Publication: 12th September 2019 (eBook); 7th November 2019 (hardcover) – Hodder & Stoughton
From the Sunday Times-bestselling author of The Memory Book, Rowan Coleman, comes a special new series featuring the Brontë sisters, written under the name Bella Ellis
A young woman has gone missing from her home, Chester Grange, leaving no trace, save a large pool of blood in her bedroom and a slew of dark rumours about her marriage. A few miles away across the moors, the daughters of a humble parson, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë are horrified, yet intrigued.
Desperate to find out more, the sisters visit Chester Grange, where they notice several unsettling details about the crime scene: not least the absence of an investigation. Together, the young women realise that their resourcefulness, energy and boundless imaginations could help solve the mystery – and that if they don’t attempt to find out what happened to Elizabeth Chester, no one else will.
The path to the truth is not an easy one, especially in a society which believes a woman’s place to be in the home, not wandering 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 are in great peril…
A crime to solve and my favourite writers turning detectives? Count me in! When I heard that The Vanished Bride, written by Bella Ellis (a brilliant pseudonym for author Rowan Coleman) featured Anne, Emily, and Charlotte Brontë together with their brother Branwell investigating a gruesome crime I knew I had to read it and I couldn’t put it down.
It’s the year 1845, and it’s the first time that all Brontë siblings are together at Haworth. Following the Robinson scandal, Branwell and Anne had to resign their posts and move back home, while Charlotte is back from Belgium and away from her feelings for Monsieur Heger. They still haven’t published their novels under the pseudonyms of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, when they become involved in a mysterious case. Their school friend Mattie is a governess at Chester Grange. Following the suspicious death of his wife Imogen, Robert Chester remarried, but now his second wife, Elizabeth, has disappeared and in her room is found a worrying quantity of blood. Is she still alive? Curious and determined to find out the truth, the Brontë sisters start investigating even if it means putting their own lives at risk…
I am a huge fan of the Brontë’s novels. I have read all Anne, Charlotte and Emily’s novels and it was fun to see the famous novelists turn into detectives to solve a dark and creepy mystery. I loved how the author mixed well-researched real life events with fiction: Charlotte’s feelings for her professor, Branwell’s love for a married woman and his downfall, Anne’s resentment at being forced to leave her post as a governess following her brother’s scandal blend well with the mystery of the story. Emily is described as curious and impulsive, while Charlotte is more cautious and a leader of the family. Within Anne’s chest beats “the heart of a fierce warrior” and Branwell is fun and witty, although, following the scandal of his affair with Mrs. Robinson, he spends his nights drinking and gambling and his sisters are worried about him.
The plot is gripping, suspenseful and gothic and there are a few twists that will take you by surprise. Although, The Vanished Bride is mostly a mystery novel, the author perfectly manages to insert social themes in the story. Through the female characters in the novel, the author captures the frustration of the women who don’t have any status in society and are expected to obey their husbands or their father, to have no education or job.
I loved the surprising and well-executed ending, the bleak atmosphere and the slow pace of the story and now I am looking forward to read the next book in the series!
A huge thank you to Hodder & Stoughton and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of the book.