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A Woman of Consequence by Anna Dean (thoughts)

February 20, 2013

A Woman of Consequence
Sometimes, I just want a comfort read, a book that will entertain and amuse me without demanding much in return. A Woman of Consequence by Anna Dean, the third in a historical mystery series, fulfilled this role admirably. The series features Dido Kent, a Regency English woman who has more curiosity and independent spirit than average but definitely feels appropriate to her time period. (I find historical characters with discordant modern feminist/antiracist/etc. attitudes jarring enough that I usually abandon books featuring them.) While the first two were quite good, A Woman of Consequence really felt like Dean came into her own, with a far more fascinating and complicated mystery. Dido’s own voice is wonderfully captured, particularly in the occasional letter she writes to her absent sister, with a spirit and humour that pays gentle tribute to Jane Austen (Dido’s life circumstances also mirror Austen’s); it’s difficult to imagine anyone not liking her. The domestic details also felt right: after a reversal of family fortunes Dido has to live with a brother and his wife. The latter expects Dido to do various household chores and isn’t shy about reminding her of her dependent status. Meanwhile, Dido has to deal with her own questions of honour and friendship as her investigation turns up past secrets that could destroy people’s reputations. I appreciate it when mystery novels confront the emotional toll on the sleuth, and while Dido is not a Peter Wimsy, she does face dilemmas.

All in all, A Woman of Consequence features an engaging main character, an interesting plot, and nicely drawn setting. It’s not high literature, but I’ll certainly be putting Anna Dean on my list of go-to comfort authors. If you enjoy cosy mysteries or historical fiction that are light but still well written, give it a try. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

Suggested Companion Reads

  • A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee : the first in another light, engrossing historical mystery series, this one is set in Victorian London and features a young girl from the streets with a secret of her own.
  • Talking About Detective Fiction by P.D. James : a good look at the (white) British/US mystery tradition, which will fill your wish list with new authors to try out.
  • The Reluctant Widow by Georgette Heyer : is it possible to mention light Regency historical fiction without a Heyer reference? This title happens to be one of my favourites (the other is Friday’s Child, which is also excellent in audio form), but I didn’t blog about it. She has an incredibly extensive back list, so I’ve just been reading from it at random!
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4 Comments leave one →
  1. February 21, 2013 6:39 am

    Eva, you mentioned The Reluctant Widow and Friday’s Child as two Heyers you loved – those are two of my favorites too, so I am going to take a chance and recommend two more for you: The Grand Sophy (even my husband liked that one) and A Civil Contract. Frederica is lovely too.

  2. February 23, 2013 8:35 am

    I have wanted to try this series since hearing you talk about the first book (I think…it could have been the 2nd). It sounds so good and like one that I would enjoy! I really, really enjoyed The Reluctant Widow as well so now I want to read it even more :) And I’m adding Friday’s Child to my TBR list. Heyer has so many books that I find it overwhelming to know which of hers to read next at times.

  3. February 24, 2013 4:22 pm

    just found and read her first and loved it. You are my best source for the comfort books i so need. Off to find more of these since you say they improve.

  4. March 6, 2013 4:14 pm

    LOVE this series, and love Dido Kent. They remind me of Jane Austen in the best possible way. Have you also read the Charles Lenox mysteries by Charles Finch? Different time period, male detective, but same good escapist, not-too-gory mystery fare.
    (And it’s been a while since I commented. Also just want to say I really wish you can feel better soon.)

Thank you for commenting! For a long while, my health precluded me replying to everyone. Yet I missed the conversation, so I'm now making an effort to reply again. It might take a few days though, and there will be times when I simply can't. Regardless, I always read and value what you say.

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