A Useful Woman (Rosalind Thorne)
by Darcie Wilde
Cover Artist: Matthieu Forichon
Review by Gayle Surrette
Berkley Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425282373
Date: 03 May 2016 List Price $15.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK
The ball at Almacks should have been the happiest night of Rosalind Thorne's life. Devon Winterbourne, second son of Lord Casselmaine, had declared his interest to her. On returning home, she found her older sister packing and refusing to say where she was going and who she was going with. Rosalind continued begging her sister for an answer up until the carriage arrived and she loaded her bag and she spotted her father in the carriage. In the morning, she learned that her father was deeply in debt and he'd left her and her mother to face the consequences of his actions.
Since that night, her life had changed radically. She was the daughter of a baronet who had abandoned her and her mother. She had to learn to care for her deeply depressed mother, hold off creditors while selling off anything she could, and letting the servants they could no longer afford go with good references. Only Mrs. Kendricks stayed to help her as her mother deteriorated.
After her mother's death, Rosalind was forced to set up her own household and somehow gather enough money to live as a gentlewoman in a time when gentlewomen were not allowed to earn money -- at least not directly. So, knowing only one way to live, Rosalind became -- useful. She knew how to smooth over social indiscretions as well as who to see and be seen with in order to move about in society. The people she aided invited her to stay with them or gave her gifts. It was a life on the ragged edge of poverty, but she maintained her status and her contacts.
Now her godmother needs her help. She's leaving London as her husband has been assigned a new position, and they'll be moving overseas. Meeting her godmother at Almacks, she looks in the ballroom and discovers the body of a young man. From there things get very, very complicated.
With a cast of characters, some fictional and some historical, that are well drawn and real enough to nearly step off the page, readers will find themselves transported to early 1800s London. The plot is convoluted enough to keep the reader guessing, especially since it hinges on the society and mores of the time period. (Don't worry, there is enough information to give you an idea of what the scope of the problems are and the limits of behavior.)
Highly recommend for fans of historical fiction or fans of well plotted mysteries with complicated character interactions.