Blog for The Romance Dish
I confess, given that my academic expertise in science ended in 9th grade biology class (you know, the one with formaldehyde, dead frogs and very sharp knifes!) it might strike you as rather strange that science plays a big role in the plot of Murder at Kensington Palace, my latest Wrexford & Sloane Regency-set mystery, which releases today! (It’s a key theme in the first two books as well. Allow me to explain . . .
I have an art background, which may seem like the polar opposite from the world of laboratories, microscopes and bubbling chemicals. I thought the same thing until I read The Age of Wonder by Richard Holmes a few years ago. In it, he talks about how during the Regency era, the artists and scientists all thought of themselves as kindred souls. For them, exploration and discovery in any discipline required imagination and creative thinking. Painters, poets, chemists, astronomers—they all shared a passion for pushing themselves to think outside the box.
Hmmm, I thought . . . these are just the same qualities required to unravel diabolical mysteries. So it suddenly struck me that having a scientist and an artist could be a really fun combination. In the Earl of Wrexford and Charlotte Sloane, I’ve sought to create two lead characters who embody the intellectual curiosity—and gritty courage—of the times. They are opposites: a brooding aristocrat whose extraordinary mind runs on the rational new principles of scientific inquiry, paired with a struggling artist whose innate cleverness and intuition are the keys to her survival. Forced to work together, Wrexford and Charlotte find they make a formidable team, despite their differences. (Ah, but as science tells us, opposites often attract!)
To create Wrexford required research of course, and I found it absolutely fascinating to delve into the history of science during the Regency. Like in our own times, new discoveries and new technology were radically changing society—it was both a source of wonder . . . and terror. (I think we can all relate to the feeling of being a little frightened by the speed of the upheavals in daily life.) As is always the case for me, it’s not simply the innovations that interest me, but the people behind them, and how they can inspire a plotline for a book. From a writer’s POV, it’s the characters who make the history come alive.
Electricity plays a big part in the plot in Murder at Kensington Palace. The first “voltaic pile” (which is basically a battery) was invented by Alessandro Volta in 1800. The awesome new discovery was hugely exciting to the scientific world during the Regency. In London, people flocked to the Royal Institution, one of the leading scientific organizations of the time, to hear lectures and see demonstrations of voltaic batteries. (They inspired Mary Shelley to write Frankenstein.)
I was lucky enough last summer to visit the Royal Institution, that’s still in the
same wonderful classical building on Albemarle Street in London as it was in Regency times. In the basement is a recreation of the Regency laboratory of Michael Faraday, a very famous scientist and pioneer in electricity. I was able to see an actual trough battery—which is a more powerful type of voltaic pile—amid all the other scientific equipment of the day. (NO spoilers—ha, ha. I’ll just say that the people at the Royal Institution were very excited to hear I was plotting a murder within their august walls and were gracious enough to give me the thumbs up!)
Charlotte and Wrexford face their most formidable challenge yet in trying to unravel the truth behind a terrible murder, and their investigations that leads them to a “shocking” discovery. And the task is made even more difficult as their own complicated relationship is setting off new sparks. Charlotte must make some very hard decisions about her life, and just what sacrifices she’s willing to make in order to solve the crime . . .
I love writing mysteries, but I also love weaving in a little romance. What about you? Do you enjoy a little personal chemistry in a mystery novel, or do you like having a single sleuth, like Inspector Morse, as the main lead? I’ll be giving away a signed ARC copy of Murder at Kensington Palace to one lucky winner chosen at random from those leaving a comment here.)
Murder at Kensington Palace
by Andrea Penrose
A Wrexford & Sloane Mystery - Book 3
Publisher: Kensington Books
Release Date: September 24, 2019
Reviewed by PJ
Wrexford and Sloane must unravel secrets within secrets—including a few that entangle their own hearts—when they reunite to solve a string of shocking murders that have horrified Regency London . . .
Though Charlotte Sloane’s secret identity as the controversial satirical cartoonist A.J. Quill is safe with the Earl of Wrexford, she’s ill prepared for the rippling effects sharing the truth about her background has cast over their relationship. She thought a bit of space might improve the situation. But when her cousin is murdered and his twin brother is accused of the gruesome crime, Charlotte immediately turns to Wrexford for help in proving the young man’s innocence. Though she finds the brooding scientist just as enigmatic and intense as ever, their partnership is now marked by an unfamiliar tension that seems to complicate every encounter.
Despite this newfound complexity, Wrexford and Charlotte are determined to track down the real killer. Their investigation leads them on a dangerous chase through Mayfair’s glittering ballrooms and opulent drawing rooms, where gossip and rumors swirl to confuse the facts. Was her cousin murdered over a romantic rivalry . . . or staggering gambling debts? Or could the motive be far darker and involve the clandestine scientific society that claimed both brothers as members? The more Charlotte and Wrexford try to unknot the truth, the more tangled it becomes. But they must solve the case soon, before the killer’s madness seizes another victim . . .
Andrea Penrose brings readers another Regency mystery with intriguing characters, fascinating scientific tidbits, a complex, well-crafted plot, and evolving relationships that keep me coming back for more. I'm enjoying the chemistry that's slowly growing between Wrexford and Charlotte as they work together to solve yet another mystery. I enjoy the individual strengths they each bring to the task and the respect, friendship, and caring that continues to deepen. I enjoyed the twists and turns of the mystery that kept me guessing well into the book and the interweaving of both science and art that Penrose uses to help bring the villains to justice.
Penrose has surrounded Wrexford and Charlotte with a secondary collection of vividly drawn characters who I find just as intriguing as the leads. Charlotte's street-smart, young wards have secured a place for themselves in my heart and I can't wait to see how they continue to evolve. I'm also hopeful that Penrose might deliver a secondary love interest for Wrexford's friend, Sheffield in future books. There's a young woman in this book who would be a wonderful ongoing addition to the cast. There's also Wrexford's scientific valet, Charlotte's indispensable housekeeper/maid, a brilliant surgeon, and a feisty great-aunt whose dialog played out in my head with Dame Maggie Smith's voice. I do hope Penrose has more books planned for this series. I'm already eagerly anticipating the next Wrexford & Sloane adventure!
This is the third book in the Wrexford & Sloane Mystery series. Penrose does a good job of bringing new readers up to date without the proverbial info dump, allowing this novel to stand on its own. However, in my opinion, readers will have a greater understanding of the characters and a deeper appreciation for their evolving relationships if the books are read in order. Those titles are: Murder on Black Swan Lane, Murder at Half Moon Gate, and Murder at Kensington Palace.
Readers may also recognize Andrea from her traditional Regency romances written as Andrea Pickens and her Regency historical romances written as Cara Elliott.