The right book can instantly transport you to anywhere — and anytime — in the world. Every Thursday, we recommend one of our favorite books with a strong sense of place so you can see the sights, meet remarkable people, go on exciting adventures, and feel big feelings. Bonus: You don't even have to put on pants.
This post is part of our 'Weekend Getaway' series.
This weekend, travel back in time to 19th-century England to meet the Brontë sisters, before they were the beloved authors of some of the greatest novels of all time. When they were simply three smart girls with stubbornness and an innate sense of justice on their side.
It’s 1845 in Yorkshire. Three young women — with vivid imaginations and surprising depths of courage — set out to solve a mystery that begins on the windswept moors near their home.
All signs point to the fact that Mrs. Elizabeth Chester — mistress of Chester Grange and second wife to the master of the house — has been murdered. All signs, that is, but one: There’s no body to be found. The only clue left behind is a pool of blood, along with the young mother’s two heartbroken children.
A few miles away, at the parsonage across the moors, the Brontë sisters learn about the crime from their ne’er-do-well brother Branwell and decide something must be done. Convinced that their natural curiosity and critical thinking skills will help them get to the bottom of the mystery, they set out to discover the truth.
Their investigation turns up, in no particular order, charred bones, a gypsy camp, bloody gloves, a secret staircase, and a tooth — all wrapped in a deliciously Gothic atmosphere. But neither the norms of society nor the woman’s husband wants these three poking around in the family business. The closer the sisters get to the truth, the greater the danger in which they find themselves — and the stronger their commitment to finding justice for Elizabeth.
Bella Ellis is the Brontë-inspired pseudonym of Rowan Coleman, a devoted Brontë fan, and her knowledge of the sisters’ real lives adds depth to their charming fictional counterparts. It’s a delight to watch the authors — so beloved for their novels The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (Anne), Jane Eyre (Charlotte), and Wuthering Heights (Emily) — behave like squabbling teenagers. The mystery of the missing woman is solid, with well-constructed red herrings, suspenseful set-pieces, and a very satisfying conclusion.
You’ll hear the wind howl across the moors and chafe against the restrictions of being a woman in 19th-century England. And you’ll fall under the spell of these women, pre-greatness, when they were just smart girls, trying to do the right thing, even if it means spurning convention. This novel is a charming procedural with surprising twists — an exciting romp for fans of the Brontës and cozy mysteries.
It might be said, Charlotte thought to herself with a smile, as her nib finally joined with paper and she began to forge worlds out of ink, that none had ever lived such adventurous, dangerous, and exciting lives as those three women who grew up in a village no one had ever heard of, on the edge of the windswept and desolate moor. Those were secrets that would never be told, but, oh, what wonderful secrets they were. — Bella Ellis
This mystery novel (304 pages) was published in September of 2019 by Berkley. The book takes you to Victorian England. Melissa read The Vanished Bride and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.
Top image courtesy of James Elkington/Shutterstock.
Want to keep up with our book-related adventures? Sign up for our newsletter!
Strong Sense of Place is a website and podcast dedicated to literary travel and books we love. Reading good books increases empathy. Empathy is good for all of us and the amazing world we inhabit.
Strong Sense of Place is a listener-supported podcast. If you like the work we do, you can help make it happen by joining our Patreon! That'll unlock bonus content for you, too — including Mel's secret book reviews and Dave's behind-the-scenes notes for the latest Two Truths and a Lie.
This is a weekly email. If you'd like a quick alert whenever we update our blog, subscribe here.
We'll share enough detail to help you decide if a book is for you, but we'll never ruin plot twists or give away the ending.
This 30-page Reading Atlas takes you around the world with dozens of excellent books and gorgeous travel photos. Get your free copy when you subscribe to our newsletter.
Content on this site is © 2022 by Smudge Publishing, unless otherwise noted. Peace be with you, person who reads the small type.