Title: Under an English Heaven
Author: Alice K. Boatwright
Publisher: Cozy Cat Press
Publication Date: 2014
When widowed English Vicar Graham Kent comes to California on sabbatical, English professor Ellie does the unthinkable . . . she falls in love and marries him. As idyllic as their relationship is, Ellie soon discovers that English literature has been telling it wrong all these years; being the wife of a vicar is nothing like the portrayal of Eleanor in Sense & Sensibility. The townspeople of the small English hamlet of Little Beecham aren’t overly welcoming of this young American who has linked herself with their charming, handsome Vicar. Ellie knows nothing of Remembrance Day and the traditions of the Christmas Coffee, she is a battling state of unease and posturing with the Vicar’s longtime housekeeper, and she lives under the constant shadow of the Vicar’s first wife, Louisa, who unexpectedly died following a routine medical procedure.
It makes sense that the townspeople would be even more unsure about this newcomer when she discovers a dead body in the graveyard; one that hasn’t been buried. A break-in at the church property and the fact that Ellie recognizes the dead man as a man she encountered walking in the woods just two days prior doesn’t improve her status in the community.
Soon Ellie and Graham’s lives are turned upside down and the townspeople and gentry of the area are quick to make Ellie for the crime. Further complications ensue when Ellie is found in innocent possession of a book inscribed in Italian that belonged to the dead man. It is soon discovered that Ellie’s ex-husband was also Italian and who, always a slave to attention, shows up unexpectedly on her doorstep.
The Vicarage is searched and seeds of doubt run rampant around the community. Ellie becomes embroiled in a race to find the true killer before he strikes again, or she is claimed for the role of murderess. Even if she is able to discover the truth, what will be the cost to her marriage and her life?
Although this book would be classified under “cozy mystery,” in many ways, it makes fun of the same type. Ellie Kent is independent, intelligent, confident, and completely in over her head! As an American trying to pull off the “English” lifestyle, and as a Vicar’s wife no less, the humor is subtle and witty. The story is quiet but well-plotted. I think it also provides a great commentary on how small and unrelated details can create suspicion in even the most well-intended minds.
The village of Little Beecham is full of a cast of characters but they aren’t portrayed as caricatures; they are interesting and well-defined. I enjoyed how the author wove their backgrounds into the stories which provided understated hints to the plot. A very enjoyable read.
Who might like this book:
If you like quaint English mysteries, check out this book. My only complaint is that there are no more books in what is well set-up to be a series.