A Promise Given
She Writes Press (2018)
Reviewed by Kimberly Luyckx for Reader Views (10/18)
The novel “A Promise Given” tells the story of the Howards and the Exleys - two prominent families living in Chicago in the mid-1930s. Author Michelle Cox details the history within and between these families soon to be united by the marriage of Henrietta Von Harmon and Inspector Clive Howard.
As Henrietta prepares to join the prestigious Howard household, the family convinces Martha Exley Von Harmon, Henrietta’s estranged mother, to move back into society for the sake of the family’s new alliance. This provides the Von Harmon sisters the opportunity to mix with the social elite that can transport them from Chicago’s seedy nightclubs to its north shore neighborhood soirees. Henrietta, who has the personality and more opportunity to adapt, converts rather easily but her sister Elsie has more difficulty navigating her new status.
“A Promise Given” is the third installment of Cox’s Henrietta and Inspector Howard series and portrays a time steeped in romanticism. The flavor of which is wonderfully detailed through its scenery and characters. One such example is the elegance rendered in the couples’ wedding day - each moment captured in its splendor. Many of the book’s scenes could easily read like a Jane Austin novel as Cox possesses that distinct ability to plant a reader directly into a specific room or landscape.
Midway through the story, Cox’s main players segue from the bustling town of Chicago to the quaint, traditional setting of Derbyshire, England. Here the novel’s plot slowly thickens as Henrietta and her husband Clive encounter a mysterious murder that threatens to shake the roots of the Howard family tree.
Knowing that this was the third book of a series, I was apprehensive of starting in the middle. I wondered if I would have the perspective necessary to grasp the narrative and its characters. My fears were allayed when the individuals and their relationships were ingeniously introduced through flashbacks to previous encounters. Cox does a superb job of reformulating her characters connections and providing the background information needed to create a book that can stand alone as a complete story.
I love the way that author Michelle Cox combines historical fiction with mystery. The two partners, Henrietta and Clive make a perfect sleuthing team that left me wanting more. My only complaint is that they did not formulate their investigative alliance sooner in the story. Hopefully “A Promise Given” will not be their final episode. Meanwhile, I look forward to picking up copies of the first two novels in this series and getting more acquainted with these clever and complex characters.