Review: The Mad Girls of New York by Maya Rodale

Description (from cover): “A gripping and compelling novel based on the true story of fearless reporter Nellie Bly, who will stop at nothing to prove that a woman’s place is on the front page.

In 1887 New York City, Nellie Bly has ambitions beyond writing for the ladies pages, but all the editors on Newspaper Row think women are too emotional, respectable and delicate to do the job. But then the New York World challenges her to an assignment she’d be mad to accept and mad to refuse: go undercover as a patient at Blackwell’s Island Insane Asylum for women.

For months, rumors have been swirling about deplorable conditions at Blackwell’s but no reporter can get in–that is, until Nellie feigns insanity, gets herself committed and attempts to survive ten days in the madhouse. Once inside, Nellie befriends her fellow patients who help her uncover shocking truths about the asylum. It’s a story that promises to be explosive–but will she get out before rival reporters get the scoop?

From USA Today bestselling author Maya Rodale comes a witty, energetic and uplifting novel about a woman who defied convention to become the most famous reporter in Gilded Age New York. Perfect for fans of hidden histories about women who triumph.”

My Thoughts:

This is the beginning of a series featuring intrepid female news reporter Nellie Bly. In this book we meet Nellie and watch her struggle with trying to find a position as a newspaper writer in New York City. Nellie has recently arrived from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and she has been writing for the Pittsburgh Dispatch for several years, but she really aspires to see her name on the front page of a major newspaper. Spending several months trying to find a job on Newspaper Row and being constantly turned away because she is a woman, she is desperate to make a name for herself. When the opportunity presents itself for her to find a way to be committed to Blackwell’s Island Insane Asylum for women, she takes the bull by the horns and takes on the challenge of a lifetime.

At this time, little is known about the treatment and lives of the patients confined to the asylum. No reporter has ever been allowed on the premises and no one knows what the day-to-day life is like. Nellie is determined to report to the world all of the details. She is astonished by the living conditions, how the women are treated and the lack of attention to medical care and basic every day needs. Nellie is determined to expose the asylum for what it is and to shine a light on the injustices of the women confined there. Nellie’s story sends shockwaves through New York City and beyond and she seeks to use her voice to improve the conditions for the inhabitants so that they have a chance for a better life behind the asylum’s walls.

In this book, I felt that the author did a great job of telling Nellie’s story and sticking to the real facts of her life. The author did a wonderful job of creating a voice for Nellie that resonates well with the reader. Nellie was an interesting character to read about and to see how she bucks the constraints against women in the Gilded Age. It’s hard to imagine the struggle in our age as women are heavily engaged in the work force, but this author did a great job of showcasing how Nellie Bly was responsible for helping to break the glass ceiling for women everywhere. A delightful read that I couldn’t put down. I look forward to the future installments in this series and how Nellie continues to make a name for herself throughout history.

Overall Rating: 4.5 stars

Author: Maya Rodale

Series: Nellie Bly #1

Publisher: Berkeley

Publication Date: April 26, 2022

Pages: 334

Genre: Historical Fiction

Get It: Amazon

Disclaimer: This book was given to me by the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review. I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.

Review: Hot Time by W. H. Flint

Description (from cover): “For fans of The Knick, The Alienist, and The Last Days of Night, an entertaining, atmospheric crime thriller set in the Gilded Age.

New York, August 1896. A “hot wave” has settled on the city with no end in sight, leaving tempers short and the streets littered with dead horses felled by the heat. In this presidential election year, the gulf between rich and poor has political passions flaring, while anti-immigrant sentiment has turned virulent. At Police Headquarters, the gruff, politically ambitious commissioner Theodore Roosevelt has been struggling to reform his notoriously corrupt department. Meanwhile, the yellow press is ready to pounce on the peccadilloes of the Four Hundred, the city’s social elite–the better to sell papers with lurid stories and gossip or perhaps profit from a little blackmail on the side. When the body of Town Topics publisher William d’Alton Mann is found at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, any number of his ink-spattered victims may have a motive.

Hot Time is an immensely entertaining, deeply researched, and richly textured historical novel set in a period that reflects our own, with cameos by figures ranging from financier J. P. Morgan to muckraking journalist Jacob Riis. Our guides through New York’s torrid, bustling streets are Otto “Rafe” Raphael from the Lower East Side, one of the first Jewish officers in the heavily Irish force, who finds as many enemies within the department as outside it; Minnie Kelly, the department’s first female stenographer; Theodore Roosevelt himself; and the plucky orphan Dutch, one of the city’s thousands of newsboys, who may have seen too much.”

My Thoughts:

New York in the Gilded Age is an absolute darling time period to read about. The corruption in the city during this time is notorious and even more so in the New York Police Department. Theodore Roosevelt at this time is a police commissioner who has been working diligently to reform the police department and get rid of its corrupt ways. Facing battles from every corner, he is determined to make the police department one that the citizens of New York can respect and trust, which is no easy feat as police officers have been known to take bribes and be involved in crime themselves. Otto “Rafe” Raphael is the first Jewish police officer in a department full of Irish police officers and he is resolved to make a name for himself. When publisher William d’Alton Mann meets with Mr. Roosevelt one evening and is murdered the following day, Rafe is concerned that his mentor and hero may have been involved in the crime. Nevertheless, Rafe is set on figuring out the murder and who may have been involved at any cost.

From the slums of New York to the gilded homes of the Four Hundred, the author takes the reader through New York City in the middle of August 1896 where a “hot wave” has made life unbearable. Horses are dying in the streets, citizens are dying by the hundreds and tempers are easily set off due to the scorching heat with no relief in sight. When Mann’s body is found by the Brooklyn Bridge, Rafe is determined to solve the crime with the help of orphaned newsboy Dutch and no one, even the wealthy and famous, are safe from his suspicions and investigation. In the middle of the tumultuous summer of 1896 and a highly contested presidential election, the author weaves a murder mystery that is thoroughly engaging and highly attentive to details.

This book was a charm to read. The author did a lot of research regarding the main characters and the time period and it really shows throughout this book. Using descriptive details, the author paints a lovely murder mystery set in the middle of one of the worst heat waves in New York City’s history. One can only imagine what it was like for the people who lived during this time and the author does a fantastic job of setting the scene for the reader. I really hope that the author plans to make a series out of this as it was a phenomenal read and the characters were so well-developed and engaging that I hope they make a return in another installment. If you love historical mystery murders, you do not want to miss out on this excellent read by author W. H. Flint.

Overall Rating: 5 stars

Author: W. H. Flint

Series: N/A

Publisher: Arcade Crimewise

Publication Date: April 5, 2022

Pages: 245

Genre: Historical Mystery

Get It: Amazon

Disclaimer: This book was given to me by the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for my honest review. I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.

Review: The Body in the Garden by Katharine Schellman

Description (from cover): “London 1814. Though newly-widowed Lily Adler is returning to a society that frowns on independent women, she is determined to create a meaningful life for herself even without a husband. She’s no stranger to the glittering world of London’s upper crust. At a ball thrown by her oldest friend, Lady Walter, she expects the scandal, gossip, and secrets. What she doesn’t expect is the dead body in Lady Walter’s garden.

Lily overheard the man just minutes before he was shot: young, desperate, and attempting blackmail. But she’s willing to leave the matter to the local constables–until Lord Walter bribes the investigating magistrate to drop the case. Stunned and confused, Lily realizes she’s the only one with the key to catching the killer.

Aided by a roguish navy captain and a mysterious heiress from the West Indies, Lily sets out to discover whether her friend’s husband is mixed up in blackmail and murder. The unlikely team tries to conceal their investigation behind the whirl of London’s social season, but the dead man knew secrets about people with power. Secrets that they would kill to keep hidden. Now, Lily will have to uncover the truth, before she becomes the murderer’s next target.”

My Thoughts:

I am always on the hunt for new historical mystery series to read and I had heard good things about this book. When I was able to snag a copy at my local library, I jumped at the chance. The thing that really drew me into this book was the description that lovers of Tasha Alexander and Rhys Bowen would really enjoy this book. Alexander and Bowen are two of my favorite historical mystery authors, so I knew that I had to give this book a shot. I was not disappointed. Lily Adler is newly widowed and is struggling to find her way in the world without her husband. She has returned to London with the hope of throwing herself back into the social scene to help her forget the loss of her husband. She soon finds herself embroiled in a murder investigation.

Attending her friend’s ball, Lily escapes to the garden for a moment’s respite from the overwhelming crush of London’s upper elite. In the garden she overhears an argument and is shocked when she hears a gunshot. She hurries over to the scene and finds a young man dead of a gunshot wound. No one else is around. Spurring into action, Lily finds some help and learns that the young man was involved in blackmail. But who was he blackmailing and why did someone want him dead? Lily plans to leave the investigating up to the police, but when she learns that her friend’s husband has bribed the local authorities to stop the investigation, she knows that it is up to her to solve the murder.

This book was a delightful read. I had a hard time putting it down. I immensely loved Lily’s character and how her drive for justice fueled her investigation. Even when she is in harm’s way, she is determined to solve the murder mystery because it is the right thing to do. Lily is a smart, strong and determined woman and she is not about to let anything stand her in her way. This was a great start to a new historical mystery series and I am anxious to read the next book in the series, Silence in the Library. I am wondering if any of you have read this book and what your thoughts are and how you feel this author compares to historical mystery greats Alexander and Bowen.

Overall Rating: 5+ stars

Author: Katharine Schellman

Series: Lily Adler Mystery #1

Publisher: Crooked Lane Books

Publication Date: April 7, 2020

Pages: 327

Genre: Historical Mystery

Get It: Amazon

Disclaimer: This book was selected by myself at the library, and I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.

Review: Jane and the Year Without a Summer by Stephanie Barron

Description (from cover): “May 1816: Jane Austen is feeling unwell, with an uneasy stomach, constant fatigue, rashes, fevers and aches. She attributes her poor condition to the stress of family burdens, which even the drafting of her latest manuscript–about a baronet’s daughter nursing a broken heart for a daring naval captain–cannot alleviate. Her apothecary recommends a trial of the curative waters at Cheltenham Spa, in Gloucestershire. Jane decides to use some of the profits earned from her last novel, Emma, and treat herself to a period of rest and reflection at the spa, in the company of her sister, Cassandra.

Cheltenham Spa hardly turns out to be the relaxing sojourn Jane and Cassandra envisaged, however. It is immediately obvious that other boarders at the guest house where the Misses Austen are staying have come to Cheltenham with stresses of their own–some of them deadly. But perhaps with Jane’s interference a terrible crime might be prevented. Set during the Year without a Summer, when the eruption of Mount Tambora in the South Pacific caused a volcanic winter that shrouded the entire planet for sixteen months, this fourteenth installment in Stephanie Barron’s critically acclaimed series brings a forgotten moment of Regency history to life.”

My Thoughts:

**I have reviewed previous books in this series and you can find those reviews by clicking on the following links: Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas and Jane and the Waterloo Map.**

Jane Austen has always fascinated me and having found a series focused on murder mysteries being solved by her, is just the icing on the cake. While it has been some five years since I have picked up a book in this series, I knew that I would enjoy reading about Jane’s adventures again. It did take me a little while to remember what happened in past books and try to figure out who the characters were (mainly Jane’s family members and their backstories). I feel that had there not been such a long gap in between reading the books, that it might have been a little easier to follow along. I did struggle initially with this book trying to keep everything straight. The plot was a little slow and it took me some time to really get into this book.

Jane and her sister, Cassandra, have left home for some rest in Cheltenham Spa where they plan on taking the curative waters to help with their many health ailments. Life has been a little chaotic for the family lately and the sisters hope that getting away for a little bit will provide respite for them. Upon arriving in Cheltenham Spa, they find that their housemates aren’t quite what they appear to be and intrigue is afoot with mysterious happenings. Jane cannot help but find herself in the middle of everything and her inquisitive mind leaves her searching for answers. When other houseguests end up being murdered in strange circumstances, Jane uses her wits and her friends to help solve the murders before someone else is harmed or worse.

As I stated previously, it did take some time for me to really start enjoying this book. The plot started out very slowly, but then as the book progressed, it started to get better. While I wouldn’t say that this was my favorite book in the series, it was nice to read about Jane and her life again. I love how the author uses real details about Austen’s life in the books and incorporates them into her stories to make them seem more realistic. While we all know Jane Austen wasn’t known for solving murders, I really enjoy the thought of Jane being a detective and solving murders in Regency England. This series has long been one of my favorites and it was nice to read this newest installment, which will be released in February 2022. If you are a Jane Austen fanatic like me, I would recommend this series for a different spin on her life and adventures.

Overall Rating: 3 stars

Author: Stephanie Barron

Series: Jane Austen Mystery #14

Publisher: Soho Crime

Publication Date: February 8, 2022

Pages: 336

Genre: Historical Mystery

Get It: Amazon

Disclaimer: An advanced reader copy of this book was provided to me by the Publisher through NetGalley. I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.

Review: Scandal Above Stairs by Jennifer Ashley

Description (from cover): “A mystery of stolen antiquities has Kat Holloway setting aside her apron once again for the intrigues of the upper echelons of Victorian London.

Priceless artwork has gone missing from the home of a wealthy baronet, and his wife stands to take the blame. When Kat’s employer asks for help in clearing her friend’s name, Kat trades her kitchen for the homes of Mayfair’s wealthiest families. Soon antiques are disappearing not only from the extravagant households of connoisseurs and collectors, but from the illustrious British Museum.

As the thefts increase in frequency, Kat calls upon her friend Daniel McAdam, who has already set himself up in a pawnshop on the Strand as a seedy receiver of stolen goods. When a man is murdered in the shop, Kat must use all of her wits to see that the thieves are caught and justice is done.”

My Thoughts:

Kat Holloway is a cook in a wealthy household in London who has a penchant for solving mysteries and finding herself involved in dangerous situations. When her employer Lady Cynthia, asks for her help with clearing her friend’s name of theft of antiquities, Kat is eager to be of assistance. She uses her connections with the households of Mayfair and her mysterious friend Daniel McAdam to investigate the thefts and finds herself promptly in the middle of a murder investigation. Using her connections and her bright wits, she must help her friends and solve the case before someone ends up getting hurt or worse.

This is the second installment in the Below Stairs mystery series and there is a lot of potential for this series. I have come to love the characters, however, the ending of this book left much to be desired. I felt the ending was a little rushed and was confusing. Everything didn’t come together as smoothly as I would have hoped and I was left scratching my head at the head trying to figure everything out. The author did provide some character development in this book, as the reader is not entirely sure of Daniel McAdam’s mysterious past. The author gave us some clues into his past, but did not give away everything. That alone keeps me hooked on this series.

While this wasn’t my favorite read, it wasn’t absolutely horrible either. I really enjoyed the author’s attention to historical details and her knowledge of food and cooking. As a cook and foodie myself, I found that to be very interesting. I am not quite ready to give up on this series and will see what the future of the series holds. As of the writing of this post, there appears to be five books in this series. As this is only book two, I am hoping that the series shows some improvement. The characters are really what brings me back to this series and I am curious to see what the author has planned for them in the other books. If you have read this series, let me know your thoughts in the comments. I am eager to see how others feel about this book and this series.

Overall Rating: 2.5 stars

Author: Jennifer Ashley

Series: Below Stairs Mystery #2

Publisher: Berkley

Publication Date: July 3, 2018

Pages: 316

Genre: Historical Mystery

Get It: Amazon

Disclaimer: This book was selected by myself at the library, and I reviewed this book without compensation of any kind. All thoughts and opinions are solely mine.