“For I too liked reading.” –Charlotte Bronte
Emily Cavanaugh is a former literature professor who is remodeling her Victorian home on the Oregon coast into a writers’ retreat. Despite inheriting a sizable chunk of money—not to mention the house itself—from her aunt, expenses do pile up. So with the assistance of her housekeeper Katie, she arranges a murder mystery night to raise funds for a local clinic she’s pledged to help. Unfortunately, what is supposed to be a staged death turns out to be all too real. Worst of all, Katie is found standing over the body, bloody knife in hand. Emily’s conviction that the single mother is innocent puts her at odds with the town sheriff, who just happens to be the love of her life.
Bloodstains with Bronte is the second in Katherine Bolger Hyde’s Crime with the Classics series. As is true of Arsenic with Austen, Hyde’s second novel is full of literary references. I’m a huge fan of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, so I thoroughly enjoyed the Bronte quotes at the beginning of each chapter, as well as the other allusions in the novel. Although I somewhat disagree with Emily’s estimate of Wuthering Heights, I liked the parallels between Heathcliff and Roman, a construction worker whose love for “Katie” borders on the obsessive. Like the Bronte sisters’ books, this novel definitely broaches some darker themes, albeit with a light touch.
The humor sprinkled throughout the novel can be charming and the setting is enticing. Windy Corner is a colorful coastal town, the sort of place I often daydream about living in. I also wouldn’t mind being in Emily’s predicament. Who wouldn’t want to find herself suddenly wealthy, with a gorgeous old house, a stocked library and a long-lost flame vying for her attention? There are a few drawbacks to the book, however. The characters aren’t exactly three-dimensional and they sometimes feel as if they belong to another era, not the 21st century. Though it picks up in later chapters, the plot takes its own sweet time to get underway and is a bit predictable. There is also a slight Christian undertone readers should be aware of, though I didn’t find it off-putting.
Having recently read more than a few high-octane thrillers--my perpetual addiction--Bloodstains with Bronte was a refreshing change. This novel will likely appeal to niche readers of cozy mysteries, especially those who prefer a slower pace and lighter characterization. Three stars.
Much thanks to St. Martin's Press and Netgalley for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.