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Thursday, August 22, 2019

Review - Murder at Morrington Hall

I'm not sure how I heard of this book, but I am so glad to have discovered it. But when I read "You will love this delightful debut novel to what promises to be a winning series... I couldn’t put it down!” from one of my favorite authors, Victoria Thompson, I had to see for myself.  Read on for my assessment of this debut novel in a new series.

Author: Clara McKenna

Copyright: Jan 2017 (Berkley) 298 pgs

Series: 1st in Stella and Lyndy Mystery series

Sensuality: Mild

Mystery Sub-genre: Historical Cozy

Main Characters: Stella Kendrick, America Heiress, thoroughbred breeder

Setting: 1905, Hampshire England

Obtained Through: Personal find

Book Blurb:
"Spring, 1905:  Free-spirited like the Thoroughbreds she rides across the Kentucky countryside, Stella takes adventure by the reins when she’s asked to attend a mysterious wedding in rural England. But once she arrives at the lush Morrington Hall estate, her cold and ambitious father confesses that he won’t only give away his best racehorses as gifts—he has also arranged to give away his daughter as bride to the Earl of Atherly’s financially strapped son . . . 
Stella refuses to be sold off like a prized pony. Yet despite a rough start, there’s something intriguing about her groom-to-be, the roguish Viscount “Lyndy” Lyndhurst. The unlikely pair could actually be on the right track with each other . . . until they find the vicar who was to marry them dead in the library. 
With culture clashes mounting between families, a scandalous murder case hangs over Morrington Hall. Now, Stella and Lyndy must go from future spouses to amateur sleuths as they team up to search for the truth—and prevent an unbridled criminal from destroying their new life together right out of the gate "

Stella Kendrick, free spirited, proud, stubborn, and independant with scars from her father's ill treatment of her.  Mr Elijah Kendrick, Stella's cold hearted father and self-made millionaire, is uncouth and rude.  Viscount Lord Lyndhurst, Lyndy, is the intended groom who is marrying out of duty - until he meets Stella and thinks he may enjoy her company.  The Earl and Lady Atherly, Lyndy's parents, are insufferable snobs that financially have to welcome the unladylike American heiress into the family, but they make their displeasure well known.  Lord Hugh, second son of the Duke of Tonnbridge is Lyndy's best friend, and a prime suspect.  The stiff British nobility clash with brash Americans for many tense scenes throughout.

The setting of New Forest, the former royal hunting grounds for King William the Conqueror centuries prior with its legendary ponies roaming free, is an idyllic setting.  Several scenes contain Epsom Downs Derby and it brings out the excitement of the race.  It all provides the background to spotlight the differences between the rigid social rules of British upper class and the uncultured manners of the Americans of the era.

Of course the simple question of who would kill a Vicar gets more complicated as the story unfolds.  It had to be somebody who could make their way around the mansion without really being noticed much, which narrows the field of suspects.  

The climax highlights Stella's intelligence and independence to prove a point about who the killer was, which replaces a suspenseful killer reveal.  Although I love the tense and suspenseful killer reveal, this creative unveiling was quite enjoyable and well executed.

I loved the characters of Stella Kendrick and Lyndy and how they come to accept and appreciate each other.  The writing style is engaging, drew me in immediately, and had me sympathize with Stella and Lyndy.  The aspect of an unsuspecting heiress essentially being sold off is a great setup for this series - and is based on historical realities such as Consuelo Vanderbilt being in that exact situation.

Rating:  Near Perfect - Couldn't Put it down. Buy two copies, one for you and one for a friend. 

Here is a short video about the marrying off of 
Consuelo Vanderbilt

Here is a short video about The New Forest.

Thank you for joining me!

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sherry fundin said...

i enjoyed the wonderful post and your mention of the reveal has me curious
sherry @ fundinmental

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