London is known for its bustle and intrigues, but the sedate English countryside can host—or hide—any number of secrets. Frances, the widowed Countess of Harleigh, needs a venue for her sister Lily’s imminent wedding, away from prying eyes. Risings, George Hazleton’s family estate in Hampshire, is a perfect choice, and soon Frances, her beloved George, and other guests have gathered to enjoy the usual country pursuits—shooting, horse riding, and romantic interludes in secluded gardens.
But the bucolic setting harbors a menace, and it’s not simply the arrival of Frances’s socially ambitious mother. Above and below stairs, mysterious accidents befall guests and staff alike. Before long, Frances suspects these “accidents” are deliberate, and fears that the intended victim is Lily’s fiancé, Leo. Frances’s mother is unimpressed by Lily’s groom-to-be and would much prefer that Lily find an aristocratic husband, just as Frances did. But now that Frances has found happiness with George—a man who loves her for much more than her dowry—she heartily approves of Lily’s choice. If she can just keep the couple safe from villains and meddling mamas.
As Frances and George search for the culprit among the assembled family, friends, and servants, more victims fall prey to the mayhem. Mishaps become full-blooded murder, and it seems that no one is safe. And unless Frances can quickly flush out the culprit, the peal of wedding bells may give way to another funeral toll. . . .
Since reading the first book in this series, I have become inordinately happy when I’ve come across the next book in the series on NetGalley. I have such a huge fondness for this series and the Countess of Harleigh.
The opening scenes of this book find the Countess of Harleigh reveling in her secret engagement to the dashing George Hazleton and fretting over the bombshell her sister, Lily has just dropped on her. To avoid scandal of the highest order, Lily’s wedding must be moved forward by a significant amount and their mother must never know the reason for the sudden change. With the Harleigh Estate on the market, it isn’t an option for the wedding and the Countess has no idea how to solve this problem. With his usual grace and kindness, George Hazleton comes to the rescue and offers his own family’s estate for the impending nuptials.
Risings is a beautiful and sprawling estate that offers a bit of everything for guests. There is hunting for the assembled me, riding for the men and women, and games aplenty for all in the evenings. With nothing but glad tidings and joyful events planned, the Countess and George are both looking forward to their time away from the city and sleuthing. Unfortunately, sleuthing is exactly what they are going to have to do as the “coincidental accidents” and one murder begin to pile up. Being so far removed from the city, both the Countess and George believe their culprit is most certainly among the assembled guests.
As the Countess and George begin to investigate, they do their best to keep the bride and groom out of the loop so as not to put a damper on their upcoming wedding. Yet again, Fate has other plans which makes it impossible to keep them out of the loop. As the situation becomes ever more critical, the Countess and George narrow down the suspects and find the culprit’s identity absolutely unbelievable. In fact, the culprit’s identity is so unbelievable that George is forced to reveal to the Countess bits about his past he wished and hoped to always protect her from.
The Bottom Line: I am just as enamored with this third book in the Countess of Harleigh Mystery Series as I was with the first two. The Countess, with her wit, intelligence, kindness, and cleverness is one of my favorite cozy mystery characters across the genre. The Countess is a woman ahead of her time and place, and one who refuses to be put in her place because of her gender. I absolutely adore the Countess and feel equally find of George Hazleton. Only a man such as George could partner the countess and see her as an equal and not a second-class citizen. The two together make a wonderful crime fighting team and they are most certainly supported by a lively and supportive cast of secondary characters. When you add in the setting and the interesting plot, this book has everything a cozy mystery lover is looking for. In all, a fine series that has a bright future.