“I should have known something was wrong. I mean, I did know. Or thought I knew, but I didn’t figure out what it was. What good is it to be meant to help people when you do nothing but stand by and let them die anyway?”
“Come on,” she said, and she helped him out of his tailcoat and the satin waistcoat beneath. “Now sit down.” She guided him a few steps backward until he felt the bed against his legs and sat down. Then she knelt at his feet and began tugging at his shoe.
“Here now, I can do that.”
“I know,” she said. “And so can I.” She struggled with the first and then the second, but soon both shoes were tossed to the foot of the bed and she was sitting beside him on it, her arms around his waist and her head nestled against his shoulder. “Better now?”
He dredged up a smile. “Truly, a man who finds himself a wife finds a good thing.”
She said nothing for a long while, and he thought perhaps she had fallen asleep. Then she pressed a little closer to him, breathing warm against his neck.
“I don’t know how to answer your questions, Drew. I’m not wise enough to see things as God sees them, and neither are you. But I don’t think we’re responsible for outcomes, just for doing what we’re called to do. And even then, we’ll never do it perfectly. But I believe He’ll use us anyway, if we let Him.”
“And if, in our stumbling, we do more harm than good?”
She nuzzled his neck, tightening her hold on him. “None of this is your fault, darling. But you’re wiling to do all you can to help. For Tal and for his poor mother. I think that’s ministry as much as standing in the pulpit or feeding the poor. Doing what you’re made to do the best you can do it, even if it’s not the usual thing, glorifies God more than pushing yourself into a role you’re not suited for.”
“I suppose,” he said, and then he surprised himself with a yawn. “I don’t think I can think about this any more tonight.”
She leaned up to kiss his cheek. “Tomorrow will be soon enough.”
A Regency-Era Costume Party Should Have Been an Amusing Diversion, But it Seems Wherever Drew Farthering Goes, Mystery–and Murder–Are on the Guest List
Drew and Madeline Farthering arrive at a Regency-era house party at Winteroak House, excited to be reunited with old friends, including Drew’s former Oxford classmate Talbot Cummins. Tal is there with his fiancée, Alice Henley, and though many present seem worried about the couple, nobody is prepared when Alice dies from an apparent overdose. Tal refuses to believe she’d taken the drugs intentionally, and a dark question arises of whether the death is an accident or murder.
The police have their own information though, and Drew is shocked when they arrest someone he’s trusted and admired since his childhood–someone who’s been smuggling drugs into the country for years. Stunned by what has happened, Tal begs Drew to get to the bottom of everything, but Drew has never felt more unsettled. Questioning his own ability to see people as they really are, Drew doesn’t know whom to trust, and he’s not ready for the secrets he’s about to uncover–or the danger he’ll bring down on everyone he holds dear.
I don’t know what it is about British mysteries set in the first half of the 20th century, but I have loved them since I was a teenager. Of course, most of the ones I have read were contemporary, not historical, when they were written. My favourite authors in this genre – Dame Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Georgette Heyer (yes, she wrote mysteries as well as Regency romances) – were all born in the UK between 1890 and 1902, which gives their stories a natural authenticity for the time period. One might be forgiven for questioning whether a fifth-generation Texan could recreate this period with the same authenticity almost a century later, and yet that is exactly what drew me into the Drew Fathering Mystery series from the moment I picked up the first book.
Drew is the quintessential English gentleman, both in manner and situation, and I love the understated way in which Julianna Deering portrays his wit and charm. I also love that we are continuing with Drew and Madeline beyond their marriage and that Deering portrays their affection and regard for one another with a subtlety that eschews cheesy displays of affection.
The opening of the book is light-hearted as Drew and Madeline arrive at Winteroak House for a Regency-themed house party, hosted by the parents of Drew’s former Oxford classmate, Tal Cummins. Also among those attending are Drew’s friend Nick, and Madeline’s American cousins, Carrie and Will. Julianna Deering captures the atmosphere of the house party perfectly, and uses this time to draw attention to the underlying tensions.
After the murder occurs, the novel begins to take on a more sombre tone. Drew is shocked by the arrest that takes place immediately following the murder, and when a second death occurs he begins to question whether he is doing more harm than good in his role as amateur detective. But the snide Inspector Endicott from Scotland Yard is more concerned with finally closing in on a drug smuggling ring than he is with the deaths that have occurred, and Chief Inspector Birdsong isn’t convinced the second death is a murder at all. Finding out what really happened is the least Drew can do under the circumstances, but a fistful of airtight alibis and a few obscure, and possibly meaningless anomalies, doesn’t give him much to go on.
In the tradition of the cozy mystery, Drew relies on good old-fashioned detective work and deductive reasoning to piece things together, but there is heartache and danger in store before the answers come to light. Julianna Deering gets the mood, the language – everything, in fact – just right. Rather than fast-paced action and suspense, the mystery unfolds with a steady-paced gravitas that is perfectly suited to the setting and characters, and there is a surprising emotional depth as Drew struggles to come to terms with his sense of uselessness and whether he has misunderstood what he felt was God’s call on his life.
I’m hoping this will not be the last we see of Drew and Madeline.
I received a complimentary copy of this novel from Bethany House in exchange for my honest review.
Release date: 1 March 2016 (available 23 February 2016 on Kindle)
Publisher: Bethany House
Author’s website: http://www.juliannadeering.com/index.php