Review: Petteril’s Wife by Mary Lancaster (2024)

Posted May 12, 2024 by Mary Kingswood in Review / 0 Comments

These books are a constant delight, and thank goodness Mary Lancaster is such a prolific author that hopeful readers never have to wait too long for the next instalment of that ill-assorted pair, Piers and April.

Here’s the premise: Lord Petteril’s cousin, Major Bertie Withan, has disappeared in Portugal in the very short time between arriving in Lisbon and leaving to join his regiment. Since then, nothing has been heard of him, and the locals all think he must be dead. Piers (Lord Petteril) is determined to find out one way or the other, so off he goes to Lisbon with his trusty helper, former thief April, to find out. To deflect awkward questions, Piers is pretending to be a lowly clerk, with April as his wife, although they very chastely step around each other to avoid unnecessary intimacy on the sea voyage to Portugal and at their hotel.

I’ll be honest, and say that I could have done with a bit more background at the start of the book to explain exactly what was going on. I’m never good at remembering plots and characters from earlier books, so I struggled a bit with this one, starting as it did more or less without any explanation. However, the plot burbles along merrily, and we soon have a fine array of locals and military sorts who might have seen Bertie shortly before his disappearance. One of the local aristocracy was murdered on the same night, and there’s a rumour of a duel – but do these mean anything, or are they merely distractions? Or is the key to be found at a local and very unsavoury bordello? As Piers and April investigate, April’s past as a thief and survivor of some pretty unsavoury situations of her own stand her in good stead to make discoveries in her own unorthodox way.

The mystery isn’t really terribly mysterious in the end, but of course the fun is in getting there, and then there’s a surprising little twist at the end although I’m not sure quite how I feel about it. Big, big ramifications for future books, at the very least. If I have a complaint at all about these stories, it’s that April’s progression from uneducated street urchin to a passable sort of lady, complete with accent, manners and reading/writing skills, is simply not credible, and certainly not at the speed depicted here. But that’s my only grumble, and to be honest, the unique relationship between Piers and April far outweighs the implausibility. The mysteries are fun, but I keep reading to see how this unlikely couple eventually resolve the differences between them and find the happy ending they both deserve. An excellent five stars.


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