Barbara’s rating: 5 of 5 stars
Series: Ash & Juliana #1
Publication Date: 5/11/21
Period: Georgian London – 1748
Number of Pages: 275
Lynne Connolly, writing as L.C. Sharp, has created a stellar historical mystery series. The writing is outstanding, period correct, and riveting. The mystery will confound you to the end and even then, it will leave you wondering what will happen next. The characters are so relatable, especially Juliana who grows exponentially during this tale. You will definitely be wanting more of them – to see where their relationship goes and to see how she finally manages to deal with the trauma inflicted upon her during her wedding night. Sorry, but we have to wait until August before we’ll get our next infusion of Ash and Juliana in The Sign of the Raven. I can hardly wait. This is definitely NOT a romance novel – it is most definitely a historical mystery that is accompanied by – but not overpowered by – a bit of a romance. For me personally, it strikes the perfect balance between the mystery and the romance.
Lady Juliana Christianson, the only child of the Earl of Hawksworth, has just married Lord Godfrey Uppingham, the second son of the Marquess of Urmston. The marriage was definitely a marriage of convenience – and not Juliana’s convenience at that. It is all due to her father working the system and bribing the crown in order for his title and bloodline to continue. Naïve, cosseted, protected from everyone and everything – no friends, not even a servant she could be close to – Juliana had absolutely no clue about the horror she was about to walk into. Everyone else knew – including her parents – but nobody cared as long as they got what they wanted out of the union. So, when Juliana awoke the next morning – in a pool of blood – with her new husband dead beside her, she didn’t mourn his loss at all. However, she knew she didn’t kill him. Who did? Why did they leave her alive? Everybody is accusing her, is she now headed toward the hangman’s noose?
Sir Edmund Ashendon (Ash) and his family have a sad, traumatic background with a scandal they are just now beginning to live down. They’ve distanced themselves from it, but it caused Ash to make a profound change in his life. He moved from the lucrative business of property law into criminal law. It is no surprise when Mr. Henry Fielding left word he wanted to see Ash because Ash was always looking for an interesting case and the case Mr. Fielding presented him was definitely that. Mr. Fielding gives Ash full authorization to act on his behalf and to bring the accused – a woman who stabbed her husband on their wedding night – to Bow Street for interrogation and arrest.
Nothing is ever as simple as it appears and this arrest certainly isn’t. With mobs in the street calling for Juliana’s blood, Ash must get her to a place of safety – and Bow Street might not even be that place. Oddly enough, as Ash interviews the young woman, he begins to believe that she might not have done it. If she didn’t do it, who did? Why didn’t she awake while her husband was being murdered? If he can figure out who actually did it, can he prove it?
There is a new criminal mastermind in London. Known as the Raven, he has great ambitions. He’s already very powerful and has begun combining all of the different gangs under one umbrella. Ash comes to believe that the Raven is somehow involved in Godfrey’s murder, but can find absolutely no clues to definitely show that is the case. As the case moves along, there is another murder. A witness is killed in Ash’s own garden. That is much too close to home.
The mystery is exciting, suspenseful, and well developed. When you add the dastardly machinations of Juliana’s parents and the manipulations of the Raven to the evidence in the murder, you have to wonder how Juliana will ever prove her innocence.
I adored Ash and Juliana. They made a marvelous working team – especially with Juliana’s keen observational skills. I really look forward to watching them work together in solving future cases – and in life itself. Juliana’s growth just in this one book was exceptional and I cannot wait to see where she goes from here.