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.
I thoroughly enjoyed seeing how Bella Ellis imagines the Brontës, their household and relationships with one another, together with those around them, while also pitting myself against their formidable collective imaginations – as well as that of the author! – to try and solve the mystery before they did.
If you’re a fan of one or more of the Brontë’s books, have ever visited Haworth and the family’s former home, now a museum dedicated to them, or are familiar with the landscape surrounding it in West Yorkshire, you’ll enjoy reading this.
The Vanished Bride is a novel that’s clearly written by an author who has an abundance of love and respect for the Brontë sisters and their original works. It’s not only a fitting tribute to them but also a wonderful adventure in its own right. I read it as an ebook for review but when it came out this week, I couldn’t resist buying the beautiful hardback version for myself and a friend who’s a fellow Brontë devotee.
The Vanished Bride by Rowan Coleman writing as Bella Ellis is published by Hodder & Stoughton. It is available as an audiobook, ebook and in hardback with the paperback due out in May next year. You can find it at Amazon UK or buy it from Hive instead where every purchase helps to support your local independent bookshop. For more information on The Brontë Mysteries series, follow Bella Ellis on Twitter, where you also can find Rowan Coleman.
My thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy via NetGalley.