Discover more from Tropes & Cheese
A Lady's Guide to Mischief and Mayhem
by Manda Collins
Confession: I am not a Murderino. Try as I might, true crime and podcasts like My Favorite Murder are too scary for me. (Says the girl who writes about romance novels, expecting everyone to be shocked… I recognize now that this may not be the earth-shattering confession I thought it was.)
So imagine my hesitation when I found out this book was written as a Historical Romance love letter to the True Crime obsession of today. I almost tapped out early, but dammit, the story pulled me in right away. So let’s dive in to…
Book: A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Mayhem by Manda Collins
Genre: Historical Romance, Murder Mystery, Agatha Chrstie-ism (because at this point she deserves her own genre, right?)
Spice Level: 🔥🔥
Content Warning: Infuriating patriarchal values, and well, murder I suppose.
Tropes: Badass Women, Rivals to Lovers.
Turns out, murder makes a good old-fashioned Historical Romance a lot more interesting!
This was a surprisingly fun dive into two separate genres in one book. And best of all, both genres were executed well! Murder pun intended.
I’ve read plenty of stories where the main genre is one thing - historical fiction, mystery, thriller, sci-fi, etc. - and rather than weave a romance throughout the story, they just insert a one-night stand or an insincere “oh by the way, I love you” at the end. Boooring.
So imagine my delight while reading A Lady’s Guide, when I realized they were weaving both the murder mystery and the romance into the story simultaneously and seamlessly! I cared about the investigation. I cared about the characters. And I thoroughly enjoyed their clearly-falling-in-love-but-trying-to-be-sensible-because-well-there’s-a-murderer-on-the-loose character development.
What’s It About?
Like most Historical and Regency Romances, this story centers around fancy landowners and their days-long house parties. Luckily for us, the heroine at the center of it is no delicate flower - she is a total badass. Kate is a widow who maintained control of her late husband’s newspaper, and she runs it like the powerhouse she is.
There is a gruesome murderer on the loose in London, and the men of the aristocracy believe it’s their duty to shelter the gently bred women from such atrocities - the less they know about such things, the better. Ugghhhh…
However, women are among the victims, so Kate and another ahead-of-her-time badass, Caro, team up to write a column: A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Mayhem. They set out to educate women on what’s going on so they can keep themselves safe… but unfortunately, their column lands the wrong man in jail and costs the lead detective his job.
When Kate discovers another victim at a house party in the country, she teams up with the man whose career she ruined and they (reluctantly on his part,) set out to solve it together.
Patriarchial Values: Obviously, things weren’t awesome for women back then. But what this and many Historical and Regency Romances do well is paint the more terrible, patriarchal, controlling dudes (and there are a lot of them) in an unflattering light. The heroes are usually men who *gasp* see women as equals, or at least see them for their unique talents and qualities… rather than just their heir-producing abilities. And the heroines, as I mentioned, are total badasses, even by today’s standards.
Murder: Surprising, I know, but there’s a lot of murder in this murder mystery. There are some gory-ish scenes but overall, it wasn’t too bad. Remember - I’m not a person who can handle true crime, so if it wasn’t too scary for ME, I can all but assure you, you’ll be fine.
Now, how to make your reading experience a bit more fun?
FYI wow these are harder to come up with when it comes to Historical Romance! But I was up to the challenge.
🫖 Drink Pairing: Whenever I read Historical or Regency Romances, I crave tea. And I don’t even care for tea all that much. But when I’m reading these books? All I want is a cup of tea and a buttery shortbread biscuit. If you’re feeling particularly grandiloquent, why not try some of these fun and very fancy grown-up tea party ideas?
🎥 Activity Suggestion: While this story was written by Manda Collins, I couldn’t help but notice the Agatha Christie homages around every corner. So next time you’re looking for something to watch, why not go for an Agatha Christie movie marathon? Pick from one of the 42 (yes, 42!!) adaptations of her work dating all the way back to 1934!
🛍 Etsy Listing: A Victorian Murder Mystery Party Kit! That’s right - you too can solve an 1800’s style murder at a fabulous house party. Invite your friends over for a Victorian-era-themed murder mystery dinner party and live like Kate & Andrew for the night!
As always, I encourage you to see if A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Mayhem is available from your local, indie bookstore. Don’t know where one is? Try this Indie Bookstore Finder! You can also purchase it directly from Manda Collins’ website.
Your local library is also a great place to look for this and other books. And, of course, all the big-name booksellers will certainly have what you’re looking for.
Even if Historical Romances aren’t usually your thing, I encourage you to give A Lady’s Guide to Mischief and Mayhem a shot. The strong female leads and the presence of murder may make it feel less hoity-toity and more murdery-solvey.
I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!
Thanks for reading Tropes & Cheese! Always free and always cheesy.