Visiting Ladies

One of the great pleasures of the writing life is getting to know other writers. I met Rhys Bowen, oh, many and many a year ago, and because we move in much the same circle geographically, I get to see her fairly often. Some of her many books overlap with the period of Mary Russell (although I’m awfully fond of her Evans mysteries, too) including the new title, Royal Flush. Welcome, Rhys–the podium is yours.


Hi Laurie, it’s kind of you to make me welcome on your blog. I don’t know about you, but I’ve received quite a few emails saying essentially that my early Twentieth Century heroine does things that were just not possible for a woman of her time. They claim that no woman could be a detective at that time or rush around investigating crimes.

I am always delighted to prove them wrong. Women at the turn of the twentieth century were doing just about anything they wanted to. Granted it was harder for a woman to break into a male dominated world but the determined ones did, with great success. How about Louise Boyd, from my own city of San Rafael, who led an expedition to the North Pole? How about Lady Hester Stanhope who traveled through the dangerous Muslim world dressed as a sheik? And especially what about Nellie Bly, the famous investigative reporter who did such outlandish things as have herself committed to an insane asylum so that she could report on the conditions there? (Her experience is reflected in one of my Molly Murphy novels, Tell Me Pretty Maiden). She was also the only female reporter allowed at the front during World War One.

My heroine Molly Murphy actually has a precedent and role model in New York City: the police detective Sabel. la Goodwin. This lady started out as a police matron and proved so useful in undercover work that she was promoted to full detective in the NYPD. She also appears in my novels.


In some ways it was safer to travel around as a lone woman in those days because there was a certain code of respect and protection for women. It’s probably far more dangerous for a woman to be on a train alone in Europe these days and she certainly risks having her purse snatched any time she ventures out in certain European cities. So there was always a difference between the way men perceived women and wanted them to be and the way they really are. Men had an image of women as dainty, frail, needing protection. Rubbish, of course as they would know if they’d observed women crossing the continent walking behind a wagon. Of course women were frailer than we would be, because of the clothes they were made to wear—too many layers, too tight and under them the dreaded corset that stopped them from breathing properly and pushed their organs out of place. One of my heroines, Molly Murphy, refuses to wear the corset. Luckily my other heroine, Lady Gerogiana, is living in a time when women are already liberated enough to wear what they like and do what they like. World War One changed everything.

But Lady Georgie is still finding that life is not easy for a woman alone. For one thing she has no skills, apart from knowing how to curtsey and where to seat a bishop at a dinner party. And in times of depression the first jobs go to men. So it does seem to her that her only option may be to marry well—she has resisted this thus far, especially as she refers to her primary suitor, Prince Siegfried, as Fishface. But her attempts to find a business niche for herself have ended in disaster so far. They do in her latest adventure (Royal Flush) when she doesn’t realize the connotation of the words Escort service and high class girls!

So Laurie, does Mary Russell see herself as being unusual or a role model for other women?

Thank you again for letting me visit. The next Lady Georgie book, ROYAL FLUSH, will be in stores on July 7th. My tour schedule is up on my website, and click on Rhys on the Road. Also I am running a summer blog contest, giving away great prizes, including a basket of English teatime goodies to those who go to website and email me mentioning this blog post.

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  1. Laidee Marjorie on July 7, 2009 at 8:18 am

    Welcome to Laurie’s site, Rhys. I just wanted to tell you that the panel at Bouchercon 2008 with Louise Penny, Deborah Crombie and yourself was one of my favorite experiences of the whole convention. It was like being invitied to a very special tea party where all the other guests were witty, wise and wondeful! I have now read everything written by Deborah and Louise and I have enjoyed it all tremendously. So now it is time for me to begin reading your work. I thank you in advance.

    –Marjorie from Connecticut

  2. Bill Mosteller on July 7, 2009 at 10:57 am

    My late ex was an avid reader of obituaries. She regularly found women in their 80s and 90s who had lived extraordiary lives. A friend of hers, confined to a nursing home due to MS, was the first woman (…forget the details…) to make a parachute jump. So the answer is yes, women did that, whatever it is.

  3. Laraine on July 8, 2009 at 10:15 pm

    Thanks, Rhys! I’m enjoying re-reading your Molly Murphy stories as I wait for Royal Flush to appear (yes, you can tell I couldn’t get to a bookstore today), as I already re-read Lady Georgie’s adventures. Great fun. A friend who is 101 years old (truly) has been an inspiration for some time of modeling the independent judgement that comes from realizing it is best to bring out the best in others but not worry too much about what they think of you. We all would be so gifted if we arrived at that conviction early in life . . . .

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