Thursday, January 15, 2009

Forgotten Books: Fidelis Morgan's Restoration World of Crime

If you enjoy a good historical mystery and have yet to have the pleasure of meeting the Countess Ashby de la Zouche and her maid, Alpiew, you're in for a treat. I've never understood why Fidelis Morgan's series of four mysteries set in Restoration London aren't popular. Say what you will about people not enjoying history, I know there are historical mystery fans out there, and they should love these.

Fidelis Morgan has a keen interest and knowledge of Restoration England, and it shines through her Countess Ashby de la Zouche mysteries. This series is one of the best I've read for placing the reader in the life and times of a particular era. But setting is not all in these books. The characters are wonderful, the plots involving, and the humor laugh-out-loud funny throughout.

There are four books in the series. Click on the cover of each to read more information about that book.

Unnatural Fire introduces us to the Countess and her household staff. A former mistress of the deceased King Charles II, the Countess has fallen on hard times and is forced to earn her living by reporting for a scandal sheet. A woman hires her to follow her unfaithful husband, and the Countess soon finds herself implicated in a murder.

The Rival Queens finds the Countess still being pursued by bailiffs wanting to collect on her debts. With the law hot on their heels, they hide in a lecture hall where an actress is murdered. The Countess and Alpiew now not only have to avoid the debt collectors, they have to find a murderer.

The Ambitious Stepmother is a woman who'll stop at nothing to get rid of her stepdaughter--including hiring the rather unreliable Countess as chaperone when sending the young girl off to the exiled English court at St. Germain outside Paris. The Countess and Alpiew find themselves unraveling plots against kings, tasting strange culinary eccentricities, and meeting mysterious prisoners from the Bastille.

Fortune's Slave is the fourth (and so far, final) book in the series. (I'll never give up hope!) For once the Countess has money to spare and, caught up in the current craze for speculating in stocks and shares, she decides to invest her money. Of course her path to greater riches is destined to be anything but smooth.

Speaking of speculation, there have been rumors that at least one of these books is going to be filmed in the UK. Given the right screenplay and casting, they would be absolutely marvelous. It's impossible to read about the Countess without visualizing each and every scene.

How much do I like Morgan's series? I became a member of Paperback Swap a few months ago and have been busily sending books to new homes. However, I will never send away the Countess and Alpiew. They have a permanent home on my shelves.

If you're looking for good books to read that have unaccountably flown beneath the radar, check out Patti Abbott's excellent weekly Forgotten Books series on her blog, Pattinase.


  1. I am definitely adding this series to my list. I always say that I don't read historical fiction, but I do like historical mysteries, and if they're humorous with quirky characters, even better!

  2. Belle--I seldom read historical fiction myself. Haven't done for years, but there's just something about a good historical mystery series, and Morgan's is definitely one of them. I hope you enjoy them!

  3. I used to want to teach history (I've got two degrees in it) because my teachers in high school, save one, bored us all. I appreciate that these books really let the reader jump into an unfamiliar time. My first book was a historical mystery but it was only WWII. Nothing like Restoration England.

    BTW, I really like your Bill of Rights.

  4. All my high school history teachers bored the snot out of me, too, Scott. Nothing but memorization of dates. I've always been interested in social history. I want to know how people lived. Morgan does an excellent job of this in her series. WWII, huh? I'll have to check it out!


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