Please welcome author Vanessa Riley to the blog. She’s coming to you all the way from Bulgaria, where she’s working on a Regency film project. Vanessa is here writing about her latest historical mystery, Murder in Drury Lane.
Take it away, Vanessa!
If you have ever read any of my historical fictions, romances, or mysteries, then you know how much I love history and sinking into every nook, cranny, or antique dustbin. You may not realize that my desire to get it right, to allow my readers to feel as if they’ve just stepped into the past, is the extent to which I will chase the story. I will collect antique books and maps. Upon occasion, I will visit the surviving historic relics or places. Murder in Drury Lane, the latest adventure in my Lady Worthing Series, is no exception. When offered the opportunity to take the private tour of the legendary theater and go behind the emblematic red velvet curtains, I had to seize it.
Like many tours, the host spins yarns about past great performances. Actors in current productions guide you through the halls and rooms of Drury Lane, one of the royal theaters of London, which dates back to 1663. In one form or another, this place has been in constant operation. Walking through the side entry doors that note King George III’s entrance and that of his son, the Prince of Wales, I felt grand. I could imagine the conversations and the players that have been performed here. I could also envision where crimes could occur—falling into a pit, smothered by falling canvases, or even being bludgeoned by a prop.
Though the third iteration of Drury Lane that Lady Worthing loved, designed by famed architect Henry Holland burned down in 1809, this newly renovated 4th iteration by Sir Andrew Loyd Webber still has touches of the old. You feel the proud history in the gilded trim and moldings, the famous boxes stacked on the sides that await wealthy patrons, and the partially covered entrance to tunnels in the bowels of the theater.
Yes, there are tunnels underneath Drury Lane. The secret passages once allowed kings to visit their mistresses without being seen by the public. Theater folk put them to use by recruiting sailors fresh from their ships along the Thames to come man the curtain ropes and hoists.
For me, secret tunnels are catnip helping to feed the story genesis. What could be more fun than using hidden passageways for nefarious purposes. Make sure you check out Murder in Drury Lane, to see how Lady Worthing and her suspects put these tunnels to good use.
Readers: Do you like reading about real places you have visited or can visit? When you travel, do you pick your books to match destination?
About Vanessa Riley
Vanessa Riley is an award-winning author of Island Queen, A Good Morning America Buzz Pick and the forthcoming Queen of Exiles. Riley’s historical novels showcase the hidden histories of Black women and women of color, emphasizing strong sisterhoods and dazzling multicultural communities. Her works encompass historical fiction, historical romance, and historical mystery and have been reviewed by the Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly, NPR, Publishers Weekly, and the New York Times. Riley was named the 2023 Georgia Author of the Year Awards Literary Fiction Winner for Sister Mother Warrior.
This Southern, Irish, Trini girl holds a doctorate in mechanical engineering and an MS in industrial engineering and engineering management from Stanford University. Riley also earned a BS and MS in mechanical engineering from Penn State University. Her research skills have helped NASA, GM, Hewlett Packard, and several startups. Yet, her love of history (Caribbean, Georgian, and Regency) and lattes overwhelmed her passion for math and has led to the publication of over twenty titles.
About Murder in Drury Lane
Portraying the true diversity of the Regency-era and the hidden intrigue of England’s abolitionist movement, this vibrant, inclusive new historical mystery from acclaimed author Vanessa Riley features an engaging heroine with an independent streak, a notorious past, and a decided talent for sleuthing…
Pressed into a union of convenience, Lady Abigail Worthing knew better than to expect love. Her marriage to an absent lord does at least provide some comforts, including a box at the Drury Lane theater, owned by the playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan. Abigail has always found respite at the theater, away from the ton’s judgmental stares and the risks of her own secret work to help the cause of abolition—and her fears that someone from her past wants her permanently silenced. But on one particular June evening everything collides, and the performance takes an unwelcome turn . . .
Onstage, a woman emits a scream of genuine terror. A man has been found dead in the prop room, stabbed through the heart. Abigail’s neighbor, Stapleton Henderson, is also in attendance, and the two rush backstage. The magistrate, keen to avoid bringing more attention to the case and making Lady Worthing more of a target, asks Abigail not to investigate. But she cannot resist, especially when the usually curmudgeonly Henderson offers his assistance.
Abigail soon discovers a tangled drama that rivals anything brought to the stage, involving gambling debts, a beautiful actress with a parade of suitors, and the very future of the Drury Lane theatre. For Abigail the case is complicated still further, for one suspect is a leading advocate for the cause dearest to her heart—the abolition of slavery within the British empire. Uncovering the truth always comes at a price. But this time, it may be far higher than she wishes to pay.