The Vanished Bride by Bella Ellis ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this breathtaking novel. Thank you to Steven at Hodder & Stoughton for the invitation to take part and for my gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

Yorkshire, 1845. A young wife and mother has gone missing from her home, leaving behind two small children and a large pool of blood. Just a few miles away, a humble parson’s daughters — the Bronte sisters — learn of the crime. Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte are horrified and intrigued by the mysterious disappearance. 

These three creative, energetic, and resourceful women quickly that they have all the skills required to make for excellent “lady detectors”. Not yet published novelists, they have well-honed imaginations and are expert readers. And, as Charlotte remarks, “detecting is reading between the lines–it’s seeing what is not there.”

As they investigate, Charlotte, Emily and Anne are confronted with a society that believes a woman’s place is in the home, not scouring the countryside looking for clues. But nothing will stop the sisters from discovering what happened to the vanished bride, even as they find their own lives in great peril.

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MY REVIEW:

From the words of Haworth Parsonage, December, 1851, I was transported back in time into the world of Victorian Yorkshire and the escapades of the three infamous Bronte sisters. Steeped in mystery and gothic ambience, this luminous novel was one of the highlights of my reading year. 

A gruesome discovery of a bedroom covered in blood, a missing woman feared murdered and a maid left traumatised are the chilling start to the story giving an immediate air or horror and mystery.  We then go back to Haworth where Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte are all living back at the parsonage for the first time in years. They live a quiet life and spend their time together writing stories and poems and reading. Which is exactly what they’re doing when their brother Branwell bursts in telling them about the disappearance and probable murder just a few miles away. The sisters are horrified, yet also intrigued, and after visiting the scene they decide to become “lady detectors”. The will use their intellect and imagination to discover the fate of Elizabeth Chester, second wife of Robert and mother of two young sons.

Their investigations take them far afield and place them in danger but the sisters feel it is their Christian duty to find answers, plus they’re also really enjoying themselves. The sisters’ very different personalities and strengths assist them in their investigation, calling on the assistance of their errant brother Branwell when needed. There are an array of suspects but they follow the clues they seem to find more questions rather than answers, making them wonder if they will ever learn the fate of Elizabeth Chester. But startling and salacious revelations begin to emerge, and the astonishing truth is finally unveiled…

This novel made my heart sing. As soon as I heard about it I knew was one I had to read. A mix of my favourite genres by one of my favourite authors? It sounded like a dream come true. And it was. It is an original look at three of our most famous writers and I delighted in every moment. The author’s love and extensive knowledge of the Brontes radiated from every page and I particularly loved how she included nods to their future stories and fame in their conversations. Her ability to bring Howarth and the moors to life with her vivid imagery made me feel like I was walking on those bleak windswept hills with the sisters. 

I enjoyed reading a Victorian era detective story with female leads. It was a time when women are still considered the property of men and to be lesser beings. They were not encouraged to think and a meek, silent woman who existed almost invisibly was the ideal. This is both a help and hindrance in their detecting as while they are able to go virtually unnoticed, they are also met with opposition, usually men, and found people unwilling to talk with meer women. The sisters are strong, lively, intelligent, enterprising and visionary which makes them ideal for a job that is new and visionary in itself. The sisters each narrated the story allowing us to get to know them as individuals rather than simply being just one of the Bronte sisters and also offered a glimpse into their family dynamic.

The Vanished Bride is a creative, mysterious, witty, compelling and glorious tale. The author writes with elegant prose that is bathed in history and atmosphere, kept me guessing from start to finish and delivered surprises at every turn. I have fallen in love with the Bronte sisters as detector and hope that this is the start of a long running series. 

Out now.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Bella Ellis is the Brontë inspired pen name for the award winning, Sunday Times bestselling author Rowan Coleman. A Brontë devotee for most of her life, Rowan is the author of fourteen novels including The Memory Book, The Summer of Impossible Things and The Girl at the Window.

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