Set in 1845 Yorkshire, The Vanished Bride tells a fictional tale about the very real and fascinating, Brontë sisters. It is easy to see that the novel was penned by a true Brontë lover, as the author’s adoration for the sisters is beautifully obvious on every page.
Bella Ellis brings The Brontë Sisters back to life in a mysterious and empowering story of curiosity, justice and the unbreakable bond between sisters.
I was on a short trip to Edinburgh where I was told to visit Waterstones and to sit in the cafe at the bay window overlooking Princes Street Gardens. This was where I found and enjoyed the first few chapters of The Vanished Bride. The simple, understated cover, and the words “Brontë mysteries” had me drawn to the novel. I had recently just finished reading Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë and had since begun to build up quite the collection of Brontë novels, but like most of my books, they have been left on their own little shelf to gather dust and haven’t been touched since they were first put there. I was worried that this was exactly what as going to happen to The Vanished Bride, however, after the first few chapters, I found myself hooked.
The Vanished Bride by Bella Ellis
Yorkshire, 1845. A young wife and mother has gone missing from her home, leaving behind two small children and a large pool of blood. Just a few miles away, a humble parson’s daughters–the Brontë sisters–learn of the crime. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë are horrified and intrigued by the mysterious disappearance.
These three creative, energetic, and resourceful women quickly realize that they have all the skills required to make for excellent “lady detectors.” Not yet published novelists, they have well-honed imaginations and are expert readers. And, as Charlotte remarks, “detecting is reading between the lines–it’s seeing what is not there.”
As they investigate, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne are confronted with a society that believes a woman’s place is in the home, not scouring the countryside looking for clues. But nothing will stop the sisters from discovering what happened to the vanished bride, even as they find their own lives are in great peril…
I enjoyed the storyline, even if at times I wished that it were a little more complex and perhaps dark. There are more clues than there are twists within the story but you are still left curiously page-turning, even if it is to pat yourself on the back when your own suspicions come to light. Despite wanting some parts to be a little more complicated, I found its simplicity to be the perfect foundation for a novel that is less about a mystery and more about the strong family bond between the Brontë’s and very early feminism.
My admiration for Bella Ellis comes more from the intelligent way she has brought the Brontë sisters back to life, creating each of the authors’ distinct personalities in a perfectly relatable way. If you are already a Brontë fan, you will adore this book for all of its clues and references from fictional to the real lives of the sisters, and if this is your first ever Brontë experience, it will leave you wanting to learn more about the three amazing authors.
Unlike many mystery novels, The Vanished Bride doesn’t leave you feeling on edge or scared, which to my surprise, I quite enjoyed sometimes. The comedy and wit between the siblings takes the edge off of any events that would usually have you reading with the big light on.
Although I did enjoy The Vanished Bride, I found parts of the novel to be far fetched and unbelievable, however, I put this down to an artistic choice to make certain references more obvious to the reader, hence why I see this story as more of an impressive ode to the sisters than an impressive mystery/detective novel. After finishing the novel, I did not find myself longing to be a part of the world that Bella Ellis had created, rather a longing to meet the sisters. I hope that the series is to be continued as I have faith that they could become amazing, however, with that said, The Vanished Bride gets 3/5 stars from me.
If you are a fan of lighthearted historical fiction or are a lover of the Brontë sisters, I would definitely recommend this novel. However, for true connoisseurs of mystery, you may find yourself longing for something a little more stimulating.
Now, here is to why Bella Ellis has been written in italics this whole time . . . Bella Ellis is actually a pen name for Rowan Coleman, an author of many other fictional books including, The Memory Book, We are All Made of Stars, The Summer of Impossible Things and many more. Bella Ellis comes from the pseudonym that Emily Brontë originally published her books under . . . Ellis Bell. Cool, right?!