Sunday, June 7, 2020

Lady Rosamund and the Poison Pen - An Interview, Review, & Giveaway

I'm pleased to welcome Barbara Monajem to Cozy Up With Kathy today. Barbara writes the Rosie and McBrae Mystery series. LADY ROSAMUND AND THE POISON PEN is the first book in the series and was released earlier this year.

Kathy: The Rosie and McBrae Mystery series is set during the Regency Period. Why did you choose this time frame for your mystery series?

BM: I like writing historicals, and the Regency in England is the era I know best.

Kathy: Historical mysteries require an extra special brand of research. What's your favorite method to research this time period?

BM: My favorite is to travel to England and Scotland –but I don’t get to do that very often! I have a lot of research books on specific topics, as well as maps of London and the counties of England at the time. Also, reading a historical novel will often inspire me to do more research on a particular topic, both in books and on line.

Kathy: Lady Rosamund Phipps has Obessive Compusive Disorder. How did you decide that the protagonist of your historical mystery would have OCD?

BM: I’m interested in how mental illness was handled two hundred years ago, and particularly how unscrupulous or scandal-averse relatives could have someone locked up for what we consider a minor issue nowadays. I tend to check things over a little too often, so I took my own minor compulsion and made it into a much more significant problem in Lady Rosamund’s life. I’m not sure if she has the obsessive part of OCD. Her compulsion seems to stem from anxiety, but not a particular fear.

Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

BM: I tend to prefer mysteries with amateur sleuths and a minimum of sex and violence. I like a bit of romance in mysteries, too (whether reading or writing), but after having written many historical romances, I got tired of writing explicit love scenes. Been there, written that!! So it was actually a relief to try something different, that is, historical cozies.

Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

BM: Yes – mostly historical romance, sometimes with more than a touch of magic. I have also written three contemporary vampire romantic mysteries (but the vampires aren’t undead, and there’s not a lot of blood and gore).

Kathy: Tell us about your series.

BM: There’s not much to say at this point. LADY ROSAMUND AND THE POISON PEN is the first in the series. She is the main character, and I think all the books will be from her point of view. The character of McBrae will also recur, as they will solve mysteries together.

My other series are historical romances (The Scandalous Kisses Series) or vampire romantic mysteries (The Bayou Gavotte Series). I also have some standalone romances and several romance novellas.

Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?

BM: I am very fond of McBrae (he’s adorable and very, very clever) and also of the anonymous caricaturist Corvus (who draws wickedly good caricatures). I see through Lady Rosamund’s eyes, so it’s difficult for me to be fond of her, because when I write the books I’m being her, in a way.

Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?

BM: I think the failure of political correctness to get rid of prejudice was what started me. Political correctness was well-intentioned, but after a while it seemed to be like a bandage over the festering wound of prejudice, rather than a cure. I prefer to write historicals, so I came up with a very privileged character (a wealthy English aristocrat) who has a lot of prejudices which we find appalling now. She means well but doesn’t know which of her preconceptions are accurate and which aren’t. She has no idea how the other ninety-nine percent live. She learns, grows, and changes in the course of the series.

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

BM: So people would read it.

Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?

BM: Arthur Ransome (who wrote children’s books that I loved), Beatrix Potter (both because of her books and her interesting life), Rosemary Sutcliff (fabulous historical novels) and Mary Stewart (awesome romantic suspense).

Kathy: What are you currently reading?

BM: I’m reading two books at the moment: FALSE VALUE, the latest in the Peter Grant mysteries by Ben Aaronovitch (the main character is a London policeman who deals with the magical/supernatural) and THE PHYSICIANS OF VILNOC, a novella by Lois McMaster Bujold.

Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?

BM: I don’t have much time for hobbies! I’m interested in all things historical and love to travel to historic sites.

Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.

BM: Cheese, cheese, cheese and cheese. (We usually have at least four kinds.) We also have lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?

BM: Yes! Definitely two or three more in this series, maybe more. I’m also writing historical romances, but not in any series.

Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?

BM: Two things – the writing itself, and readers who enjoy what I write.



The First Rosie and McBrae Mystery

Lady Rosamund Phipps is a bit different. Her best friend happens to be her husband's mistress. The situation suits Rosie perfectly as she has no interest in carnal desires and is happy that she gets along well with her husband and is away from her domineering mother and older brother. Rosie also has a secret. She feels the need to check things over and over again. Her mother and brother believe she teeters towards madness and at any moment could bring shame to the family name. After discovering the dead body of a footman, Rosie becomes a favorite subject of the anonymous caricaturist, Corvus. While she thinks it funny, her politician husband does not. Soon she starts receiving anonymous letters threatening to reveal her secret. But, who could possibly know? Rosie decides to discover the true identity of Corvus, that revelation surely taking attention away from her. But can she trust her husband to stand up against her mother and allow her to remain in London? Is that Scotsman a friend or foe? Will she find the answers she seeks, or will the threatening poison pen letters send her over the edge?

LADY ROSAMUND AND THE POISON PEN is an interesting book with an interesting protagonist set at an interesting time. How Rosie deals with her obsessive behavior is realistic and sad. At that time it really was a danger and such an "affliction" could have easily ended her life. Unfortunately, "appearing mad" and being labeled mentally ill is almost as big a stigma as it was then. I truly appreciate how the ingrained societal prejudices are shown. Rosie is a good person. As a protagonist, we like and feel for her. However, some of her thoughts make modern readers cringe...things that were truly believed and not at all abnormal at the time. It's important that she does voice these beliefs, giving veritas and reminding readers of the reality of Recency life, but I'm happy we have McBrae to bring some modern day sensibilities.

The mystery itself is somewhat odd in that the death that starts the story isn't the main thrust, indeed I find that aspect of the story somewhat incomplete. The main mystery is the intertwined search for the identity of Corvus and the poison pen writer. While I was able to determine some of the mysterious activity, another part left me completely stunned. It's compelling how Rosie's mental status deteriorates as the threats continue and how her normal reaction could be seen as unstable...especially at that time.

LADY ROSAMUND AND THE POISON PEN is a unique historical mystery which looks at entitlement, prejudice, and the role of women in Regency England. I loved this first book and look forward to watching the characters develop and grow as the series continues.

Lady Rosamund and the Poison Pen: A Rosie and McBrae Mystery by Barbara Monajem

About Lady Rosamund and the Poison Pen: A Rosie and McBrae Mystery

Historical Cozy Mystery 1st in Series  
Publisher: Level Best Books (April 21, 2020)  
Paperback: 244 pages 
Lady Rosamund Phipps, daughter of an earl, has a secret. Well, more than one. Such as the fact that she’s so uninterested in sex that she married a man who promised to leave her alone and stick to his mistress. And a secret only her family knows—the mortifying compulsion to check things over and over. Society condemns people like her to asylums. But when she discovers the dead body of a footman on the stairs, everything she’s tried to hide for years may be spilled out in broad daylight.
First the anonymous caricaturist, Corvus, implicates Lady Rosamund in a series of scandalous prints. Worse, though, are the poison pen letters that indicate someone knows the shameful secret of her compulsions. She cannot do detective work on her own without seeming odder than she already is, but she has no choice if she is to unmask both Corvus and the poison pen.

About Barbara Monjem

Winner of the Holt Medallion, Maggie, Daphne du Maurier, Reviewer’s Choice and Epic awards, Barbara Monajem wrote her first story at eight years old about apple tree gnomes. She published a middle-grade fantasy when her children were young. When they grew up, she turned to writing for adults, first the Bayou Gavotte paranormal mysteries and then Regency romances with intrepid heroines and long-suffering heroes (or vice versa). Some of her Regencies have magic in them and some don’t (except for the magic of love, which is in every story she writes).
Barbara loves to cook, especially soups, and is an avid reader. There are only two items on her bucket list: to make asparagus pudding and succeed at knitting socks. She’ll manage the first but doubts she’ll ever accomplish the second. This is not a bid for immortality but merely the dismal truth. She lives near Atlanta, Georgia with an ever-shifting population of relatives, friends, and feline strays.

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Purchase Link - Amazon

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  1. your husbands mistress and an obessive behavior sounds like an interesting read

  2. Hi, Lynn. Hopefully you'll find the story as interesting as it sounds.

  3. Kathy, thank you for featuring Lady Rosamund and the Poison Pen, and for your thoughtful review. I still wonder whether or not the footman's death was an accident... If it wasn't, who killed him, and will we ever know?

    1. Yes, good questions! And I would like to know! Thanks for stopping by and I look forward to reading more about this duo!

  4. Thank you for being part of the book tour for "Lady Rosamund and the Poison Pen".

    Enjoyed reading the interview. Can't wait for the opportunity to read this wonderful sounding book.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  5. Sounds interesting. Thanks for this opportunity.