M. Louisa Locke’s Maids of Misfortune

Maids of Misfortune by M. Louisa Locke, a review by Juliet Kincaid

This historical novel, set in San Francisco in 1879, hooks you from the start with the widowed Annie Fuller receiving a letter claiming that she owes some gent the sum of $1,380 for a loan made to her late husband. If you keep in mind the statistic that what you could buy for a penny in 1900 would cost you a dollar in 2000, you’ll realize just how shocked Mrs. Fuller must have been with an unexpected debt of the equivalent of $138,000.

Dr. Locke follows through on her strong opening with the revelation that Mrs. Fuller supplements her income running a boarding house by giving advice on investing and personal matters as Madam Sibyl, a clairvoyant. Sibyl charges $2 (or $200 in 2000 dollars) a sitting and worth every penny of it, at least according to her favorite client, who sadly has died under suspicious circumstances. And so Annie goes undercover as the new hire maid to find out what really happened to him in this lively first book in Dr. Locke’s Victorian San Francisco Mystery series.

A couple of quibbles . . . Descriptions of San Francisco seem a bit thin, though of course lots of that city as it was in 1879 disappeared in the great earthquake and subsequent fires of April 18, 1906. The romantic subplot with a handsome lawyer who soon shows up seems somewhat conventional. These reservations disappeared, though, as I read Uneasy Spirits and Bloody Lessons, the next two novels in the series as well as her collection of Victorian San Francisco stories. Obviously I remain hooked by the engaging Annie Fuller and I suspect that other fans of historical mysteries will enjoy the series as well.

FYI: Maids of Misfortune is permanently free for Kindle, Nook, and other eBook readers.

Mischief in March is here!

This excerpt from Juliet Kincaid’s third calendar mystery, Mischief in March, presents some of what Minty Wilcox and Daniel Price come to call their “improper courtship.”

Precisely four weeks before on Valentine’s Day, right after they announced their engagement to her family, Minty  led Daniel into the parlor and told him about her intention of starting an “investigation into all things Daniel Price.”

That night, after saying, “And there’s no time like the present to start,” Minty removed his tie and unbuttoned his collar and his shirt down a button while he stood there like a lamb, even when, on tiptoes she kissed him on his neck where it curved down into his left shoulder.

Instantly she discovered that the manly Mr. Price was as ticklish as a little boy in that particular spot. He sounded just as silly as a kid when he giggled, too. And so there was nothing for it but for her to yank his shirttails out, reach under his shirt, and tickle his ribs, thus reducing him to helpless laughter on the floor.

Of course Minty’s discovery required that Daniel be permitted to look for the ticklish places upon her person as well. It was only by the firmest discipline and the thickness of her corset that she remained unmoved by those attempts.

In the days since Valentine’s Day, what Daniel came to call their improper courtship and their mutual investigation into each other’s physical persons had progressed from tickling to kissing to general, all-purpose canoodling, and finally to examining each other’s scars.

Minty started that phase of the investigation by showing Daniel the curved scar on her left index finger she received when she first tried to skin a potato with a paring knife.

And then Daniel rolled up his right sleeve so Minty could see the scar on his bicep he got tangling with the barbed wire on a fence in his flight away from a neighbor’s pumpkin patch one fall night long before.

In the weeks following, she pulled up her skirt, rolled up her pantaloons, though only as far as her knees, and rolled down her left stocking so he could touch the deep pit on her shin she got when she fell on a rocky hillside back home at the ranch. She also let him examine the scar on the edge of her right hand that came from tripping on a paving stone, dropping a jelly jar she was carrying, and hitting a pointed shard of glass with her hand.

He in turn over the weeks guided her discovery of his scars . . .

Now, on the evening of March Fourteenth, when they returned to the Wilcox parlor from their fruitless search for Miss Shackleton’s will, they lit only the lamp on the table in the center of the room before they retreated to the sofa in the shadows. This served as a preventative measure so they could set themselves to rights in case someone burst into the parlor without knocking on the door and caught them in disarray.

That evening, Daniel sat so close to Minty in the corner of the sofa a gnat couldn’t squeeze between them. His left arm lay across her shoulder and his mustache tickled her cheek.

Minty had thought Daniel had no more injuries to investigate until she reached into his shirt he’d unbuttoned for her that night and felt yet another scar on his collarbone on the right side. “What’s this?” she said.

“It’s nothing, Minty. Please stop.”

She unfastened the next button, opened his shirt wide, and felt the long, furrowed scar. “That must have been a severe injury,” she said. “A little higher and the blade or whatever it was might have cut your throat. What happened? How did you get that scar? Why didn’t you tell me about it before?”

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As their wedding day rapidly approaches, Minty Wilcox still has many questions about her fiance, Daniel Price. Could he really have killed a man? What else is he hiding about his past? Why has he never told her he’s rich? And for goodness’ sake, where are they going on their honeymoon?

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Mischief in March, Book 3 of the Calendar Mystery Series, is now available as a Kindle eBook  for only $3.99 or free on Kindle Unlimited at www.amazon.com/dp/B06XR1STRH

Praise for January Jinx, Book 1 of the Calendar Mystery Series

The delightful, creative, and charming January Jinx introduces a terrific character in Minty Wilcox, a good old-fashioned cozy mystery persona who will surely be able to carry the planned-for series. It’s Minty who drives the readable narrative, and author Juliet Kincaid keeps the pace steady and fast at the same time for quite a readable experience. The writing is appropriate for the historical setting without ever being gimmicky or archaic . . . The unique setting of 1899 Kansas City is full of flavor that never overwhelms the story and the characters. With a terrific, original, but still comfortable series concept, there are certainly big things afoot for Juliet Kincaid and Minty Wilcox’s Calendar Mysteries.

Buy January Jinx for $3.99 (or get it for free on Kindle Unlimited) now at www.amazon.com/dp/B00HSSSBE4

Praise for Fatal February  Book 2 of the Calendar Mystery Series.

In the year 1900, Minty Wilcox has been hired by a private detective agency, her on again/off again beau’s employer, as a stenographer. For this spunky gal, typing and taking shorthand aren’t enough. She wants to be an operative. So, of course, author Juliet Kincaid, accommodates her protagonist by letting her delve into a missing person/murder case, sometimes sanctioned, but often not, by her boss. The ins and outs of the investigation, Minty’s romantic ups and downs, and her inside out family situations are fun to follow. It’s also interesting to learn about the physical layout and the social customs of Kansas City at the turn of the last century. Good follow-up to January Jinx, the first mystery in the series.

Buy Fatal February for $3.99 (or get it for free on Kindle Unlimited) now at www,amazon.com/dp/B017081JHM