It’s ridiculous how far behind I am on book reviews. I’d like to say I have an amazing reason, like I’ve been busy discovering a cure for cancer. But honestly, the pandemic has had me down and made me too stir crazy to sit still long enough to write these. And now I need to write 10 book reviews. Le sigh.
I found the Lady Hardcastle series a couple of years ago. It’s an adorable cozy mystery series set in England the early 1900s. Lady Hardcastle is a former spy who has retired to the country with her trusty maid/martial arts expert, Florence. Despite intending to take it easy, the pair end up solving murders.
There are a lot of things I like about this series. First, female spies in the early 1900s!!! They often use the fact that everyone underestimates them for being women to their advantage. Lady Hardcastle is not a snob, despite being an aristocrat, and she’s a polyglot who loves science. Flo is a tiny Welsh former carnival worker who can throw knives, pick locks, and disarm a group of men.
The Burning Issue of the Day (book 5)
Lady Hardcastle receives a letter from a suffragette asking for her help proving that a fellow suffragette did not murder a journalist and burn down a building. All the evidence points to the suffragette, but Lady H and Flo love a good challenge.
This wasn’t my favorite book of the series. I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with the book, but the sexist male characters just sucked the fun out of it for me. I loved learning about the suffrage movement. I didn’t know suffragette started out as a derogatory term for suffragists. Apparently the Bristol suffragists embraced the term. I also didn’t know that the suffrage colors were white, green, and purple. How almost Mardi Gras! I loved the character of Georgina, Lady Bickle, and Lady H and Flo teaming up with their frenemy Dinah Caudle.
Death Beside the Seaside (book 6)
Flo has been suggesting a trip to the seaside for the past two years, and is beside herself when Lady Hardcastle surprises her with a trip to Weston-super-Mare. Florence can’t wait to eat toffee apples while riding donkeys along the beach (aside: is this a real thing that happens in English beach towns?) Unfortunately, Weston-super-Mare is not the seaside vacation she imagined. The town is on the Bristol Channel, causing the seawater to recede up to a mile for most of the day. Worse still, people in their hotel keep getting murdered. When the hotel manager asks them to investigate, Flo begins to suspect she’ll never get her toffee apple and donkey ride.
This book was ridiculously delightful. It’s definitely my favorite book of the series, and the mystery was the most entertaining and engaging of the series. Lady H was both wonderfully daffy and rather brilliant. Flo, as always, was the voice of reason. I loved the spy vs spy shenanigans, and we finally learn more about Flo and Lady Hardcastle’s spying days.