in by all of the characters. I loved it.
And...it seems like maybe Rosen is setting his up to be the first book in a series. More Evander Mills? Yes, please.
I need to set the record straight with Lavender House; Somebody comped this book very, very very badly. This is not Knives Out with a historic twist. Lavender House is not clever or creative. It isn't full of strange wit and charm. Its detective isn't eccentric- none of its cast of characters especially quirky or morally grey. This is a mystery novella with a queer cast and thats it. If you were jumping with joy at this comp, please take a step back.
The only thing that relates this story to Knives Out at all is that it's a who done it. Barely.
Lavender House follows a recently outed and disgraced gay detective brought to a house with a found family of queer people to solve a suspected murder. The story focuses a lot on the detectives personal growth and coming to terms with the shift in his life after he lost his detective job when he was outed. It contains some queer reflections that may resonate with people who have had to remain closeted for a long portion of their lives.
The story is supposed to be set in the past, but the characters have a distinctly modern vernacular that goes between being somewhat period appropriate and having the vibe of a modern tumblr conversation. It's fine, and pretty readable but not super well researched. The period angle seemed to be more about isolating the main character and his suspects to the extent where outside help would be impossible. The characters are decent, though I do feel the suspects were left intentionally a little wooden-none of them art particularly memorable- and thats what made Knives Out so good.
I did find myself wondering- was this due to fear? Did the author intentionally hold back on these characters because they are queer and the author was scared of providing bas representation? The main drive I had to read this book was having a bunch of Clue style wacky assholes for the lead to investigate, but the execution of the story was extremely understated. The description pumps you up for a feuding family fill of secrets and slander but thats not exactly what you get- which are well intentioned people (mostly) who struggle to relate to each other and have their own baggage.
The mystery is...fine. It wasn't the point of the book as much as meeting the folks who live at Lavender House and exploring Andy's personal feelings.
Some fellow reviewers have described Lavender House as a cozy mystery and I agree strongly with that assertion. I don't think it is a bad book, but that the description of the book sets you up for expectations of something much different than the final product. Really, if you want a pretty okay mystery and you want it to be queer, this book is not a bad one to try. It's short, inoffensive in any way, and follows the beats of many of your favorite cozy mysteries. I found myself extremely disappointed, but I imagine this will be quite a treat for the right person.
I loved this book so much and hope to read more like it from this author in the future. I will say it wasn’t the most exciting mystery I’ve ever read, but I feel it was equal parts mystery and brutally honest historical fiction and that emotion punch needed space too. This story takes place in the 1950’s and most of the cast of characters are queer in a time where it is very unsafe to be queer. Andy was a police officer until he was caught in a raid of a club and kicked off the force and out of his apartment. He’s approached by Pearl to figure out who murdered her wife Irene which brings him to Lavender House, where a mismatched family of queer people can have at least some openness in their relationships in their home. It doesn’t take long for him to realize that Irene was in fact murdered and his investigation into that murder was interesting. I didn’t think it was super twisty, but it was a satisfying ending and a truly well written book.
Lavender House was a satisfying mystery that delivers so much more. It was fantastic!
California. 1952. Andy was a police detective in San Francisco until he was caught in a raid at a gay bar. Fired, disgraced, and shunned, he is nearing the end of the rope.
Then he is approached by a woman who asks him to investigate the murder of her wife. Her wife was Irene Lamontaine, the head of the famous Lamontaine soap empire, and she was killed at Lavender House, their secluded estate. It turns out that the house is home to a number of gay people, living their lives freely, even if it’s only within the walls of the house.
Andy agrees to investigate the murder and takes residence at Lavender House. He never imagined that he’d see people like him so openly embracing love and having the type of relationships that wouldn’t be possible in the outside world. It forces him to come to terms with his own life and sexuality, as well as reconcile his being a police detective with the way his colleagues treated gay people.
“Just because we know what we are, and we know what the world is, doesn’t mean we can change anything about either of them.”
The mystery in this book is fairly standard but the book worked for me on so many levels. I loved many of the characters and would love to see a sequel someday. (Rosen has certainly set things up for that.) This was a fascinating, emotional look at the struggles queer people faced back then.
The year is 1952, and Irene Lamontaine, head of the illustrious Lamontaine soap empire has died, leaving behind a substantial family seat vacant. Irene spearheaded the family’s soap empire to its current position with her signature and everchanging scents, held secret behind the gates of the family estate Lavender House. On the estate, the inhabitants have secrets of their own, secrets that require keeping outsiders at bay, and an understanding staff. When Evander Mills, a recently fired cop of the San Fransisco police department is contacted by a mysterious widow to investigate the circumstances surrounding her wife's death, he finds himself behind its illusive walls for the first time. Reaching deeper into the family’s past, Andy soon finds himself beset by petty squabbles and family jealousy, but Irene’s death wasn't an accident, and even between a family united by secret, there are some worth killing for.
Lavender House has been aptly described as a 1950’s Knives Out mystery, surrounding a queer family, their confined existence, and the deadly secrets they keep hidden. Perfectly situated in its place in time, Rosen assembles a cloying ambiance for this novel, with an overpowering scent of deception that permeates the stuffy halls of Lavender House and unto the very page. Passing through the gates of the house aside the narrator Evander Mills, the real mystery begins once inside, as the motivations and history of each of the characters are exhumed. It was at this point of the story, that I was officially hooked. So much of what I love about the family mystery narrative is the entangled motivations and complicated relationships that are played out from start to finish. Lavender House has the added layer of the Lamontaine family being comprised entirely of queer people that have found solace, and ultimately family, with one another. For that reason, this novel is very much a stark examination of queer lives during the 1950s as it is a murder mystery. These two topics intersect as Andy investigates deeper into the family history and the establishment of their legendary soap empire. Each of the family and staff all have their own struggles with identity, which Rosen does a great job exploring in tandem with existing as queer in this time and the difficult choices necessary to exist and have any kind of security. This is a historical novel that does depict some of the violence inflicted upon the LGBTQ+ community during the time period by individuals and law enforcement, so I strongly advise checking out the content warnings before reading. I ended up having to take several breaks during certain sections of this. The existence of Lavender House in and of itself is escapist for the time period it is situated in, yet it provides an altogether intimate and refreshing inquiry into queer existence served against a stellar mystery. With its not so neatly wrapped up ending, I am hopeful that this is not the last we will be hearing from these characters going forward.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this arc in exchange for an honest review
Lev AC Rosen's upcoming whodunnit LAVENDER HOUSE is a queer historical fiction version of the film Knives Out in all the best ways. I haven't read anything by this author before, but I definitely heard amazing things about two of his other books JACK OF HEARTS and CAMP, so I knew that I wanted to read this book as soon as possible. Taking place in 1952 San Francisco, our main character Evander (Andy) Mills is hired by the widow of Irene Lamontaine, the owner of the famous Lamontaine soap empire. However, in 1952, Irene's wife was hidden in secret to avoid persecution. Pearl, Irene's widow, finds Andy at a bar drinking his pain away after being let go by the SFPD for being caught with another man at a gay bar. Pearl asks Andy to find out how Irene died, because she believes foul play is at hand.
When Andy arrives to their estate, named Lavender House, he finds a home securely tucked away with its own secrets. With a queer family living in harmony with queer staff, this estate feels like a dream. However, in a home where who you are is hidden from the entire world, people know how to keep a secret at any cost. Was Irene murdered in her home by her own family.
I loved this book for many reasons. I loved that it's not being marketed as a thriller. This is a cozy mystery and I was so happy to see it not being called a thriller in the buzz around this book. I loved Irene's family and chosen family at Lavender House. The family and the staff all had their unique personalities (Cliff was my favorite!), and I really could resonate with all of them. This book takes place in 1952, so it deals with a lot of pain that the LGBTQ+ community faced back then—including discrimination and violence, so please go in knowing that will be addressed explicitly.
I really don't read cozy mysteries that much, but this book really was such an eye opening experience for me. I also absolutely LOVED the ending and hope that we get more Andy Mills in the future. This book sets up for a perfect series in its own right. I read this book in a day because I just could not put it down! Funny and heartbreaking, LAVENDER HOUSE will leave you speechless.
QUICK TAKE: I'm a little tired of queer stories featuring closeted characters, but I really loved this LGBTQIA+ take on KNIVES OUT, featuring an ensemble cast of characters trying the solve the murder of soap dynasty CEO. It's oppulent and escapist and entertaining and I was sad to leave The Lavender House once the mystery was solved. More, please.
i always wanted to be a detective when i was a kid but one of those queer ✨ ones, so gay detective books are just representation for eight year old me.
this gets compared to Knives Out in the synopsis and the story does remind me of the first Knives Out movie.
Andy isn't really that much like Benoit though. he just lacks the extravagance. he's also closeted and full of self-loathing which i understand given his circumstances but i prefer my detectives with a bit more self-assured flair. i think it would help if he stopped going by Andy and went by his actual name Evander instead - like, what a VIBE.
thankfully the Lavender House family already took matters into their own hands and gave him some silly gay™ outfits so that he can finally become the icon that he is so clearly meant to be in the sequel.
Despite a few glitches that threw me out of the story, I’m rounding this up from 3.5 stars to 4.
Historical fiction set in the 1950s usually gets an automatic "no thanks" from me. And if the MC is queer it's more like a "hell no." The institutionalized homophobia of that era is depressing to think about, and I don't read fiction in order to get depressed. But somehow I got lured into this book, and it delivered a satisfyingly noir feel with a mystery that kept me engaged.
In fact, when I was hovering on the brink of a dnf because of , it was the need to know who-done-it that kept me going. (Plus some handholding from Daniel, who assured me I could skip over the and not miss anything crucial to the plot. Thank you, Daniel!)
The glitches consisted of some anachronisms, which likely won't be apparent to anyone not cursed with hypersensitivity to them, and a slew of technical errors about soap-making. It was obvious that the author had researched the subject, but equally obvious that he didn’t really know what he was talking about. Again, something most readers would be oblivious to, so the fact that I had these particular issues shouldn't deter anyone.
In short, if the prospect of a 1950s mystery with a noir vibe and a gay MC appeals to you, give this a try.
Lev A.C. Rosen's Lavender House offers an interesting variation on the usual 1950s P.I. novel. Here's the set-up: Evander Mills, a police officer caught in a raid on a gay club, loses his job and his home as a result, and is then hired to investigate the potential murder of Irene Lamontaine, the doyen of a wealthy—and quite nontraditional—family.
Mills' life has required that he never be fully himself. He can't afford for his coworkers to discover h's queer (the term used most often used the book to describe LGBTQI+ identity), so keeps them at a distance. He can't afford to reveal his job to any of the men who frequent the gay bars he occasionally visits (generally checking which are scheduled to be raided, until the error that leads to his life being turned upside down). He can't see beyond his need to protect himself, so doesn't use the knowledge he has (such as which bar will be raided next) to help other queers.
When Mills takes on the job of investigating Lamontaine's death, he meets a constructed family: Lamontaine's widow, Pearl; Lamontaine's son Henry and his partner Cliff; Margo, Henry's "beard-wife," and her partner Elsie, who runs a high end queer bar; and Margo's mother Alice, the only straight person in their household, as everyone working on the estate is also queer. At first Mills—conditioned to never reveal his full self—is profoundly uncomfortable with, but also fascinated by, life on the Lamontaine estate. But he also begins to see that the freedom the family have at home leaves them with little access to the world outside the estate. Henry needs Margo; Cliff can't be seen in public with Henry; nor can Elsie be seen with Margo.
Mills' job is to determine whether Lamontaine's death in a fall from a balcony was accidental or deliberate—and if it was deliberate, who among the family was responsible. This adds another layer of discomfort to Mills' life. These are people around whom he might finally live more honestly as the man he is, but all of them are suspects, so he can feel safe around none of them.
The mystery here works well enough, but the book's real strength is the way it portrays 1950s gay lives, the impossible choices individuals must make to protect themselves, and their resulting financial and social insecurity. I'm very much hoping this novel will prove to be the first in a series. I'd love to be able to watch the development of the different characters as they challenge the limitations in their lives and as they continue to evolve as a family.
I received a free electronic review copy of this title from the publisher via NetGalley; the opinions are my own.
Lavender House was a refreshing read after a bunch of horror books. I loved the 1950’s gothic setting and the narrator of the did a great job bringing the story to life.
Andy Mills was fired from his job as a police officer after being found in a questionable position during a raid at a gay bar. Disgraced and desperate for work he accepts the offer of an older woman named Pearl. Pearl invites Andy to her home, affectionately dubbed Lavender House to solve to investigate the death of her wife, beloved actress Irene Lamontaine. Before long Andy talks to the residents of Lavender House and discovers its a refuge for Queer people, a family. Who would have it in for Irene and why?
Lavender House is available now.
Thank you to netgalley and macmillanaudio for this arc in exchange for my honest review.
This was great! An historical mystery set in 1950s San Francisco with an (almost) all queer cast! Andy, the main character, is a nuanced portrayal of a gay man with a lot of internalized homophobia, a former cop kicked off the force when he's caught in a police raid of a gay bar. He's drinking himself into a stupor when a classy older lady approaches him, asking if he will investigate her wife's death -- which she suspects was murder.
Andy can't believe he just met a woman who called another woman her wife, but he's about to keep being surprised when she takes him to her secluded mansion outside the city where everyone is openly queer.
Great characterization, a puzzling whodunit, and a heartwarming story about reinventing yourself after you think your life is over. I really hope this is the start of a series! It feels like it's just getting started, in a good way.
Lavender House is a queer historical murder mystery set in 1950's San Francisco. Evander is a former police detective who recently lost his job after being discovered in a gay club. While trying to orient himself to life after being outed, he's hired as a private detective by Irene to uncover the truth of her wife's death. To investigate, Evander moves into Lavender House- a secret queer oasis this family has created for themselves. Publicly they are the society faces of a soap-making empire, but privately there are fake marriages and lots of secrets.
I really hope this book does well because the ending sets it up for the potential to be a series of mysteries with Evander as a private detective. There's a lot to like here, though be aware there are scenes that are difficult to read. This book is realistic about the homophobia and violence that queer people experienced during this time, even in San Francisco. It is very grounded in time and place, with a good bit of historical information. And one of the central themes of the book is unpacking why quietly living a secret queer life is itself a form of trauma. The murder mystery was interesting and I while did guess the culprit partway through the book, this does a decent job of keeping you guessing. Overall, a really good novel that could the start to a great series! It's cool to see this kind of queer representation in a genre that often lacks it. The audio narration is also excellent. The voice of the main character evokes gritty noir films from the black and white era. I received an audio copy of this book for review via NetGalley, all opinions are my own.
I know this book is pitched as a queer Knives Out, but I wasn’t expecting it to be so similar to the movie. Although I loved the movie so I can’t complain much. My only issue is that if you know the plot of Knives Out then you can also guess a lot of the ending of this one which made it less fun at least for me. I did really like this one though, primarily the fact that it takes place in the 50s - not a popular time period for queer books. The violence got a little overwhelming at times, but if you can handle that I’d highly recommend this book!
* thank you to the publisher for sending me an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review
Thank you to Bookish First for a physical ARC and MBC for a finished copy of the book in exchange for an honest review and promotion. All opinions are my own.
Wow loved this!! What a book.
Lavender House is a 1950’s murder mystery. Evander Mills has been recently outed and forced to leave his job as a detective. Andy is struggling with his new reality. When he’s approached by Pearl who has a job for him, he begrudgingly accepts. Then he arrives at the estate, Lavender House, and he’s shocked to see queer people living authentically. As Andy continues to investigate, Lavender House changes his mind about many things, but will he catch the killer before he can open himself up to a new idea of life?
I loved this book!! I need it to be a series because I am so ready to jump in with Andy as he investigates crimes for queer victims. This book was incredibly gripping and while I didn’t always agree with Andy, I found his motives believable and poignant. Also who could I not love Andy, we share a name 😌. I listened to the audiobook through Libro FM and I cannot recommend the narrator enough. Vikas Adam also narrated parts of The Charm Offensive and A Dark & Hollow Star and is now officially on my favorite narrator list! Overall, I loved seeing this mystery unravel and I would highly recommend it!
The matriarch of a soap empire, Irene Lamontaine dies suddenly, and her widow Pearl hires a recently disgraced policeman, Andy, to investigate the death to rule out murder. He gets invited to live at the Lavender House, a sanctuary for the queer Lamontaine family, while he figures out if it was a murder and if it was who had committed it, and if it was, was Irene's death more than meets the eye. I thought it was actually a locked room mystery, easily enticing the reader to help Andy solve it. Andy was a magnificent character, The world of queer people in the 1950s is a quiet but dangerous one, where love is criminalized, and identities are strictly policed. No one knows this better than Evander (Andy) Mills, a former detective who has been abruptly cut from his squad. On the day we first meet Andy, he is drowning his sorrows in a martini, or two, or three or four and preparing to take a long and permanent sleep in the bay. He believes that it's better if he is never to be seen or heard from again. He is stopped by the arrival of Pearl Velez, who says she knows why he was fired from the force…but that it’s actually a selling point for her. The wife of the matriarch of the esteemed Lamontaine soap empire, Pearl has a mystery for Andy to solve...did her wife fall off the balcony or was she pushed? It reads like the old 1950 mysteries. Lev AC Rosen is an absolute gem of an author and I cannot wait to see what he produces next.
Tightly spun and utterly immersive, Lev AC Rosen delivers a deliciously twisty and queer whodunnit in Lavender House. With a mid-century mystery as sprawling as its titular mansion, the velvet knives in this one are sharp as hell.
San Francisco wasn’t our San Francisco in 1952. Then, gays and lesbians knew their choice was the closet or catastrophe. Evander “Andy” Mills knows firsthand: Fired as a San Francisco police inspector two days ago after being caught en flagrante delicto, he’s saved from his planned suicide when he’s hired to privately investigate a murder. The victim is the lesbian matriarch of the Lamontaine soap empire — closeted, of course.
Irene Lamontaine lived behind iron gates and her family’s money with her wife Pearl Velez. But that wasn’t enough to keep Irene alive. Now it’s up to Andy to discover who infiltrated Lavender House and killed Irene — or whether it was Irene’s own family, which Pearl doesn’t want to believe. Author Lev A.C. Rosen’s meticulously researched glimpse into the precarious life of gay and lesbian people before Stonewall shores up a cleverly plotted murder mystery. Rosen ends the novel with the promise of a series featuring Andy Mills, and I can’t wait for the sequel.
In the interest of full disclosure, I received this book from NetGalley, Macmillan-Tor/Forge and Forge Books in exchange for an honest review.