First of all I love the name – ‘Dido’. It implies a happy, independent and intelligent woman with a funky, fun name and personality to top it all. And does she live up to her name? She sure does.
The Goodreads Blurb of the book reads as follows –
1805. An engagement party is taking place for Mr Richard Montague, son of wealthy landowner Sir Edgar Montague, and his fiancee Catherine. During a dance with his beloved, a strange thing happens: a man appears at Richard’s shoulder and appears to communicate something to him without saying a word. Instantly breaking off the engagement, he rushes off to speak to his father, never to be seen again. Distraught with worry, Catherine sends for her spinster aunt, Miss Dido Kent, who has a penchant for solving mysteries. Catherine pleads with her to find her fiance and to discover the truth behind his disappearance. It’s going to take a lot of logical thinking to untangle the complex threads of this multi-layered mystery, and Miss Dido Kent is just the woman to do it.
Miss Dido Kent is a spinster in the regency era, so she is dependent upon her male relatives for an allowance for clothes, food and a roof over her head. Normally this ‘male relative’ would be a father but in Miss Dido’s case it is her brothers who share her allowance between them. In return she is expected to attend to them in any illness, birthing and other family emergencies without a sigh in protest. And funnily enough, being the intelligent and smart woman she is, she still doesn’t think to question this arrangement in any way watsoever. Ever wonder if the World War’s hadn’t happened then probably the English ladies may well have remained restricted socially and emotionally to almost the same extent as the Indian women are today, in regards to dress, careers and life partners.
So according to the blurb we know that Dido sails in to provide a shoulder to her niece to cry on. But Dido being the resourceful aunt is not content with that and must get to the depth of the matter. She isn’t hysterical or naive and even when she seems silly it is forgiven because it isn’t over the top and would probably not even be considered silly in most women. Catherine, her neice is beautiful and seemed extremely selfish and spoilt to me. We are introduced to the father of Catherine’s fiance, Sir Edgar and his wife. Also, making an appearance is Mr. William Lomax with a grown up, spoilt and addicted- to- gambling son called Tom Lomax. I am not sure about the older Lomax’s age as he provides a love interest for Miss Dido and somehow I never really liked him enough for her. He was an honorable and extremely ‘kind’ gentleman who works for Sir Edgar. Dido is attracted to his logic and kindness and yet he does seem to have a sort of blind spot where his wastrel son is concerned. Sir Edgar’s wife is an edgy, fragile and aloof female who floats around the story and is just a sad woman after all. Again, I am not sure about her age.
The author creates a fine mystery, with just the right elements all thrown in at just the correct time. The story is complex and layered enough to hold the reader’s interest and the psychological viewpoint from a regency era is both believable and very absorbing. I also liked all the character sketches and the portrayal of the scenery around the estate and the ones that Dido encounters on her travels. It is reminiscent of the Georgette Heyer writings and maybe even a little bit better since they do explore the human mind a little more and in depth than the queen of the regency era. Anna Dean also gets the language of the times and style of writing just as it should be and I was mighty impressed by it all.
So a good book, with a great heroine, set in the regency era – ticks all the boxes for a fun afternoon read for me.