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REVIEW: In Milady’s Chamber by Sheri Cobb South

Dear Mrs. Cobb South,

in-miladys-chamberOf all your regencies I’ve read, and that’s most if not all of them, I don’t recall ever reading a bad one. They are well researched, well written, and feature strong characters. But best of all, they’re different. I realize this has made it harder for you to market them but I think it makes them worth the effort to seek out.

When one is a Viscountess in Regency England, one might be thought to be happy. Julia Runyan Bertram, Lady Fieldhurst, is young, pretty, and married to a man of wealth, title and position. Yet, after six years of a childless marriage, she feels the disappointment of her husband for not having produced an heir much less a spare. She’s under no illusions as to her husband’s fidelity and after a small spat before she leaves for an evening ball, she decides to finally take a lover of her own.

But her husband Frederick manages to ruin even that. Well, he didn’t plan to be murdered and found by Julia and Lord Rupert as they tried to enter her bedchamber later that night but nonetheless, it did put paid to their plans. Discovering one’s husband, dead on the floor from a pair of embroidery scissors in his neck will do that.

Mr. John Pickett, twenty-four years old and newly promoted to the Bow Street runners from the foot patrol, is a bit dazzled when he sees the person who’s called for his services. Lady Julia is simply the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen. But not even a vision of womanhood distracts him long from the job at hand. Someone has murdered the Viscount – after all, how many men would choose it as a method of suicide? – and the authorities want an arrest quickly.

Pickett soon amasses a group of possible suspects, all of whom had a possible motive and the opportunity to have done the deed. At the top of the list, to Pickett’s dismay, is Julia herself. Resisting the pressure of his superiors, Pickett slowly begins to work the case, interviewing suspects, examining clues and, even to his own mind, desperately trying to clear Julia. It’s hard, he discovers, to remain dispassionate about a case when one is entertaining daydreams of one’s chief suspect, however unlikely that anything could ever come of them.

Lurid broadsheets about the case and the gossip of the ton increase the pressure on Bow Street to solve the crime. Will Pickett be able to control his feelings long enough to prove that Lady Julia didn’t commit the crime and find the one who did? And if he can, how will he be able to walk away in the end?

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Just like his modern successors, John Pickett has to deal with the politics of police work, the public clamoring for a case to be solved yesterday, the matchmaking efforts of his land lady and the relatively poor pay deemed acceptable for his profession.

The gossips want him to “tell all,” the powers-that-be are willing to lie to cover up what they don’t want known, his superiors look down upon him and the witnesses suddenly can’t be found. Yeah, just another case in law enforcement. Pickett is new to his job so his missteps during the investigation are understandable. But he learns quickly and doesn’t repeat them even as he relies on his natural instincts to guide him along.

Julia, who’s been controlled by men, however gently, her whole life suddenly discovers that her widowhood has opened a whole new world for her. By the terms of her husband’s will, she can live comfortably on her own with no need to remarry and subject herself to another husband. For a Regency woman, it’s as much independence as she’s ever likely to get.

At first, she misunderstands the motives behind Pickett’s line of inquiry, not ever having dealt with criminal investigations. But once the situation is explained to her, she begins to find in herself a desire to prove her own innocence and a bit of talent in helping things along. I found her actions in line with her upbringing, her intelligence and her place in society. She’s not suddenly going to become one of Charlie’s Angels.

I like the glimpses we get of her background as a woman of position in this world. Her husband’s tenants fondly recall the Harvest festivals she held for them every year and lament that the new, tightfisted Viscountess is unlikely to continue them. As well, Pickett is impressed by her desire to help a servant who helped her as a young, newly married woman.

The solution to the mystery didn’t take me totally by surprise. It fits the clues you give and, again, is an age old aspect of murder. I enjoyed the Regency setting and the way you explained it to the lower class John Pickett as a way of explaining it to the reader. That also served as a way to underscore the differences between John and Julia’s social standing. While John might long for Julia from afar, he’s well aware of the gulf that separates them.

As to Julia’s feelings for John, I guess I’ll have to wait to read book two, “A Dead Bore” to see if they might progress beyond professional admiration and friendship. I’ll admit I’m looking forward to discovering how things might turn out. B

~Jayne

This book is out of print but can be purchased at used bookstores.
Publisher: Five Star; 1 edition (January 2, 2006)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1594143706
ISBN-13: 978-1594143700

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

19 Comments

  1. vanessa jaye
    Apr 11, 2009 @ 12:58:03

    Aww, I was sort of holding my breath that this would be a romance. But I’m still intrigued enough to go looking for this one.

    ReplyReply

  2. Jayne
    Apr 11, 2009 @ 13:25:44

    Aww, I was sort of holding my breath that this would be a romance.

    I kind of was too but, as of the end of this book, their social stations are just too far apart for a romance. Book two is already written and out with both characters in it. We’ll see….

    ReplyReply

  3. Sunita
    Apr 11, 2009 @ 14:27:01

    Oh, this sounds great, Jayne! I have The Weaver Takes a Wife in my TBR, as well as the sequel to it. Now I’ll have to hunt this down as well.

    ReplyReply

  4. ReacherFan
    Apr 11, 2009 @ 15:29:48

    You convinced me, and I’m no Regency fan. I just ordered it from Alibris.

    ReplyReply

  5. Danielle D
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 03:51:07

    Can anyone tell me if these books are written in first or third person point of view?

    ReplyReply

  6. Jayne
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 05:04:17

    They are written in third person POV.

    ReplyReply

  7. Jayne
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 05:12:15

    Sunita, you need to get a copy of “French Leave” to round out the Weaver trilogy.
    And a copy of “Paupers and Peers” just because it’s so wonderful. ;)

    ReplyReply

  8. Jayne
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 05:23:50

    You convinced me, and I'm no Regency fan. I just ordered it from Alibris.

    The thing I enjoy about her books is that the historical aspects are correct without taking over the story. Some Regency books feel the need to cram in every last fact known about the period even if the inclusion is awkwardly done. Not here.

    Anyone interested in this series might want to go ahead and look for a copy of book two, “A Dead Bore,” which was just released in December 2008, since her books quickly go out of print.

    ReplyReply

  9. Jayne
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 05:36:02

    And anyone interested in trying the whole “Weaver” trilogy as ebooks, they’re available from Fictionwise.

    ReplyReply

  10. Danielle D
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 07:48:34

    Thanks Jayne. I’m not a fan of first person point of view books.

    ReplyReply

  11. vanessa jaye
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 09:33:58

    Hey Jayne, the Ficitonwise link for the Weaver trilogy is hinky.

    ReplyReply

  12. Jayne
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 09:44:49

    Hmmm, it certainly is. Well, if you go to Fictionwise’s home page and type in her name under the search function, it should come up.

    ReplyReply

  13. Sheri Cobb South
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 12:03:54

    Jayne, thanks so much for your kind words about In Milady’s Chamber! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    For those of you who prefer more romance, please consider giving A DEAD BORE a try. The romance quotient is ramped up a bit, which made it great fun to write.

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  14. Linda Banche
    Apr 12, 2009 @ 17:55:56

    I love this book. I love the correct historical details (I love Regency!) and I love both John and Julia. And although the story is a mystery, the romance sizzles, probably because absolutely nothing happens between them. My kind of romance.

    I would love to see a HEA for them, although I know it is highly unlikely given the time period and their stations in life. But I can hope.

    I have to get A DEAD BORE, especially since there is more romance in it.

    ReplyReply

  15. votermom
    Apr 13, 2009 @ 15:21:49

    I am so going to read this.

    ReplyReply

  16. Debbie
    Apr 13, 2009 @ 18:54:30

    I really loved the Weaver trilogy. This one sounds like it might be right up my mom’s alley. One question…is it G rated? Mom loves historical mystery, but only enjoys G rated books.

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  17. Sheri Cobb South
    Apr 13, 2009 @ 22:01:15

    I would put it at PG. It has a very little, mild profanity, and no sex (in fact, the idealistic young hero is saving himself for marriage). As for violence, well, it *is* a mystery, so there is a murder, but it takes place off-stage.

    It has been released in a large print edition, which tells me that the publisher felt it would appeal to older readers.

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  18. votermom
    Apr 22, 2009 @ 06:50:20

    I stayed up all night Monday reading this and A Dead Bore. Really fun reads!
    I like how many nice characters there are — specially John’s boss — I love how paternally protective he is.

    I wonder about the (spoiler!)
    .
    .
    .
    .
    bigamy thing — does that mean the kids are illegitimate?
    .
    .
    .
    .

    I hope that Susannah will show up in a future book — she seems like just the kind of girl to run into adventures and I like her a lot.

    Now I am off to track down the Weaver books!

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  19. Sheri Cobb South
    Mar 29, 2013 @ 15:23:01

    Just wanted to let everyone know that the trade paperback edition of IN MILADY’S CHAMBER is now available! So if you prefer a print book but balk at hardcover prices, check it out.

    ReplyReply

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