Good Afternoon everyone,
Today I have the pleasure to welcome once more Riana Everly to From Pemberley to Milton to talk about Death in Highbury, book 2 in the Miss Mary Investigates series. I’ve mentioned before that Ms. Everly is an author I always love to receive here because of her interesting guest posts. She always writes the most informative posts, and today is no exception. After having read and reviewed The Mystery of the Missing Heiress ( the prequel) and Death of a Clergyman (Book 1), I was very curious to see where Miss Mary and Alexander would go, and Ms Everly literally showed me that.
I hope you enjoy the guest post with all those amazing pictures, and the excerpts Ms Everly brought today 🙂 Don’t forget to comment to apply to the giveaway 🙂
Thank you so much for letting me stop at this fabulous blog as part of my blog tour. It’s always a joy to be here and chat with everyone about what I’ve been up to.
My latest novel is another mystery in the Miss Mary Investigates series, this one called Death in Highbury: An Emma Mystery. From the title, it should come as no surprise that it takes place in and around Jane Austen’s fictional town of Highbury, Surrey. We know that Highbury is 16 miles from Brunswick Square in London, and 7 miles from Box Hill, and further, that it is exactly 9 miles from Richmond. Conventional wisdom is that such a place did not exist, although Kenneth Smith argues to the contrary in the Winter, 2018 volume of JASNA (http://jasna.org/publications/persuasions-online/volume-39-no-1/the-probable-location-of-donwell-abbey-in-jane-austens-emma/).
But I’m not here to talk about probable locations and who might or might not have lived where. I’m here to show you pretty pictures. What we have is enough to give us a general idea of where Highbury was located: In the rolling countryside of Surrey, somewhere near Dorking and Epsom. Further, I love to write about places I know, which is not always possible. But in this instance, I am lucky.
Many years ago, my father and I were in England, where we visited my ancient great aunt Kay. At the time, she lived in Dorking, a short train ride from where we were staying in London. We wandered about the high street for a while before hiking up the hillside to the residence where she was staying, pressing ourselves against stone walls as lorries raced up and down impossibly narrow country roads. But oh, if I had known at the time how close we were to Box Hill, which features so prominently in Emma, we never would have made it to Aunt Kay’s place! Still, I am very fortunate to have these memories of the countryside so clear in my mind.
Here are a few pictures of the area.
These maps show the intersection of a 16-mile distance from Brunswick Square with a 7-mile radius from Box Hill.
Here is a picture of Dorking, very much as I remember it.
My detective, Alexander, is in the area looking into some irregularities in the horse races at Epsom Downs. There have been races there since 1648, and where there is horse racing, there will be people trying to fix those races! Here is an engraving of the races at Epsom in 1791, and a photograph of the contemporary stands.
Of course, you can’t visit Emma’s Surrey without a stop at Box Hill.
The background on my book cover is from this same lovely spot.
There are so many gorgeous photos of this lovely part of the world. Make a cup of tea and see what Google images can show you.
Here are a couple of excerpts from the novel. Alexander is enjoying the change of scenery from where he keeps his rooms in London. In the first excerpt, Mary and Alexander ride through the countryside to the site where the latest body was found.
Mary was on her feet at once. “Sir, I must protest.” Her voice was steel, and Alexander was very proud of her for some reason. “I will not tell you what horrors I saw last autumn. I may seem a weak female in body, but my spirit is made of sterner stuff, and I shall not swoon or cause you trouble. And I may see something others might miss. I insist on coming along. I can ride, and if I may borrow a horse, I shall be of no trouble to anybody.”
Once more Knightley tried to dissuade her and once more Mary triumphed. The magistrate was correct: this was, indeed, no place for a woman, but Mary had proven herself before, and Alexander had no fears for her. And, as she had suggested, perhaps a set of eyes accustomed to observing different things would be useful.
The ride took the small party through the streets and laneways of Highbury, and then across newly verdant undulating farmland. Despite his recent shock, Martin was a friendly and informative guide, pointing out interesting features of the landscape as well as other relevant details. “Donwell Abbey—that’s Mr. Knightley’s estate—lies there, just beyond that stand of trees. You can see the chimneys when we pass over the bridge. All this land is his, including my own farm. My sisters keep house for me, down yonder, across that meadow. Over there you can see the crest of land nearer to the road to Kingston, and there, yonder, you will see the stone wall that runs between the farm and the land that was let to Mr. Carnes, closer to Epsom. Carnes lets from Mr. Knightley, since that parcel is not as good for corn as for grazing. Have you heard of Ralph Hesselgrave? He’s the one that’s mad on horseflesh and the races hereabouts. There’s lots of blunt in those pockets, and when Carnes proposed setting up the paddock and training grounds, Hesselgrave supported him in the matter.
“Hmmm, yes,” Alexander murmured. “I’ve heard his name before. I might have some questions for him. Perhaps Mr. Knightley can perform the introductions.”
Mary remained quiet on the ride, but Alexander could see her eyes absorbing all the information Martin was offering. She would know the exact route to take again, should she need to return to their destination, and she would be able to identify the key locations along the route. Smart girl!
Eventually the path the three took came to a break in an old stone wall, and here Martin urged his mount from the dirt laneway and onto the field, following the direction of the wall. The land dipped into a wide and shallow valley and then climbed again quite steeply, to what seemed to be the highest hill in the area. As they reached the very top, Alexander could see the collecting reservoir Martin used for his irrigation system. Three farm hands were milling around, waiting for Martin to return.
In this second excerpt, Alexander and Mr. Knightley head in the other direction, towards Dorking,
Alexander and Knightley set off for Dorking at first light. If they were to spend the day searching for Hesselgrave, they wished for as much of that day to be available as possible, and to waste little in travel. It was not a long distance—less than ten miles—but the road wound through farmland and over rivers, and up and down hills and valleys, through woods and fields and some of the most beautiful countryside that Alexander had seen.
“We are not far from Box Hill,” Knightley said as they crested a particularly impressive rise of land. It seemed about as high as the one atop of which Harry Carnes had eaten his last meal, but this one was thickly wooded, rather than carefully tended farmland. “Box Hill is a favourite place for picnics, well regarded as having a most spectacular vista of the surrounding countryside. Perhaps, once your task is completed to your satisfaction, you might take a half day to enjoy it.”
“Thank you,” Alexander replied as his eyes roved across the lovely land around him. “If it bests this in terms of beauty, it must be a wonder indeed.”
As they descended the hillside, the sparse smattering of farmhouses and outbuildings began to grow denser, until they were in the outskirts of Dorking. It was a busy market town with an active main street and a large and impressive inn at the centre of the town, with stables behind it. Here Alexander and Knightley requested care for their horses whilst they took a quick breakfast at the public room of the inn and made some initial inquiries as to the state of Hesselgrave’s room and the direction of the attorney who had drafted the investment agreement between Carnes, the missing squire, Elton, and whoever else might be involved.
When political chaos in London forces Mary Bennet to take refuge in the picturesque town of Highbury, Surrey, she quickly finds herself safe among friends. Emma Woodhouse welcomes her as a guest at Hartfield, Jane Fairfax is delighted by her love of music, and Frank Churchill can’t stop flirting with her. But it is not long before Mary starts to suspect that beneath the charming surface, Highbury hides some dark secrets.
Alexander Lyons is sent to Surrey on an investigation, and at his friend Darcy’s request, heads to Highbury to make certain Mary is comfortable and safe. But no sooner does he arrive than one local man dies, and then another!
Soon Alexander and Mary are thrust into the middle of a baffling series of deaths. Are they accidents? Or is there a very clever murderer hiding in their midst? And can they put their personal differences aside in time to prevent yet another death in Highbury?
You can find Death in Highbury at:
Riana Everly was born in South Africa, but has called Canada home since she was eight years old. She has a Master’s degree in Medieval Studies and is trained as a classical musician, specialising in Baroque and early Classical music. She first encountered Jane Austen when her father handed her a copy of Emma at age 11, and has never looked back.
Riana now lives in Toronto with her family. When she is not writing, she can often be found playing string quartets with friends, biking around the beautiful province of Ontario with her husband, trying to improve her photography, thinking about what to make for dinner, and, of course, reading!
You can contact her throught the following links:
Riana Everly is ggiving away five eBooks worldwide over the course of this blog tour, chosen randomly from people who enter. To enter, please use the Rafflecopter link .
If you don’t like Rafflecopter, you can still enter. Just send her an email (email@example.com) saying so, and she’ll add your name to the list for the draw.
The giveaway will close at 12am EST on February 27, 2021.
Good Luck Everyone!