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September 10, 2019

The Vanished Bride by Bella Ellis ~ a Review

by Donna Huber

I was intrigued about the premise of the book and since I love cozy mysteries, I had to give it a try. The Brontë siblings are amateur sleuths in The Vanished Bride by Bella Ellis, the first book in the Brontë Sisters Mystery series. Ellis is the pen name of Rowan Coleman.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

September 2019; Berkley; 978-0593099056
audio, ebook, print (304 pages); mystery
There have been a number of books that feature the fictional life of Jane Austen, but I haven't seen too many that feature the Brontës. So while the 1840s isn't a time period I typically read, I thought I should give it a try. Ellis is faithful to the time period in her writing style, which made it a little difficult for me to get into the story. But once the murder mystery got underway, and I became use to the style, the story flowed really well.

I have only read Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë) and Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë). Also, I'm much more familiar with Jane Eyre as I enjoyed it much more than Wuthering Heights; I also wrote a term paper on Jane Eyre in high school. As such I say many parallels to Jane Eyre in The Vanished Bride. Had this been a factual account, then one would assume that the events greatly influenced Charlotte. (The "villain" is named Robert Chester). As it is fictional, it is Ellis who draws inspiration from their novels. I really liked this touch. Though there were other points that may be related to Wuthering Heights, they weren't as prominent (at least to me) as the Jane Eyre "moments". Perhaps Ellis will draw from other writings of the Brontë siblings in future novels in this series.

While the story is focused prominently on the Charlotte, Emily, and Anne, their brother Branwell makes appearances as necessary as a secondary character (usually to be protector or chaperone, alas he is often drunk). I believe his role is more to serve as a foil to the way the female characters are treated in the 1840s, even within a family with a father that was rather progressive for the times.

The mystery was interesting and clever. I figured out parts of it before all was revealed, but there are clues withheld until the end that left some aspects obscured until the end.

One criticism I had with the book was how heavy-handed Ellis is with the role of women in the 1840s. While the novels by the Brontës had commentary on women in society, I felt that they had a more subtle approach. Ellis's treatment reminded me more of Jane Austen. I felt like I was being hit over the head with how unfairly women were treated, which is another reason I had trouble getting into the story from the start. However, it is on this commentary that I found a line that I absolutely loved.

As someone who has never married, "The idea that a life alone could be a life well lived", was an idea I struggled with in my 20s and early 30s. I have long wanted a chick lit type novel where the heroine did not end up in a relationship/married, yet still lived happily ever after. While The Vanished Bride had a definite mystery, there were also fun and awkward moments that are the mainstays of chick lit. I kind of had a "this is what such a story would be like" light bulb moment.

When I started The Vanished Bride, I kind of thought it might go on my DNF (did not finish) pile. By the end of the novel, I was so glad I finished it. If for no other reason, than to see the girls realize they could control their own futures.

Buy The Vanished Bride at Amazon

Reading British set books always makes me want tea (especially when the characters drink tea, and the Bronte sisters are often having tea). When I have tea, I like to have something sweet with it. While reading The Vanished Bride, I made a batch of winter squash muffins. They aren't overly sweet so that made the perfect book & tea treat.

Winter Squash Muffins (makes ~24 muffins)
2 cups squash puree (I used butternut squash, but you can use pumpkin or acorn squash)
3 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar (I was out of brown sugar, but my regular sugar has more molasse than regular white sugar, so I just used 1 cup of my regular sugar)
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp ginger

Preheat oven to 400F
Mix eggs, milk, oil, sugar in squash puree. Add flour, baking powder, powder soda, and spices into squash mixture until smooth. Grease muffin pan or use cupcake liners. Spoon batter into cups so that they are 1/2 - 1/3 full. Bake for about ~15 minutes. Then cool for about 10 minutes before removing them from the pan. Continue cooling on wire rack. Store in an airtight container. (I freezed some to have later).
Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour

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