“A Useful Woman” Features Murder in a Ballroom in 1817


A Useful WomanA Useful Woman by Darcy Wilde opens in 1812 with Rosalind Thorne’s discovering that her family is left in financial disgrace and her father has run off to avoid facing his responsibilities. Her unofficial engagement to Devon Winterbourne is certain to be broken. The book then shifts to 1817, when Rosalind, no longer part of the first circle of society, serves as a sort of high class social secretary to help others still in the first circle to bring their daughters out into society.

The most important social location in London at the time was a fancy ballroom for the most elite of society called Almack’s. One evening, Rosalind goes to Almack’s to meet her godmother, the only woman who helped her out during her family’s troubles. Tempted to check out the ballroom while waiting, she spies a pile of clothes on the far side of the room and soon realizes that it is the body of Jasper Aimesworth, an aristocrat with little to occupy him. The women of high society want to deny that anything has happened, but they take Rosalind’s counsel to admit that someone died in an accident and offer their condolences. The manager of Almack’s even hires the Bow Street Runners to investigate in order to show the veracity of his staff. But the detective determines that Jasper was murdered.

This book was a pleasurable read, with an enjoyable taste of early 19th century England. I liked Rosalind and her inner strength to deal with her family troubles by herself when her father ran away and her mother lost her mind. I also appreciated Rosalind’s determination to get to the truth of the matter, no matter the consequences. There were hints of romance between Rosalind and Devon, now Lord Casselmain, as well as between Rosalind and the detective.

The audiobook is narrated by Sarah Nichols. Her voice suits the era of the book, and I liked the audio edition. I enjoyed listening to this book.

I had a good time listening to A Useful Woman. It had fun elements, but there was nothing particularly memorable about it. I don’t expect to listen to the next book in the series. I give the book three stars.

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