By Jennifer Hallmark
For any of you that know me at all, it’s no secret that the “Golden Age of Detective Fiction” is one of my favorite genres to read. I think it has something to do with my dad and I watching PBS together on a little black and white television, timeless stories about Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, and Lord Peter Wimsey.
But what does that have to do with our month of love stories? For crying out loud, it’s Valentine’s Day. The perfect time for an epic romance. I understand. And for a book to be extra-special to me, there has to be an element of romance. I need the hero and heroine to feel the spark between them, for them to agree and disagree, fight and love. Add to that, the main characters working together to solve a mystery and it can’t get any better.
Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers combines all of the above and more. Our hero, slash crime solver, Lord Peter Wimsey, loves Harriet Vane, a woman he saved from being falsely accused of the murder of her lover. Harriet is sick of all men and won’t even pretend to love Lord Peter. But he never gives up pursuing her. (I love that!)
In this tenth book by Dorothy Sayers, the third to involve Miss Vane, Harriet goes back to her old Alma Mater, Shrewsbury All-Female college as part of a journey of self-discovery. She raises all the questions: Who am I? Why have I struggled? What do I really want to do in my career? Who do I love?
Harriet’s bravery to attempt this inner journey while trying to solve a mystery at the college creates a wonderful story. Peter’s ability to let Harriet find her own way without his help is masterfully written and makes me enjoy his character even more.
To me, what makes this novel work is the chemistry between Harriet and Peter. They both are learning about themselves and each other and the world they live in that is moving toward World War II. Dorothy Sayers dives deeply into their inner thoughts and makes it all so real I feel like I know them. That’s great writing.
And the perfect ending with all the ooh’s and aah’s, the romance, the kiss. I’ve read the book countless times, sometimes just skipping around to my favorite parts. It might just be time to read it again.
If you have time, read all of Sayer’s books starting with Whose Body? and you’ll find the experience of reading Gaudy Night even richer.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
Do you like mystery and romance combined better than romance alone? I’d love for you to share a favorite mystery/romance with our readers.