Just when I thought I couldn’t take one more Regency novel, Sarah M. Eden’s For Elise was released and I loved it. Eden writes within the historical parameters of the Regency period (1811 to 1820), but doesn’t limit herself to the balls and social rules of that era. Instead she paints a broader picture of that time period than is usually found in Regency Romances. In addition she turns this Regency into a murder mystery.
This is the story of two people who were childhood best friends until Elise disappeared at the age of fifteen. The story begins four years later with the chance discovery by Miles of Elise who is now a widow, living in poverty with her mother-in-law and small, deaf daughter. Miles is thrilled to find his former playmate whom he hasn’t seen since the traumatic days following the murder of their fathers and the superficial wounding of Elise. She doesn’t share his enthusiasm for their reunion. She no longer trusts Miles and has reason to fear returning to the world of her childhood.
Though much too young for so much responsibility, Miles inherited his father’s estate and was named executer of Elise’s father’s estate as well. That made him Elise’s guardian. Both estates were heavily burdened with debt making it necessary to sell them to clear the debt, and being unable to find Elise, Miles worked in India to restore his resources. He returned to England when a distant relative died leaving him his estate, title, and fortune. On finding Elise, he arranges for and insists on her, her daughter, and her mother-in-law moving in with him while his sister and her husband are also there for an extended visit.
Shortly after Elise arrives at Miles’s estate, Elise begins getting threatening notes that could only be sent by the person who murdered her father, Miles’ father, and shot her in the arm. Elise was never able to identify the murderer, but he clearly fears she might put together a few facts only she knows, then guess his identity. When the threats extend to her daughter, she finally confides in Miles.
Eden creates strong characters that are distinct individuals. Even her secondary characters stand out as real people. There is a definite growth or maturing element in her major characters. They’re not perfect people, but their faults are those the reader can identify with. The plot is compelling and if it has a fault it would merely be that the middle portion is stretched out a little too long. The clues for solving the mystery are there, but the reader must be on his/her toes to find them. The author researched this era well, making elements of this time and place an integral part of the novel.
Sarah M. Eden has rapidly proved herself as a favorite author not only of the English Regency genre, but of clean romances, and social issues that touch on any time frame. With For Elise she has also proven herself as a mystery writer. She has won several writing awards and has a decided soft spot for Ireland. She and her husband with their children live in Utah.
* * *
FOR ELISE by Sarah M. Eden, published by Covenant Communications, 259 pages, soft cover $15.99. Also available on CD and for e-readers.