While they were raised in very different socioeconomic circumstances, Henrietta Von Harmon and Clive Howard find love and an affinity for solving crimes together in each of the four books of Michelle Cox's series, which launched three years ago with A Girl Like You. In A Veil Removed, Henrietta and Clive are finally on their honeymoon when murder, once again, interrupts them. The couple must do what they do best: investigate. But things are trickier than ever, because the murder victim is a member of the Howard family.
Cox describes her books as historical (they're set in the 1930s), romantic, and captivatingly suspenseful. Yet the author says that she did not set out to write suspense. Originally, she was interested in penning only historical fiction based on her work at a Chicago nursing home in the early 1990s.
"It was during my three-year stint at the nursing home that I met a woman who loved to follow me around and tell me interesting things about her life," Cox says. "Apparently, she was this bombshell in Depression-era Chicago, and she used to say that she had ‘a man-stopping body and a personality to go with it'! So when I started writing A Girl Like You, I borrowed a lot of details from her life, including her experience working as an usherette in a burlesque theater, which forms the basis of that novel."
A Girl Like You was planned as a one-off. But as Cox got deeper into writing the story, which evolved as a gritty mystery, she fell in love with her characters and didn't want to let them go. "But I didn't want to just write a series about a cop and his wife solving crimes in 1930s Chicago," Cox says. "That seemed like it had been done before, and, more to the point, I didn't think I would enjoy describing stabbings, rapes, murders, and child abductions. I wanted to write something different. So I needed a twist."
She decided Clive would be the heir to a large estate on Chicago's North Shore and the nephew of an English lord. His role as a Chicago detective in the first book was his way of dealing with the trauma he experienced in WWI. Unfortunately, Clive forgets to mention any of this to Henrietta when he proposes to her. The sudden reveal proves hard for Henrietta to accept, which becomes the premise for the second book in the series. "I was worried about how it would be received by readers, as it's a bit of a departure from the first book," Cox says.
It turns out readers loved Clive's secret past and Henrietta's shock. The series has won more than 30 awards across three different genres: mystery, romance, and historical fiction. Cox credits the popularity of the books in part to the twist she gives the traditional "Cinderella" story.
"Here's Henrietta, working in dingy, seedy clubs in 1935 Chicago, and she happens to fall in love with a city detective, who neglects to tell her that he's actually a sort of prince," Cox says. "She's independent and determined, and she doesn't want to be walled up in the castle, proverbially or otherwise. But, on the other hand, it's this determination and feistiness that makes her want to please Clive and his snooty family—to do what it takes to fit in and make a go of it. This is what makes her such an interesting character, and I think that's something that readers can relate to."
Readers have a lot to look forward to: first, A Veil Removed this April, and then, Child Lost, the fifth book in the series, in April 2020.
The Henrietta and Inspector Howard series
Published by She Writes Press
A Girl Like You
A Ring of Truth
A Promise Given
A Veil Removed
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