REVIEW: JENNIFER ASHLEY ✮ DEATH BELOW STAIRS

REVIEW: JENNIFER ASHLEY ✮ DEATH BELOW STAIRSDeath Below Stairs by Jennifer Ashley
Also by this author: Midnight Wolf, Scandal Above Stairs
Published by Penguin on January 2nd 2018
Genres: Fiction, Mystery & Detective, Historical
Pages: 336
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four-half-stars

Victorian class lines are crossed when cook Kat Holloway is drawn into a murder that reaches all the way to the throne.

Highly sought-after young cook Kat Holloway takes a position in a Mayfair mansion and soon finds herself immersed in the odd household of Lord Rankin. Kat is unbothered by the family’s eccentricities as long as they stay away from her kitchen, but trouble finds its way below stairs when her young Irish assistant is murdered. 

Intent on discovering who killed the helpless kitchen maid, Kat turns to the ever-capable Daniel McAdam, who is certainly much more than the charming delivery man he pretends to be. Along with the assistance of Lord Rankin’s unconventional sister-in-law and a mathematical genius, Kat and Daniel discover that the household murder was the barest tip of a plot rife with danger and treason—one that’s a threat to Queen Victoria herself.

Jennifer Ashley is one of my favorite HR authors and The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie is one of my top three all time favorites. Under her pen name Ashley Gardner she writes a similar series like this one, Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries.

Heads up right away: this isn’t romance although it does have romantic elements and I’m pretty confident that those will become more significant in later installments. It is a historical mystery, set in the late 19th century.

In DEATH BELOW STAIRS we are introduced to the main protagonists, Kat Holloway, a cook, starting her new employ and the mysterious Daniel McAdam. If you want to know how they meet try Ms. Ashley’s novella A Soupçon of Poison that starts off the series. It’s also a nice way to become acquainted with her writing style.

The political atmosphere is tense in the Victorian age, Fenians are up to no good and one of their devious plans is to kill the queen. The author catches the mood quite well – it’s obvious that she has done her research!

Kat is a very likable heroine, with a clever head on her shoulders, a no-nonsense attitude, keeping Daniel a bit at arm’s length, because the man has so many different faces and plays so many roles that she doesn’t know who the real Daniel is. What she is keenly aware of though is that he is a good man. She can’t deny their attraction although she keeps trying but you know, you KNOW it’s all just bluster.

What I do know, Daniel, is what you are. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a gent in a posh suit who can purchase first-class railway tickets on the spur of the moment, or a deliveryman who talks like a South London villain. I’ve seen you.”
I can’t remember a single hero in Ms. Ashley’s book that I didn’t adore and Daniel is no exception. He doesn’t hide his affection for Kat, there is no doubt that he is hers but it’s just not the right time. Daniel is entirely endearing, protective of Kat and his son and always looking out for them. He is charming, a little sweet-talker but I’m sure that there is a darker side to him. Uncovering his secrets will be interesting and I can’t wait to meet the real Daniel McAdam.
He was studying me with a look I’d caught on my own face during a visit to someone I was deeply fond of. There was caring in that look, and worry, and gentle wonder.
The mystery is well executed and to unravel it Kat and Daniel are supported by two phenomenal sidekicks: a trousers-wearing lady and a mathematical genius, both of them wonderful in their own way. One more unusual thing is that the main characters are working class, or at least Kat is. Daniel the chameleon feels comfortable in any role he chooses.
“I believe I adore you, Kat.”

Admittedly, the story starts out a bit slow but I think it’s because introduction needs to be made and the plot has to be set up. It’s in no way frustratingly slow though and it picks up soon enough. Yes, there are a lot of details you have to work through, I never felt that it was overwhelming though.

Death Below Stairs is a gem and knowing Jennifer Ashley this series will only get better with each installment. I am looking forward to discovering more about Kat and Daniel. If you are a fan of Downton Abbey mixed with a classic whodunit mystery pick this up!

four-half-stars

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6 Comments

  • This sounds lovely! Daniel appears to be the perfect book boyfriend, so adorable and sweet to Kat <3
    I'm glad this is not a romance even if it does hint at it. More often than not, those end up being too overwhelming and not enjoyable at all.
    Wonderful review 🙂

    • Thank you, Sophie! He really is wonderful. I hope we get to see even more of him in the next installment.
      If you like these kind of books I can really recommend Jennifer Ashley/Ashley Gardner’s Captain Lacey Mysteries. They touch on enough romance to satisfy that need but are focused on the mystery.

  • FAb review darling. I adore Jennifer Ashley, and yay for Madness of Ian Mackenzie, I have adored that book since I was a teenager.

    I love that this was a win, but I am not very surprised that this book was wonderful because its Ashley and everything she writes is wonderful right? And I love a good mystery, so I can’t wait to grab this one up!!

    • I hope you’ll love this one! I haven’t read her books in a while so I was happy to get reacquainted. She’s awesome!

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