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Write On Ottawa: Unwrapping a frightening mystery

By Alejandro Bustos on April 24, 2014

Depending on your viewpoint, the word “admirer” can be a blessing or a curse.  If you’re a romantic, it conjures up images of love and enchanting possibilities.  When used in a threatening manner, however, it can be terrifying.

This thought came to me as I read The Admirer, the debut novel by Gatineau author Aurelia Osborne that is published by Renaissance Press.  Set in Britain during the Victorian era, it tells the tale of the orphan Rose Fraser, a young woman from northern England who lives with her uncle Mr. Edwards and his wife.

The book opens with exciting news, as Rose receives an invitation from a Viscountess, who wants Rose to come to London and be her personal protégé for the capital’s summer ball season.  At first, her uncle  bulks at the invite, noting that London is almost 200 miles away and at least three days worth of travel.

But after Mrs. Edwards insists that Rose must go, Mr. Edwards reluctantly agrees to let her young niece make the long journey.  When Rose arrives in the bustling capital she is thrilled.  Her excitement, however, soon turns to anguish when she starts receiving a series of threatening anonymous letters.

This chain of events sets the stage for a mystery, in which Rose is aided by James Grey, a private investigator from a rich family who is also her most serious suitor.

“I first came up with the plot of The Admirer over 10 years ago, when I was simultaneously discovering Jane Austen and Agatha Christie,” says Osborne, who writes under a pen name.  (Her real name is Marjolaine Lafrenière).  “I loved the structure of the mystery novel, and the romantic atmosphere of the Regency era, and I wanted to combine the two.  I ended up setting the novel in the mid-to-late Victorian, for all sorts of reasons, but I believe I still managed to achieve my goal.

Aurelia Osborne

Written in just under a year and a half, the book is the first published work of any kind by Osborne.  Even though it is her debut novel, however, she knew from the start how she wanted to write the story.

“I knew (who the villain was) even before I started to write,” says Osborne.  “Mystery novels are a delicate thing to write, they require balance.  Readers like to try and guess who the villain is as they go along, so you have to give enough clue to let them do it, but not too many, or too obvious ones, so that you’re not boring the reader.  In my case, it helps a lot to know who the villain is beforehand.”

Whether you will enjoy this book depends on your tastes.  Fans of detective stories and murder mysteries will find a lot to like, as Osborne is a good writer and the plot is interesting.  In addition, if you like stories told with a Victorian sensibility then this a fun read.

If you are not a fan of detective yarns and/or romances, on the other hand, or you don’t like such writers as Jane Austen, then this book may not be for you.  With a polite-sounding narrative, Osborne definitely captures the sense of being “proper” that is commonly associated with Victorian times.  For some this tone is perfect; for others not so much.

Looking forward, Osborne is keeping herself busy writing, and is hoping to publish her second work this summer.

“I am working on other projects, one of which is set to be published at the end of June,” she tells Apartment613.  “It is called Thrills on Ice, and it’s a contemporary romance, and I’m afraid, not a mystery.”