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Book Review: The Vanished Bride by Bella Ellis

Writing under the very Brontë-esque pen name of Bella Ellis, Rowan Coleman has come up with a delicious premise for a new series featuring the Brontë sisters before they became published authors. The Vanished Bride is their first outing as detectors.

Yorkshire, 1845. A young woman has gone missing from her home, Chester Grange, leaving no trace, save a large pool of blood in her bedroom and a slew of dark rumours about her marriage. A few miles away across the moors, the daughters of a humble parson, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë are horrified, yet intrigued.

The path to the truth is not an easy one, especially in a society which believes a woman’s place to be in the home, not wandering the countryside looking for clues. But nothing will stop the sisters from discovering what happened to the vanished bride, even as they find their own lives are in great peril…

I’m always a little wary when someone reimagines or writes a mashup of a classic novel but when they’re done well, as in the case of Jo Baker’s Longbourn or Alison Case’s Nelly Dean, they can add a new dimension to the world and characters of the original, as well as being enjoyable in their own right. Happily, given how deftly she achieves both these things in the first of her Brontë Mysteries series, I can now add Bella Ellis’s The Vanished Bride to this list.

Bella Ellis writes the landscape so well and breathes life into the parsonage at Haworth that I had little difficulty in accepting her version of the sisters at work and leisure, and from there, it wasn’t too much of a leap to follow them into these new roles as detectors. I had fun spotting landmarks from their real and imagined geography and personal items I either remember reading about or having seen at the museum in Haworth. I also liked how some scenes in The Vanished Bride suggest where the inspiration for key scenes in the sisters’ own books might have come from.

I think The Vanished Bride works so well because its author doesn’t skimp on any of the elements that go to make up the story, so one doesn’t suffer at the expense of another or ever feel flimsy. Both the central mystery and the depiction of the sisters and the world they inhabit are equally satisfying and strong strands that each hold their own throughout. Read more

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