Synopsis: Mitchelstown Castle in County Cork, seat of the notorious Anglo-Irish Kingsborough family, fairly hums with intrigue. In 1786 the new young governess, Mary Wollstonecraft, witnesses a stabbing when she attends a pagan bonfire at which an illegitimate son of the nobility is killed.
When the young Irishman Liam Donovan, who hated the aristocratic rogue for seducing his niece, becomes the prime suspect for his murder, Mary-ever a champion of the oppressed, and susceptible to Liam’s charm-determines to prove him innocent. Mary Wollstonecraft (mother of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein) was celebrated, even a cause celebre in her day, as a notorious and free-thinking rebel.
Her short life was highly unconventional, with the kidnap of her sister from an abusive husband, love affairs, an illegitimate child, religious dissent, a suicide attempt, participation in the French Revolution, and other eyebrow-raising episodes. Nancy Means Wright hopes that Midnight Fires, set during Mary’s term as a governess in Ireland, will “present her to the world as the brilliant, yet wholly human, passionate, and conflicted woman that she was.”
My Review: What a lovely little mystery!
This book starts off with a bang and keeps you wondering whodunit right to the end. Mary is just the kind of heroine I like – smart, spunky, and willing to question the establishment. I love to see a woman in this period of history who is happy to stand up for herself and what she believes in, rather than sitting back and letting society hold her down with its thumb.
Knowing that many of these characters were actual historical figures made this novel even more interesting to me. I love that the author took a period of Mary Wollstonecraft’s life that is probably glossed over in many other situations, and uses imagination to help tell the tale of this complicated woman, as well as the struggle between the Irish and the English on a small scale.
Margaret was another of my favorite characters, a young woman caught between being a child and growing up. Her relationship with Mary felt so good to read, it was so important for the children to have a reliable mother figure to care about them, and it made me wish I could have had a caring governess myself.
There are rumblings that the author intends to write more mysteries with Mary as the heroine, and I will happily gobble those novels up when they are released. Mary is a character I would be happy to read about on a regular basis. Her unconventional method of getting to the bottom of things made me laugh and wonder how it was going to work out – my only dismay was seeing the book come to an end.
This is a great book to sit and relax with. It’s a nice light mystery that makes you wish you were able to participate in more depth, it even kind of reminds me of an Agatha Christie mystery.
Read this book if: You like historical mysteries, a fun book to read, or are looking for a break from heavier reading.
Full disclosure: I received this book as an advanced reading copy through the Early Reviewers program at LibraryThing. This book was provided by the publisher, Perseverance Press, and this has in no way affected my review.