A Lady in Disguise: A Novelby Sandra Byrd
After the mysterious death of her father, Miss Gillian Young takes a new job as the principal costume designer at the renowned Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. But while she remembers her father as a kind, well-respected
In this intriguing novel of romance, mystery, and clever disguise set in Victorian England, a young woman investigates the murder of her own father.
After the mysterious death of her father, Miss Gillian Young takes a new job as the principal costume designer at the renowned Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. But while she remembers her father as a kind, well-respected man of the Police Force, clues she uncovers indicate he’d been living a double life: a haunting photograph of a young woman; train stubs for secret trips just before his death; and a receipt for a large sum of money. Are these items evidence of her father’s guilty secrets? His longtime police partner thinks so.
Then Gillian meets the dashing Viscount Thomas Lockwood. Their attraction is instant and inescapable. As their romantic involvement grows, Gillian begins to suspect even Lockwood’s motives. Does Lord Lockwood truly love her? Or is his interest a front for the desire to own her newly inherited property? And what should she make of her friend’s suggestion that Lockwood or men like him were involved in the murder of her father?
Soon Gillian is convinced that her father has left evidence somewhere that can prove his innocence and reveal the guilty party. But someone wants to stop her from discovering it. The closer she comes to uncovering it, the more menacing her opposition grows. With her life on the line, Gillian takes on an ingenious disguise and takes on the role of a lifetime to reveal the true killer—before it’s too late both for her and for those that she loves.
Read an Excerpt
A Lady in Disguise
EARLY APRIL, 1883
I stood, that bleak day, in the graveyard in the village near Winton Park. The chapel’s stone gargoyles, pitted and blinded by the elements, nonetheless mocked our mortality with their jeering grins. Mrs. W tarried beside me; it was only we two mourners. An awkward funeral had been held in London a few days earlier—why had so few attended?—and the interment was just as lonely and isolating.
Nearby, the grass over my mother’s grave crept outward, erasing the decades-old rectangular spade edges. My grandmother’s burial plot was a few years younger than Mamma’s, and the grass atop it was sparse, thin, and blanched, like hair on an old woman’s head. Grandfather’s headstone looked like nothing so much as the king from a chess board. No grass grew near his. It was fittingly edged with gravel.
“Miss Young?” The vicar cleared his throat. “Are you ready?”
I nodded. Mrs. W took my elbow to steady me.
“The Lord is full of compassion and mercy, slow to anger and of great goodness.
“As a father is tender toward his children, so is the Lord tender to those that fear Him,” the vicar softly began.
I knelt down, blinking back tears, and sifted the first handful of dirt onto my father’s coffin. It mingled with a cold drizzle, black and white, dark and light, into a slurry. “Yes, you were tender to me and to all who knew you,” I whispered.
I love you, Papa.
“We have entrusted our brother Andrew Young to God’s mercy, and we now commit his body to the ground: earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”
With that, the laborers began their work. I quickly turned away, but there was no blocking the sound of the first shuddering shovelful hitting the casket. I waited a moment for a sign of comfort: a dove flying in the distance, a sunbeam mysteriously piercing the clouds, a soothing song teasing forth in my mind.
I waited in vain.
We carefully picked our way out of the cemetery. It was slippery with moss, the only plant cunning enough to grow throughout the winter. An early-spring wind harried us forward, and we settled into the carriage and then returned to my crumbling country home. As we alighted I saw, in the distance, a man on horseback, stationary and watching.
“Who is that?” I asked the driver. And why is he out at this hostile hour?
“Why, that’s Lord Lockwood, of course.” The driver’s voice reflected surprise. “He is your near neighbor and, er, a man of distinction in these parts. You have not met?”
“Not that I can recall, no.” And yet, his name . . .
“His father, long passed, and your mother . . .” Mrs. W spoke softly, wanting to remind me, certainly, but not desirous of raising a topic that might seem indelicate.
Yes, then I recalled. Lord Lockwood the elder had courted my mother, the young Victoria Palmer. My grandfather had surprised everyone and allowed her to decline Lockwood’s proposal. Certainly the old man had repented of that a half dozen years later when she married my papa instead.
Mamma. How I long for you.
Once inside the house we lingered in the Red Drawing Room, one of the few rooms in which the dust sheets had been hastily removed from the velvet furniture. The dark red flocked wallpaper made the room appear as though it were covered in bloodshot eyes; the pattern seemed to shift and follow me as I walked. Davidson, the caretaker, had seen to it that a fire was lit as soon as we’d arrived that morning.
There soon came a knock on the front door. Davidson moved faster than I’d expected for a man his age.
“Lord Lockwood!” Davidson’s voice reflected deference as he opened the door. “Please . . .”
Mrs. W and I stood as the aforementioned man of distinction entered my home, a maid following behind him, the manservant next to her hefting a large wooden hamper.
Davidson seemed dumbstruck. I moved forward to greet my guest, out of my element but not wanting to reveal that. “I’m sorry there is no butler to properly announce you,” I said. “We are not often here, of course.” And I don’t employ a butler.
Lockwood held my gaze with his own. It was strong and steady, but not impertinent. He stood straight, like a military man or a man in the police force . . . like Papa had been . . . I pushed away the sorrowful thought.
My guest removed his hat, which he handed to the manservant, and held out one gloved hand. “Thomas, Lord Lockwood,” he said. “How do you do?”
“Miss Gillian Young. How do you do?” I replied. His rusty-brown hair tumbled in a slightly unruly manner, in direct contrast with his person, and I found that unexpectedly appealing.
“My mother sent a hamper.” He indicated the manservant and his load.
“Truly considerate. How did she know we would be here?”
Davidson found his voice. “I told her, miss. She likes to know everything that is going on.”
She did, did she?
I indicated the comestibles should be brought into the drawing room.
The maid set the tea, contained in a silver samovar, upon a creaking console table that was covered with tired blue and white delft tiles. Mrs. W, with a sniff toward Lord Lockwood, served. Lady Lockwood’s bone china was very fine indeed.
“Your mother is too kind,” I said. Lockwood appeared bemused and a dry look passed between the maid and the manservant.
“She is a”—Lockwood seemed to struggle to find the right word—“a purposeful woman. You don’t remember meeting her, I take it?”
“No.” I sipped my tea, which was still warm. “I don’t think you and I have met before, either, have we?”
Lockwood took a perfunctory sip of his tea before setting it down on the side table. He had a presence and fitted—but only just—in the Queen Anne chair next to mine, its matching ottoman having been neatly pushed aside. His boots were impossibly clean for a man who had been riding in the wet and he emanated confidence and control.
“We haven’t met per se,” he replied. “But I remember you very well indeed.”
I set my cup down in surprise. “From when, if I may ask?”
He stood, and indicated that I should do likewise. “May I?”
I rose, and he took my hand and led me to the tall, twisted oak staircase, once highly polished, now thirsty and cracked.
“Your grandparents held an annual ball. I was seventeen years old, down for the summer, an extraordinarily poor dancer and wishing to return to school with all speed. You and your parents attended, an unusual occurrence, I understand?”
I nodded and the memory of that evening eleven years earlier came back to me in a rush. In spite of the solemnity of the day, I found myself smiling. “We were all together, here for once.” In spite of our rare visits, Winton had felt welcoming to me. I remembered Grandmamma patting my smooth hand with her liver-spotted one when Grandfather wasn’t looking.
Lockwood smiled back and as he did his face infused with such warmth it was difficult to look away. I caught my breath and he continued. “Your grandparents greeted those arriving. I stood in the corner looking to make an early escape. Then—you walked down the stairs, grandly, as I recall, your blond hair awkwardly pulled back, wearing gaudy, bejeweled slippers a size or two too large. You tripped . . .”
I laughed, enchanted that he had remembered so many details. “I did. They were my mother’s stage shoes. She was an actress.”
“Yes,” he said. “My own mother reminded me of that just today.”
So you’ll know, then, I thought, that Mamma’s father had shunned her for it, had little to do with her once she left for London and the stage, thought to be only for those of ill repute and easy morals. You know that the fact that she made a middle-class marriage is the reason we were rarely invited.
I cleared my throat and continued. “The shoes were from a play she had just finished. My grandfather was horrified.” I’d been thirteen years old, sashaying down that staircase. A quick movement of my grandmother’s gloved hand had covered her grin but she couldn’t hide the smile in her eyes.
“He may have been horrified,” Lockwood acknowledged, his voice softening. “But I was truly charmed.” He held my gaze for a moment, and then his face turned somber again. “I’m very sorry for your recent loss.”
A veil slipped over me once more. “I, too.”
We returned to the drawing room. “The house is yours now,” he stated. But there was enough of a lift at the end to make me wonder if it was a question, instead.
I nodded. “It is.”
“Would you like me to show you the property?”
My back flexed. How brash! It was not his to show.
“It is in critical need of repair,” Lockwood continued. “A few years have passed since your grandmother died, and even then she was not able to care for it on her own. Your father was here six months ago . . .”
I nodded. “To store my mother’s costume trunks.”
He did not answer that, but continued, “And then perhaps a fortnight ago, again. His police colleague visited, too. A . . . Collingsworth?”
Mrs. W looked up, as surprised, I gathered, as was I. “My father was here, again? Recently?” I asked.
Lockwood nodded. “Yes. You did not know?”
“I did not.” I’d thought Papa and I held no secrets.
Silence threaded its way through the room before Lockwood spoke again. “Perhaps your father was somewhat taken aback by the size of the property, and the maintenance and household commitments of a large country home and estate.”
Was that a comment on Papa’s social status, or simply an observation? It seemed oddly timed and did not address the conversation at hand.
Lockwood turned toward me. “I would be happy to escort you. Perhaps after the sleet relents?” He glanced out of the window.
Mrs. W took her brass watch necklace in hand, indicating the time.
“I’m sorry. I have every intention of exploring my house and the land, which I hold in affection and plan to restore to beautiful functionality as soon as I may. Winton Park is very dear to me indeed, as it was to my mother. But we have a train to meet.” I held my head proudly. “I am a costume designer and a seamstress. I have work to return to meet my obligations.”
Although now the heiress to Winton Park, I was also the daughter of a decidedly middle-class marriage. In addition to my theater work, I designed and sewed for a wealthy lady who was, I suspected, very much like his purposeful mother.
“May I be of service? Perhaps to have a look round and compile a list of what I see requires attention?” Lockwood asked. “I am mostly in London, tending to investments and other concerns. I could call on you.”
His cordiality and helpfulness rebuked me; he had only intended to escort and assist. I did not need to look for disdain in every statement spoken. In truth, it was clear that maintenance and general upkeep had been long deferred. I had no idea where I would find the resources required, along with paying what would be considerable death duties. I lived by my needle. I nodded, and stood, indicating that our time together was drawing to a close.
“That would be much appreciated. Thank you. I mean to do well by Winton, for my mother’s sake. She gave up this life”—I used my arm to sweep around the house— “for my father. And then she nearly lost her life giving birth to me.”
At that, he winced, and I blushed. Oh dear. What an indelicate matter to mention to a man I hardly knew. Middle-class indeed, Gillian!
We saw them out, and Davidson saw us, shortly thereafter, to the hired carriage that would return us to the train station.
After boarding I looked out of the window as the train heaved forward to gain momentum.
Papa. Dearest Papa. Why were you here secretly two weeks ago and with Inspector Collingsworth? Collingsworth had, to the best of my knowledge, never been interested in nor welcomed at Winton Park.
Meet the Author
Award-winning and bestselling author Sandra Byrd has published four dozen books in the fiction and nonfiction markets, including Mist of Midnight, Bride of a Distant Isle (A Romantic Times Book Reviews Top Pick), and her most recent, A Lady in Disguise. For nearly two decades, Sandra has shared her secrets with the many writers she edits, mentors, and coaches. She lives in the Seattle, Washington area.
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A Lady in Disguise is the third addition to Sandra Byrd's Daughters of Hampshire series. In this book, Miss Gillian Young investigate the death of her father. She takes a position of principal costume designer at the Drury Lane Theatre Royal. She uncovers shocking secrets her father had. Do these secrets hold the key to what happened to him and why he was killed? She begins suspecting everyone that may be involved including, Lord Lockwood, who she has developed a romantic feelings for. The closer she gets to the truth to what happened to her father, the more she finds herself in danger. Deciding she wants to find the real killer, she takes on a disguise hoping it is not too late before someone else's life comes to an end, including her own. A Lady in Disguise is a perfect "who done it" story. The suspense was quite intense at times and I was surprised with all the twist and turns that was involved. A reader will be guessing all the way to the end to what really happened to Gillian's father. I admire Gillian's determination and strength throughout the whole story. I really enjoyed this book and I think this is definitely my favorite of the series. Five stars I received this book from the author, but was not required to write a review. This review is of my own honest opinion.
On a scale of cotton candy to Brussels sprouts, A Lady in Disguise by Sandra Byrd is a Blackberry snow cone, which might be considered a modern day Blackberry ice (as seen in the book). After all, sometimes the ice on your tongue hides the true flavor. Mounded high with layers of ice and an ombré of flavor, a snow cone intensifies until the final taste, saving the sweetest for last. And that's delicious. Gillian Young, a kind and ambitious seamstress, accepts a position as the head costume designer for the production of Cinderella soon after the mysterious death of her police father. Her father's police colleagues suspect that he lead a criminal double life, but Gillian can't believe it. As she begins her own investigation, she receives threats. Who can she trust? What I love about Sandra Byrd's writing is that somehow she creates a likable, strong heroine while manipulating a vague and foggy mystery. I felt like I was squinting through the London fog. Throughout the story, I knew someone was out to ruin Gillian's life as she tried to be a productive member of society while finding out the truth about her father, but just as soon I suspected one character, he or she proved not guilty for the time-being, anyway. Even better, the revelation of the villain(s) not only made sense but also surprised me, and I love that Sandra Byrd created 3D characters with backstory and believable motivations. P.S. I was not mad to see references to the rabbit hole from Alice in Wonderland, quotes from Little Women, and the use of my first name (coincidence I'm sure) for one of the characters in this book. Actually, I was quite happy by all three! [I received a copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.]
A Lady in Disguise is not to be missed! A Lady in Disguise, the third and last installment in the Daughters of Hampshire series, is a most satisfying conclusion to a truly wonderful Victorian Gothic Romantic series starting with “Mist of Midnight,“ “ Bride of a Distant Isle,” and finally ending with as mentioned above “A Lady in Disguise”. This book is truly full of all of my favorite things, mystery, romance, London fog, theatre, costumes and “A Lady in Disguise”. Prepare to be transported back to the streets of London to 1883 through the eyes of Gillian Young, a young woman filled with drive to help others and a passion to clear her father’s name. The heroine Gillian Young, is brave and works hard as a newly appointed principle costume designer for the Drury Lane Theatre Royale. She has a lot to accomplish, without a lot of resources, as both parents are dead, her father recently so. Her father was a once respected police officer, but she is now discovering that he died under a cloak of suspicion of wrong-doing. His death also, the more that Gillian looks into it, the more that she sees that it was no accident. Her aim is to discover the truth about her father, his death, and other “goings on” in his life and prove to everyone that he was the good man that she knew him to be. And then there is the Viscount Thomas Lockwood, a man whose father is a part of her mother’s past. The reader is always a little off balance with him, wondering if he is just out to get her newly acquired property, or if he is falling for Gillian because their chemistry is immediate upon their acquaintance. If I might add, Sandra Byrd is a master at writing those swoon-worthy scenes between Gillian and Thomas, she builds the relationship at just the right pace and with just the right amount of chemistry. I mean really, who doesn’t love a “dance scene”- complete with dance cards and wonderful repartee? If you are a fan of well-researched historical fiction, I know that you will enjoy this wonderfully immersive book which transports you back to 1883 London, right along with mystery, romance, wonderful characters and a great storyline to boot. I promise that taking this journey will be well worth it, as you enjoy a wonderfully written and well-researched story whose character’s you wish that you could meet in real life! Enjoy! 5 stars I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review- all opinions expressed are my own
4.5 “Women work a good many miracles.” Little Women As I was writing the post for my 5 year anniversary (there’s still time to enter the giveaway, so be sure to!), I thought about how my taste in books have changed, but one thing has remained – Sandra Byrd’s books grab my attention and have me hooked the whole way through. Among many things, this book was a good mix of mystery, history and romance. Plus I liked the ode to Little Women. Slipped throughout the pages, I wanted to send an internet high five to Byrd for dropping quotes and nods in all the right places. I enjoyed the mystery as well. There were some things I think the reader will catch quickly, but I believe that was done to give a taste, because not all panned out how I thought it would. I also really enjoyed the romance story. I didn’t think I would because I love historical fiction for the history, more than the romance, but y’all, I really enjoyed it! I really liked what she did with our main characters, but also several of the secondary. They captured your heart and the relationships and roles they played were creative. Another winning novel from Byrd! If y’all have been fans of Byrd’s before, this won’t disappoint. Have you read any from this series? (Thank you to Howard Books for a copy of the book. All views expressed are my own.) Originally posted at http://booksandbeverages.org/2017/03/23/lady-disguise-sandra-byrd-book-review/
I’ve said this before and it bears repeating, Sandra Byrd’s Daughters of Hampshire series is nothing short of amazing! The mystery, the intrigue, the daring disguises, the romance – all will have you turning the pages until WAY past your bedtime and that is the voice of someone who read until after 4 AM because I just couldn’t stop. In many ways, Ms. Byrd’s books take me back to my high school days when I devoured every Victoria Holt novel I could get my hands on. I read every one the school library had then I progressed to the town library and the Bookmobile. Ms. Byrd’s stories have the same feeling – kind of dark and foreboding – with a strong female lead character and an equally strong male. This one gripped me by the throat and kept me in suspense until the exciting finish. Gillian Young was the daughter of a constable and an actress. Her mother chose acting over life as an heiress and married a commoner over the titled man her father chose for her. In so doing, she was banned from her family home and ignored by her father any time she visited her mother. Gillian has many fond memories of her visits to her grandmother so when her father dies mysteriously she takes him to Hampshire to be buried next to her mother. Her first clue that all is not right is the lack of police presence at the funeral. If her father was the well-respected police Inspector that she believed him to be, why had so few officers paid their respects? Her second clue followed quickly on the first. She arrived home from the funeral to find the police searching her house for evidence of her father’s misdeeds as an officer of the law. Disbelieving, Gillian begins an investigation of her own. When she’s not sewing costumes for the Drury Lane Theatre, she’s asking questions that can get her in trouble. Will she find the answers she seeks? Viscount Thomas Lockwood grew up next door to Gillian’s grandparents. He remembers Gillian visiting as a little girl and offers to help Gillian keep an eye on her property. The more time he spends with her, the more intrigued he is with the little girl who is all grown up. Can he convince her that his interest is genuine – that he loves her for herself and not for her land? Can he keep her safe when she refuses to stop trying to clear her father’s name? Gillian careens from one misadventure to another. As she investigated the disappearance of a young girl, I kept expecting her to disappear in much the same way. The historical detail in the story is stunning – right down to the lines from Henry V and Cinderella. I loved that Ms. Byrd used wording from actual playbills of the time period and wording from actual newspaper clippings. It seems like lately I’ve read a lot of books that deal, however obliquely, with child sex trafficking. I hate to think that over 200 years later, humans are still battling this evil. Knowing that 200 years ago the “age of consent” was 13 horrifies me. I’m glad that organizations like The Salvation Army, like The Cause in this book, made it their business to help these children. Mystery, suspense, romance – even some humor – all find a place in A Lady in Disguise. If you love even ONE of those genres, you need to pick this one up. You WILL NOT be sorry you did!
I enjoyed trying to figure out the mysteries that Gillian's father kept as she was trying to figure out who murdered him. I was a little worried for her at times as there were a few things that threatened her life as she got close to figuring out what happened. The bit of romance that was included in this story was nice as well. It kind of lightened the mood in spots. It was nice how the author was able to put some facts from the time period in with the story. In fact at the end of the book after the story is all done she gives us some more historical notes. I thought she did a good job of getting the time and place down. Her descriptions were vivid and her characters well developed. I have enjoyed each of the books in this series. You can read them as a stand alone if you wish but I recommend reading them all. I am looking forward to the next series she will give us.
Sandra Byrd has done it again, writing a Gothic novel that's tough to put down. Even so, I put off reading the last chapter because I didn't want this book to end. Well written, well paced, intriguing story, and just the right amount of real history mixed in. I can't recommend it enough!
If you enjoy historical romantic suspense, A LADY IN DISGUISE is the book for you. It has all the elements I've come to expect: a young woman (Gillian Young) whose parents are no longer living, a couple of interested young men (Constable Francis Collingsworth, a friend since childhood, and Viscount Thomas Lockwood, the dashing neighbor to Gillian's ancestral home in Hampshire), and a mystery to be solved (Gillian's father, before he was killed, was a well-respected London police officer, but was he really involved in nefarious deeds as his partner has inferred?). There are footsteps following in the fog, searches of both her home in London and the house in Hampshire, harassment by the police, snubs, and who, oh, who, can Gillian trust? She is determined to find out the truth about her father. Gillian is a seamstress and designer for the theater and takes some young, former pantomime actresses under her wing as apprentices. It was interesting to read of the work, even back in the late 1880's, mission groups were doing to provide young women acceptable skills to keep them from being victims of child trafficking and prostitution. Though this is an integral part of the story, the main focus is the mystery surrounding Gillian's father. As with all great books of this genre, the story is told in first person, so we only find out (and experience) things as Gillian does, which makes the creepy parts even more delightfully creepy! But never fear, it has a very satisfactory ending. I highly recommend A LADY IN DISGUISE, as well as the previous books in the Daughters of Hampshire series. I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.
A Lady in Disguise by Sandra Byrd is a must-read for fans of romance, mystery, and Victorian England. Tie-ins with both Little Women and Cinderella – and how each is used to offer wisdom – will make bookish hearts smile fondly. The history is well-researched, and the early champions against human trafficking are given due honor. Gillian’s quest to learn the truth about her father kept me engaged and involved, and trying to determine which of her two suitors could be trusted had me nervous more than once! Make sure this one is on your TBR list! (I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book.)
A Lady in Disguise is a gothic story filled with intrigue and mystery told in first person that really put me in the heroine’s shoes. Starting out rather sadly and continuing along with that theme, we have Gillian Young bereft of her family and looking toward an uncertain future, quite possibly alone. Her father’s death and the absence of support from his fellow friends and officers have definitely caused Gillian to pause. Strange occurrences and threatening confrontations only begin to make her very suspicious of the events surrounding her father’s death. Add to that the growing unease that something sinister has been hidden and shadows of doubt have been cast upon her concerning her beloved father. Gillian is a costume designer who finds she is the heir to her family’s ancestral home. She meets her neighbor Viscount Thomas Lockwood who mesmerizes her yet she is unsure of him and his possible ulterior motives. We watch with her trying to interpret his actions and looks that are as puzzling to the reader as to the heroine. I waited in anticipation at each visit he had with her and hoped he revealed he was a noble character. I was also intrigued with the history that author Sandra Byrd brought into her story. I was not aware of the pantomime children in Victorian England who on one hand delighted the wealthy with the very elaborate plays they were involved with, and then to be turned out as outcasts when they are too old. Looked and judged oftentimes with an air of being disreputable. Gillian’s heart was very open to these poor children and her charity was love in action. This novel was filled with mystery, themes of love (neighbor, family, romantic), danger, and foreboding all set against an atmosphere that was growing only tenser with each page turning. I liked that there was just a brief touch of the supernatural, to give us a ray of hope when all else looked doomed. What a satisfying ending and a very nice nod to a certain favorite fairy tale. I received a copy of this novel for free from the author and publisher. I was not required to give a positive review and all views and opinions expressed are my own.
Tuesday, March 21, 2017 A Lady in Disguise by Sandra Byrd, © 2017 Daughters of Hampshire Series, Book 3 My Review: I thoroughly enjoy reading Sandra Byrd's historical fiction novels! In this story the protagonist will be solving a mystery close to her heart ~ what is behind the death of her father and... henceforth uncovering circumstances revealing a hidden life? England ~ early-spring 1883 Miss Gillian Young and her attendant stand graveside at the burial of her Papa at the chapel in the village near Winton next to her Mamma with none in attendance beyond the vicar. Andrew Young had been an Inspector with the Metropolitan Police Chelsea division. Upon the late night arrival at Cheyne Gardens in Chelsea at her townhouse, they find there has been a break-in ~ and the interloper is still there rummaging through their house and goods. Questions loom as Gillian sets out on an adventure of her own to tie up the loose ends. Where it will carry her is unknown to find truth of dubious activities that has escaped all of them. As the newly appointed principal costume designer for the Theatre Royal Drury Lane and individual seamstress of designer gowns for a titled lady of merit for the April-to-mid-August Season, Gillian has access within the theatre and society. Her mother had been an actress here in past golden days. She aspires to deem clues to solve the mysterious happenings before the officials and those wanting secret substances to remain hidden. I took a deep breath and forced my mind to recall the joy of seeing my latest creations on that stage. What a pleasure that had been! --A Lady in Disguise, 32. In her search for seamstresses to assist with her theatrical wardrobe for the upcoming show, Gillian knows just where to begin her search: The Theatrical Mission. Like herbs in a pestle, life steadily ground out the essence of those who did not have access to comforts. --Ibid., 62. Her mother had spoken of the Cause in notes Gillian uncovered and instead of rejecting them, she indeed cared to include those no longer needed in pantomimes because of their advancing ages beyond being "cute." ~*~ Enters Lord Lockwood whom Gillian had gazed on horseback afar at the graveyard. He soon came to deliver a hamper from his mother with tea and delicacies. As heiress of Winton Park, her mother's childhood home, he offered to assemble a list of attentions needed for the large country home and estate. Upon returning to London to her work obligations, he stated he too was frequently in attendance to his investments and other concerns. A perfect opportunity for arrival it seems. Gillian first saw Thomas Lockwood's image again in her sketches that seemed to surface unbidden in her drawings. Until his carriage arrives at their London townhouse with a messenger requesting if he might call and bring his mother in attendance? Thus, begins an informal acquisition of the needs of Winton, and an open door to friendship. Warnings come to not interfere with the past and her visit to King Street where her father met his untimely death. As you likely will know, Gillian is not one to be set aside. Sandra Byrd is a tremendous author with detailed characters, which I love, and a firm story surrounding a past and a future. A hope attained! ~*~ You may read this book as a stand-alone, but you will love books 1 and 2 in the series too!! I was provided a copy of A Lady in Disguise by the publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.
A Lady In Disguise is the third and final book in the Daughters of Hampshire series. Of the three books included in the series it is by far my favorite. If you've not read the first two books, never fear, each are stand alone titles so you can read them in any order. After reading the series I am convinced that Sandra Byrd will be a name synonymous with Gothic romance in the future. She has taken all of the elements from our beloved old school Gothics and brought them forward with a few updated twists. While most of the action takes place in London there is still a run down estate that lurks in the background. The heroine's parents are gone and her father's death has a mystery surrounding it. There are characters that should be trustworthy but they aren't. There are those that are trusted but shouldn't be. And there are certainly those that waffle back and forth between trustworthiness and sinister motives. The tension of figuring out the truth is delicious! A Lady In Disguise is a wonderfully entertaining tale but it also has a great bit of depth. Mixed among the mystery and intrigue is the very real truth of the ill treatment of women and children. Sandra Byrd gives us a glimpse into the hidden-in-plain-sight world of the poor, child labor, and prostitution. My favorite overriding element of the book was the fact that while we as ordinary people can't help the masses we can reach out and make a difference in the life of an individual. Think of the impact if we would each reach out to just one other individual and lift their burden. The domino effect would be massive. I look forward to reading the next series of Gothics from Sandra Byrd. I would recommend this book and the entire series to those that enjoy mystery and intrigue mixed with a bit of historical romance. If you have a book club this would be a wonderful choice. Lots of different discussion possibilities are included in the stories. I received a copy of this book to facilitate my review.
Excellent Gothic Suspense! I have not read many novels set in Victorian times, but I do love all things British. Having read an earlier book in this series, I eagerly awaited this final installment in Byrd’s Daughters of Hampshire. As with her previous novel, the well-defined setting and relatable characters placed in perilous circumstances is a winning combination for a fantastic page turner! Gillian is neither a wilting heroine nor is she an out of place example of modernity—I greatly appreciate that the author kept both her characters and the setting historically accurate. For her own time, Gillian is an independent, strong woman, but also one who finds herself in considerable danger physically as well as financially. She is vulnerable without the protection of her father or any extended family, but she has no idea who is trustworthy so does the best she can by her wits. She is realistic, and I love that she can be swayed by others (both for good and for bad) and that she can also admit when her judgement has been faulty. The romance is sometimes frustrating with misunderstandings and lack of trust, but all of that is understandable in a suspenseful tale where the heroine isn’t sure who is her enemy. There are many exceptionally swoon-worthy moments that make up for the frustrating scenes, however, and the hero is especially romantic, perhaps even more so than Gillian. The prose is often exquisite—I mark portions of the text that stand out while I read and there are many here. For example, the passage where she remembers her mother’s passing was especially poignant, describing her father as “hand[ing] her, gently, to the angels who came to carry her to her waiting savior.” That was just one passage that had me smiling and tearing up at the same time with the beauty of both the wording and the event itself. Other portions have a heavy, atmospheric feel to them: darkness and light, the ever-present fog and smog, the rain, ominous shadow characters that hover at the edges of scenes—the setting almost becomes another character itself, pointing us in one direction or another or alerting us that things are not as they seem. The tension mounts almost continually, making the book difficult to put down for more than a few minutes. This is only the second novel I have read by Sandra Byrd, but its quality is impeccable and makes me want to read everything else she has written. Finely crafted characters and a fast paced plot combine with outstanding writing to make a thoroughly enjoyable Gothic novel of suspense and mystery. I cannot recommend this book highly enough, especially for those who enjoy Victorian settings, suspenseful plots, or a good romance. I loved it! I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.
You will not want to say goodbye to this heroine. Sandra Byrd has given us a heroine, Gillian, who is courageous but real. As she investigates the strange circumstances surrounding her father's death, it becomes extremely difficult to know who to trust. But our Gillian perseveres and discovers the importance of trusting herself. This suspenseful novel includes wonderful behind the scenes glimpses of the theater. It also includes the very real problem of human trafficking, as well as, an organization willing to reach out and help. Our heroine also wants to make a difference in the world that she discovers. What a wonderful example Byrd has given for women, for young readers too. I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.
This is my first read by Sandra Byrd, but definitely won't be my last. I was so impressed with her attention to detail and the research into Victorian England. Elegantly written, It is full of suspense with a sprinkling of romance while also dealing with the trafficking of young girls. I love what a strong leading lady Gillian is and how she doesn't let anything stop her from trying to prove her fathers innocence. The inspiration element is subtle, but makes an impact. The surprise at the ending gave me goosebumps, shhh, I can't give it away. This needs to be on your must read list. I received a complimentary copy from the publisher. The honest review and opinions are my own and were not required.
Why won’t anyone believe her? Things just keep getting more and more difficult for Gillian. Who can she believe and who will help her? This book is full of suspense, twists and turns, and moments of grief for our heroin. Can she hold it together and finally find out what’s really going on? I truly enjoyed this book! There was moments where I couldn’t put it down and moments where I wanted to scream “watch out” to the characters in the book. There were also tender moments of romance, yet you never actually knew if it was just a ploy. This book had my heart pounding at times with all the action and drama. Sandra Byrd genuinely has a way with words and brought the 1800s into full color for us. I loved all the descriptions of all the balls and costumes they wore during this time. Oh what fun it would have been to attend one of those events. I honestly loved this book and highly recommend reading it. I received this book from the author to read. All opinions are my own.
Another fantastic book in the Daughters of Hampshire series! Taking place between the foggy streets of London in 1883, as well as a grand manor house in Hampshire, this one will send chills up your spine at times, and pull your heart strings too. Mystery, danger, and romance mix well to create a standout Victorian era novel. This author never disappoints, skillfully weaving fact with fiction, creating scenes and people that all seem real somehow. The emotions run high as the suspense and tension are tightened, making me shed a few tears along with the main character, Gillian, and want to even pray for her at times! Her plight seemed increasingly hopeless, and so unfair, but her pursuit of truth and justice is noble, even as her findings cast doubt on her father's character; not knowing whom she could believe or trust added a lot of tension also. Sadly, the same dangers to women and children that are brought to light, along with the poverty, still exist today. The quotes from literature, i.e. Shakespeare, Little Women, and the Bible, were effectively used in the story, and quite sweet, especially in the romantic parts. The fairytale twist at the end is worth all the angst along the way, and made for a very satisfying finish. The index has a lot of interesting information also, telling more about the theatre of the time, the people who championed the poor, and other issues of the day. Readers who enjoy a historical fiction book with some romance and a little faith, like those by Sarah Ladd, Julie Klassen and Melanie Dickerson, will probably love this one too. Recommend! 4.5 stars (Book provided by NetGalley and the publisher. This is my honest, original review.)
In A Lady in Disguise, author Sandra Byrd has penned a hauntingly breathtaking Gothic romance set in Victorian England—with mysterious, dark mansions shrouded in secrets—and a beautiful, angst-filled romance befit for a fairytale. Gillian Young is one of the most captivating heroines to ever grace the pages of a novel. Strong...yet vulnerable, classy...yet humble and compassionate, professional...yet with an enchanting sense of humor. The charming, enigmatic, and dashing Viscount Thomas Lockwood, who keeps Gillian's heart fluttering, is caught in several seemingly compromising situations and she is no longer certain of his motives. And quite frankly, neither was I! The hair on the back of my neck rose along with Gillian's as she finds herself continually being followed by someone sinister and eerie and everyone is a suspect—even Thomas. Donning a clever disguise to find answers to vindicate her deceased father leads her to a dark, creepy mansion and imminent heart-pounding danger! Written in Sandra Byrd's delightful Victorian poetic prose and filled with delicious quotes, A Lady In Disguise is a spine-tingling, unpredictable page-turner with many a twist and turn that continually left my heart in my throat—with a happily ever after surprise ending that left me in tears. Impeccably researched and rich in historical detail, I learned much about the Victorian era...the good, the bad, and the ugly. This novel touched my very soul as did this quote that Gillian sought to live by: "If we each do for one what we cannot do for many, we can make a difference." I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.