I saw this one on NetGalley a few months ago and immediately requested it. I didn’t really need to know anything about the book other than “the Brontë sisters solve crime together” to be hooked on the idea. This proved to be a delightfully fast-paced and interesting read! Big thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Before they became legendary writers, Charlotte Brontë, Emily Brontë, and Anne Brontë were detectors in this charming historical mystery…
Yorkshire, 1845. A young wife and mother has gone missing from her home, leaving behind two small children and a large pool of blood. Just a few miles away, a humble parson’s daughters–the Brontë sisters–learn of the crime. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë are horrified and intrigued by the mysterious disappearance.
These three creative, energetic, and resourceful women quickly realize that they have all the skills required to make for excellent “lady detectors.” Not yet published novelists, they have well-honed imaginations and are expert readers. And, as Charlotte remarks, “detecting is reading between the lines–it’s seeing what is not there.”
As they investigate, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne are confronted with a society that believes a woman’s place is in the home, not scouring the countryside looking for clues. But nothing will stop the sisters from discovering what happened to the vanished bride, even as they find their own lives are in great peril…
What a fun mystery starring the Brontë sisters! There are so many things to love about this book: the characters, the plot twists, the integration of the real Brontë sisters with the fictionalized sisters, the dark and creepy atmospheres, the POV changes, the supernatural elements, etc. (really, I need to stop because I could go on forever).
The characters were amazing. I love that each sister had her own distinguishable perspective and personality, drawn from the real Brontë sisters and their writings. I loved learning more about the sisters as I read this fictionalized account of their lives. I ended up Googling a few of the side characters and places only to find that they really did exist and really did influence the writers. You can tell when you read this that the author admires the Brontë sisters and wanted to remain as authentic to them as possible.
The mystery was truly amazing. I thought I had it solved a few times throughout the book only to have the sisters discover something that totally disproved my theory. There were so many twists and turns that I never quite knew what to expect. I love that certain aspects of the book remained lighter, like the bickering between the sisters, while other aspects were much, much darker, like Chester’s behavior. There was a supernatural element that made some of the darker scenes both creepier, lighter, and sadder depending on the context. I find it impressive that the author can make such a small part of the story so powerful without making it a larger part of the story.
I truly admire the attitude of the sisters throughout this book. They are repeatedly faced with challenges due to their gender. There are parts of the dialogue where they are interviewing persons involved with the mystery and use their cover story of working for men to assure the people they are credible. There are even more instances where the sisters and other female characters are purposely overlooked, ignored, spoken over, and commanded by the male characters. These instances and the way the sisters deal with them say a lot about gender roles during the time as well as the influence for the real sisters’ works and character. I really enjoyed these parts of the book because they introduced these issues without being in-your-face about them.
The only parts of the book I didn’t enjoy were the ones where they turned this more intuitive message about feminism and gender roles into something more preachy. One moment we were discussing the bloody crime scene and the next we were reading a page-long speech about the injustices toward women. These injustices and the way the sisters dealt with them definitely influenced their characters and the real sisters, but there were so many speeches like this throughout the novel that it started to feel forced and took me away from the mystery and the story. The first couple of times it happened I enjoyed it, but then every female character basically said the same thing about it which got both repetitive and irritating. I’m 100% here for advocating this issue and integrating it into a book, but I wish the message would have been delivered in a more natural way that didn’t distract me from the plot every couple of chapters.
Besides my one complaint, The Vanished Bride was an excellent book. The characters were developed very well, the plot kept me guessing until the very end, and the atmosphere was both creepy and beautiful. Whether you love the Brontë sisters or don’t know anything about them, I’m sure you would love this book.