Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Lord
reviewed by Warner Holme
Celeste Connally’s “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Lord” is a historical mystery novel featuring Lady Petra Forsyth. Beginning in 1815, this book illuminates a fragment of her life as she explores the world’s darker aspects around her.
Lady Petra is strong-willed and a widow. This combination causes many in her life to perceive her as problematic. This perception intensifies when she declares her intention never to remarry. Amusingly, despite her relatively young age, this decision is equated with “spinsterhood.” However, this attitude is accurately reflective, if not more so, of the time. While this stance might cause her complications on its own, the real intrigue arises when she delves into the treatment of women, including those she knows, who are deemed stable by the men in their lives.
The status of women in Regency times is a pivotal point of this tale. With a single signature or statement from a man, a woman—be it a sister, niece, daughter, or wife—could be committed to the mental institutions of the time. Given the progress made in the last 200 years relating to such treatments, it’s unsurprising that these institutions were often hellish. Even well-intentioned individuals rarely understood their actions, leading to the unjust commitment of many individuals.
Truth be told, the ending is indeed generally happy for the main characters. Given the odds, this seems somewhat unrealistic in many aspects; however, it supports the possibility of finding a certain measure of liberation.
The lead character is firm, intelligent, and likable. While this book does not seem, at first read, specifically designed to start a series, readers would welcome more of Lady Petra. That said, the social issues focused on in this volume are those most likely to render her further investigations unlikely. However, in any social situation, there can be exceptions, and Lady Petra’s class and wealth would offer certain advantages.
Overall, for someone interested in the subject matter, this is a solid read. It’s not as dark as the material could allow, but neither is it light enough to align with the most comfortable and friendly of the cozies. It sits comfortably in a middle ground, leaving readers pondering how someone overcomes a problem more than whether they will. Those who love a historical mystery and are not confined to a specific era would do well to check it out. It is less “Room to Swing” and more “Murder in the Basement,” a book that will leave readers intrigued and thoughtful.
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