Death Below Stairs by Jennifer Ashley

Death Below Stairs

Jennifer Ashley

Kat Holloway, a young cook in a wealthy Victorian London household, is determined to solve an unsavory murder and see justice served.

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Victorian class lines are crossed when cook Kat Holloway is drawn into a murder that reaches all the way to the throne.

Highly sought-after young cook Kat Holloway takes a position in a Mayfair mansion and soon finds herself immersed in the odd household of Lord Rankin. Kat is unbothered by the family’s eccentricities as long as they stay away from her kitchen, but trouble finds its way below stairs when her young Irish assistant is murdered. 

Intent on discovering who killed the helpless kitchen maid, Kat turns to the ever-capable Daniel McAdam, who is certainly much more than the charming delivery man he pretends to be. Along with the assistance of Lord Rankin’s unconventional sister-in-law and a mathematical genius, Kat and Daniel discover that the household murder was the barest tip of a plot rife with danger and treason—one that’s a threat to Queen Victoria herself.

Advance Galley Reviews

An upstairs downstairs type of mystery that keep you glued to every word until the very end. Colorful characters tied with colorful words makes this a hit on many different levels. A true treat for readers of all ages of mysteries. A very enjoyable time for one and all.

Absolutely one of the best finds. I bought the other book in the series and enjoyed it immensely. Many great details ofthe era and life as a cook. Along with a murder mystery and much suspense. I loved it. I was given a preview copy, but have since purchased other books by the author who is now on my favorite authors list.

The mystery of Death Below Stairs by Jennifer Ashley has all the makings of a political espionage novel, set in a very proper English nobility setting of course. What makes this book for me is the characters. They are all developed with a skilled hand to play a role - sometimes surprising - in this mystery. That is what keeps the mystery a mystery until the very end. I look forward to the next book in the series. Read my complete review at Reviewed for Penguin First to Read program.

Great murder mystery. I loved every moment of it.

First, I fell in love with Kat’s voice as a character. Her background story was unexpected. She is an ordinary woman with an unfortunate past. The overall cast of characters was intriguing. We have the eccentric woman who was born in the wrong era, the nice and work-absorbed mathematician, the rebel teenager, and the man with all the answers, Daniel. Danial was a total mystery however, I have a slight idea about what he might be. No spoilers. three stars, rating Kat is smart, independent, and hard working. She has her mind set with a realistic view of the world even though her heart fancies a guy. The only person she relies on is herself. As a a woman in that time period, Kat works assiduously to be acknowledged by the pompous society. Although, she is not afraid to challenge the authority when something is wrong. As a mother figure character, Kat feels responsible for the kitchen girl’s death, thus, her courage and determination put the cook in dangerous situations. Despite the lovely characters, the pacing of the story had a bit of an issue. The narrative was executed strangely. We are halfway through the book and merely anything happens. There is too much description of food making which feels like page fillers than part of the actual story. I know what you are going to say next, “But, wait! Isn’t she a cook?” And my follow up answer will be something like, “Yes. Yes, she is. Although, we have a murder which is tied to a plot that might threaten the queen’s life and only 50 percent of the book is dedicated to that.” The major scenes are rushed and unpolished. It first starts as a a slow burner book then the narrative accelerates and you try to keep up. Some unfolding of events seemed improbable due to lack of development space. The murder is brushed to the side as a subplot, despite the book being called Death Below Stairs , putting the book in a precarious position. I wished the murder had a bigger role in the plot. The ending, though… Let’s just say that it was explosive and it saved the book for me. Wink. Overall, I gave this book a 3/5 stars on Goodreads. Death Below Stairs was somewhat my cup of tea and I am tempted to read the next book in the series. Also, I would like to thank you Penguin Random House for the ebook arc in exchange for an honest review. This is my sole opinion. ^_^

I have been looking forward to returning to the world of cook Kat Holloway since reading A Soupçon of Poison (Kat Holloway Mysteries, #0.5). After the cook's assistant is killed, Kat takes it upon herself to find justice for the girl. She asks the mysterious Daniel McAdam for help. Unraveling the true reason for the murder leads to a tangled plot with national implications. Sometimes I feel the true background of Daniel is more of the mystery than the murder.

Death Below Stairs, proved to be a great read for a Downton Abby fan! The details were great and Jennifer Ashley had you semi patiently waiting for what was happening next. I had great fun with this first to read copy and wished I had read the Novella first. This book flowed with primarily below stairs intrigue with a little upstairs for dressing. Great Job!

Rating: 3 of 5 stars Penguin First to Read ARC. Kat is a cook for the gentry, working in Lord and Lady Rankin's household at present. Daniel is some sort of detective or spy working for the government, and now he is employed at the Rankin's London house. He has control over Lord Rankin, which isn't really explained but definitely exist. So the concerns from readers about Kat's ability to cad about without any repercussions is kind of understood by this control. The plot to the story is interesting and historical believable. Will find the next book to see where Kat, Daniel, and James stories are going.

I enjoyed this book! It was a good little mystery novel and a great way to start this series. I haven't read any other Jennifer Ashley but I intend to keep my eye on this developing series! Her other series don't seem to be as much up my alley as this one.

This is a fantastic start to a new series. I loved getting to know Kat and her friends. I love the time period. I love how they could solve murders without dna and other things that we rely so heavily on. I am really looking forward to the next book in this series. I received a copy of this book from Firsttoread for a fair and honest opinion that I gave of my own free will.

Death Below Stairs by Jennifer Ashley was a great Victorian mystery novel that I couldn't put down. Kat Holloway is the new cook for the Rankin household in London. A lot happens on her first day: she meets her mistress' sister who dresses like a man and almost kills someone and also runs into Daniel McAdam and his son James, who she knows from her last employment. Nothing compares to when she gets up the next morning and finds her Irish assistant dead in the kitchens. Kat turns to Daniel McAdam to help her solve the mystery of who killed the girl and uncovers a sinister plot as well. With a slow-burn, understated romance and fantastic secondary characters, this book will have you turning the pages to see what happens next. Will definitely check out the author's other works and continue with this series.

I'm a huge fan of the author's MacKenzie books, and was intrigued when I saw that she was writing a Victorian mystery series. I was wondering if I would enjoy this series as much, since it wasn't focused on romance, but I found that once I began reading I did really enjoy this book. I think that it helped that at the core of this series is the fledgling romance between Kat Holloway, the cook at the center of the story, and the mysterious Daniel McAdam. The relationship takes it times and is really sweet and provides support for the plot/mysteries. I found the mysteries in the story held my interest. While it was a little hard to believe that Kat is able to come to some of the conclusions she does before others, the resolution of the mysteries were not obvious nor did they come completely out of nowhere. I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series, where hopefully we will find out more about the enigmatic Daniel! I received an advanced copy of this book from Penguin's First To Read program in exchange for an honest review.

Kat Holloway is starting a new job as cook in the household of Lord Rankin. But on her first night there a young assistant is murdered. Kat finds the body, and feels the need to investigate. She contacts her friend Daniel McAdam and together they investigate and find out the murder leads to things that travel all the way to the palace. This book made me hungry. Jennifer Ashley's descriptions of food Kat prepares were what really pulled me into this book, and I stayed for the mystery. I enjoyed the way Kat interacted with Daniel. There was great tension there, but enjoy mystery about their relationship to make me want to keep reading. The book also contains great characters, including Lord Rankin's sister-in-law, Cynthia, who rambles around London dressed as a man, and, of course, Kat and Daniel. Kat is a woman not commonly found in her time. She is independent and stands up to those above her station, even her employer. That made this book intriguing to me, as did the careful unfolding of the plot. I look forward to Kat's next adventure. I received a copy of this book through Penguin's First to Read program.

Death Below Stairs by Jennifer Ashley is the first installment in A Below Stairs Mystery series (also called Kat Holloway Mysteries). Mrs. Kat Holloway is twenty-nine years old and a cook in London (1881). She has just obtained a position at Lord and Lady Rankin’s home in Mayfair. Kat comes down to work the next morning to discover her assistant dead in the larder. Kat sends for the mysterious Daniel McAdam to assist her in uncovering what happened to the poor girl. The eccentric Lady Cynthia (Lady Rankin’s sister) joins them on their quest to discover what happened. It seems that Kat’s assistant had gotten herself involved with the wrong people. What had the young woman come across that got her murdered? Death Below Stairs had my attention for the first couple of chapters, but then it became tedious (I wish the whole book had been like the beginning). The author is overly descriptive. Every little detail is provided. It does create a rich environment (reminds me of the show Upstairs Downstairs). Readers are given detailed accounts of clothing, how Kat sharpened her knives (more than once), how Kat prepares each dish, description of rooms, people, buildings, etc. The pace was glacial, and the book did not hold my attention. The murder mystery was interesting, but it was not the main focus of the book. The mystery took them into the world of the Fenians. I found some parts of this section to be implausible. I believe many people will be surprised by the killer’s identity. I was curious how Kat was able to run around looking for a killer. Most cooks are busy from the moment they enter the kitchen in the morning until late at night. Kat, who just started her position, manages to run around London and then take several days off in the pursuit of answers. It was also odd that she never consulted the lady of the house regarding meals. Most cooks met once a week with their employer to discuss the meals for the upcoming week (food had to be ordered by the housekeeper). Kat is an interesting character. She has a secret that could ruin her and her career. Daniel McAdam is an enigma. We are given scant details on him. After I began Death Below Stairs, I felt I was missing something. It did not feel like the first book in the series. After a little research, I found that there is a prequel titled A Soupcon of Poison. Events from the prequel are alluded to in Death Below Stairs. Death Below Stairs felt more like a romance novel (at times) than a mystery. Kat and Daniel are attracted to each other. We get to hear how attractive Daniel is and how his kisses make her “lips tingle” (many, many times). The author tried to put too much into this one book. I wish she had stuck with the murder mystery and excluded the plot to eliminate Queen Victoria and the Fenians.

I was provided an ARC from Penguin Books and First to Read for my honest review. I truly enjoyed the first half of this novel from Jennifer Ashley. I was unable to finish this book due to timing conflicts, but I will definitely be picking this book up after it is published to continue reading it. Mrs. Holloway is a well developed character and easy to follow during her journey. I wanted to know more about Daniel as well as the rest of the characters. The mystery has me intrigued. I was pulled in quickly and enjoyed the pace of the story line. Definitely well developed and I would recommend it based on how far I got.

A mystery starring a Victorian cook? Please, ma’am, can I have some more? “You are in the middle of things, ensconced in your kitchen like a goddess on her throne. You see all, hear all, speak to everyone. People bring their troubles to you.” This is the first in the author’s new Kat Holloway series, but there is a prequel novella that covers a previous case involving Kat, Daniel, and his son, James. I actually stopped a few chapters in and went and bought the prequel novella, because it just felt like there was too much backstory between Kat and Daniel. Could you read this without reading the novella? Probably, as Kat reminisces a bit about it, but it bugged me too much. Kat has just taken a new position in Lord Rankin’s household, and it’s less than 24 hours after she arrives that she finds the cook’s maid, Sinead, dead in the pantry. It could just be that she had the misfortune to interrupt a burglar… or is it something more sinister? Well, of course, it’s something more sinister, or it’d be another novella! While the beginning is a bit slow, and it bogs down in the middle, the pace picks up quite a bit towards the end. I did find the plot to be… farfetched, to say the least… but I enjoyed every minute reading it. Without going too deep into spoilers, I was disappointed that the two main mystery plots turned out to be not as related as the characters thought, and one of them is wrapped up at the end of the book almost like an afterthought, and completely out of left field. I think it was necessary to get Kat involved, but I wish there were more clues to that mystery, since I don’t think I missed any. I absolutely loved Kat! She was no-nonsense but still kind, and I liked that Kat was solidly working class instead of your typical historical lord or lady detective. She’s had a rough time at life, but at the same time realizes how lucky she is that she’s been able to make a career that can support herself and her daughter, Grace. The subplot with Grace was absolutely heart wrenching, and I definitely felt for Kat, given her strength and ability to soldier on. I do think it took some suspension of disbelief to accept that Kat could just take off to go searching around the country without any repercussions. “What I do know, Daniel, is what you are. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a gent in a posh suit who can purchase first-class railway tickets on the spur of the moment, or a deliveryman who talks like a South London villain. I’ve seen you.” While this is a mystery, there’s also a strong romantic plot that continues from the novella. Daniel, oh Daniel! He’s lovely and so obviously deeply in love with Kat. But Daniel is a bit of a chameleon, and it’s hard to tell which face he’s showing Kat is really his own. Kat accepts, eventually, that Daniel can’t tell her who he is without putting her in danger. Is he some sort of Victorian MI-6 agent? A Bow Street Runner? Regardless, the tension between Kat and Daniel kept me reading. Besides Daniel, there are lots of other interesting characters: Lady Cynthia, Mr. Elgin, and Daniel’s son, James. I’m very much looking forward to the next book that comes out in July! Recommended for anyone looking for a cozy historical mystery with a heaping spoonful of romance! "Daniel continued to regard me in vexation; then he put his hands on my shoulders and gave me a swift kiss on the lips before he released me and strode out of the room without another word. I lifted my cup again, my hand shaking. 'Daft man,' I muttered as I tried to catch my breath. 'He nearly spilled my tea.'" I received this book for free from First to Read in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Thank you First To Read for giving me the opportunity to read an advanced copy of Death Below Stairs by Jennifer Ashley. Kat a highly trained cook takes a job for Lord and Lady Rankin. On her first night there her assistant ends up being murdered. Upon finding her Kat is determined to figure out what happened to her. Kat enlists in the help of an acquaintance of hers Daniel and together they find themselves in a adventure to find out not only who murdered Kay’s assistant but also what her employers were up to as well. I did like this book after I got into it. I wish I would have read the prequel but you really didn’t need to I just would like to know more about the characters. It did seem like there was a lot happening in this book but it was brought together in the end.

A solid mystery and an interesting heroine! I liked the book, but didn't love it. Somehow, I felt as though I'd missed something regarding Kat and Daniel's backstory... Their previous acquaintance is mentioned often but we never find out what happened, and there's no resolution regarding Daniel's mysterious identity at the end of this book either. That really bothered me. Nonetheless, the characters were entertaining and I hope Lady Cynthia gets her own book! All in all, a solid three and a half stars!

3.5 stars for me! I enjoyed the main characters and their dynamics. The second hand characters were ok, not much fuss. The mystery aspect is two fold, one involving murder and one with a much bigger plot. The murder was the center then the other plot comes in and the murder is mainly forgotten until tied up at the very end. The other plot was interesting enough, but a little confusing since you don't exactly know what Daniel is. The speed came and went, but for the most part kept my attention. I do look forward to more adventures, but hope that the romance doesn't do that back and forth thing a lot of book series do when a connection is made strong in the first book.

I wanted to like this more than I did. It starts off interestingly enough with Kat being hired as the new cook in a Victorian household. We get a quick intro of all the below stairs staff with some hints about their various relationships we each other. What I did like was we got their perception of the family of the house first, instead of seeing them first hand. One of the reasons I was attracted to this book was the below-stairs aspect of it. The best parts of the book were the individual characters, the atmosphere and the background. There is Kat who makes for an engaging central heroine. I liked her air of authority and I liked her intelligence. There is also Daniel. He was as much a mystery, imo, as the central murder mystery is supposed to be. He is enigmatic and, as Kat learns, wears a lot of different faces. There is also the family, the most colorful of which is the sister of the house who dresses like a man and has a very large personality. AS far as the atmosphere, I liked the Victoria setting and that the author let us hang out with the Kat as she cooked and other servants as they did their work, we did get to see how the servant class lived. Also There are bigger historical events going on outside the house with a plot to kill Victoria that get tumbled into Kat's amateur investigation. Actually there was a LOT going on with the plot which weirdly I didn't feel as engaged in. There was a point in the middle where I put the book down and didn't pick it up for a couple of weeks. Finally decided to finish and do admit that the ending was exciting. As this looks to be an ongoing series, I do think I'll try the next book. The characters and setting and my curiosity about Daniel are enough to whet the appetite for that.

I enjoy Jennifer Ashley’s historical romances. I was excited to see her first historical mystery with romance. I did not love the mystery aspect but her writing and characterizations made up for it. I adored Kat and Daniel, as well as Lady Cynthia who I hope stays on as part of the story. The historical upstairs downstairs aspect will make all Downton Abbey fans happy.

I found this to be a decent read that kept my attention, but I felt it could have been better. I would have liked a little more insight to Daniel's character and a more complex mystery.

A historical cozy mystery that does a superb job describing the food of the times. The main character, Kat Holloway, is a cook who gets mixed up in a murder mystery. Despite being a cozy mystery with the traits of its genre, the book ties in political events and describes the upstairs/downstairs aspects of a noble household in the Victorian era. Overall, I enjoyed Kat and the characters and especially the food descriptions. I'm certainly no foodie, but I appreciated food a great deal more after seeing Kat lovingly plan and execute menus. I also appreciated the pacing of the book: it did not inundate readers with a detailed back story but provided facts as needed to propel the plot forward. *In compliance with FTC guidelines, this is a disclosure that I received access to the galley for free through Penguin Random House's First to Read program. This review is an honest opinion, and I did not receive any cash or in-kind payment to review this galley.

This book was readable. It took a little while for it to become interesting to me. I felt at times that it was trying a little to hard to be Downton Abbey-esque, but the characters didn't always feel fully formed to me. They were more 'outlines' than fully-drawn people. Daniel especially came off as a bit of a caricature. I was really hoping they'd explore Cynthia a bit more as well; the author leads you to believe that Cynthia is a lesbian based on the way she acts and dresses, and this would have been a grand opportunity to explore how it was for gay women in Victorian London, but she bypassed that altogether, which made bawdy Cynthia a little less interesting. I see that this book is the first in a series, but I can't say I'll be inclined to read the others. I'd rather just watch Downton Abbey all over again and revel in those complex and flawed characters and stories. It's a bit of a swing and a miss for Jennifer Ashley.

What a clever plot with strongly appealing characters from all walks of life! And food, food, food! Set in the late 1800s, Death Below the Stairs is a new series featuring Mrs. Kat Holloway, a resilient, intelligent woman who has been done wrong but lands on her feet through study and hard work, becoming a cook to the wealthy. She is a delightful, and to me most important, a plausible non-stereotypical Victorian female. Sometimes her social position and gender are a boon, sometimes a hindrance—much like real life. Her partner in crime solving is the winsome social chameleon Daniel McAdam, seemingly a renaissance man of undetermined background and worker of all trades. Also involved is Daniel’s recently discovered son, James, a stalwart, lively boy who, along with Kat, softens his dad’s feelings about personal involvement. The bad folks are bad in various ways, from acting on misplaced protectiveness to perpetrating cunning frauds. The dangers presented are both personal and international. But at the heart of this story are historicity and romance. We have quite the opening here. An injurious calamity, a cross-dressing woman, and Kat’s secretive past get things going speedily. Certain mysteries resolve immediately. The injury is the result of careless driving by the cross-dresser, who turns out to be Lady Cynthia, the restless spinster sister of Kat’s new boss and a member of Lord Rankin’s household. Kat’s secrets are more slowly shared and, indeed, are private matters that would hurt her if others knew. It wouldn’t be a real mystery without murder, and that comes early as well. Given the complex plot and cast of characters, there is no obvious murderer or even certainty as to why the murder occurred, so we must piece it together along with Kat. This goes beyond a regular cozy mystery, requiring persons of particular skills to be called in. Enter with a Dickensian flourish Mr. Elgin Thanos of good humor, cheer, and mathematical genius. He is the anti-Scrooge, using his business skills to help Daniel expose fraud and terrorism. Although meant only to be a supporting character, Lady Cynthia is quite interesting. She wears men’s clothing for their ease of movement, power of attention-getting, and the special bonus of annoying her brother-in-law. But lest the reader think that this character’s attitude and actions are entirely out of place and time, Lady Cynthia shows that she, like Daniel, is a misfit turned chameleon, bending and twisting as needed. The plot progression is enticing, and there is no sense that the author is purposely holding back information to give a surprise ending. The ending has two twists, so even when one part of the plot is completed, there is more to come. Details are important and fulsomely provided, allowing us to visualize the larder’s contents, the inside of a hackney coach, and other Victorian realities. Certainly one has a renewed appreciation for modern luxuries, such as central heating and stoves. The food is deliciously described—why else have a cook as narrator? Overall, this is among the better cozy mysteries, appealing to mind, stomach, and heart. Author Jennifer Ashley is both prolific and versatile. Under various pen names she has published over 90 books ranging from historical romance to paranormal and fantasy novels. Death Below the Stairs is preceded by A Soupcon of Poison, a novella, and while it is not absolutely necessary to read the prequel to this novel, this is one of the few times when the characters have enough serious back history and intriguing relationships that the reader would be well served (pardon cookery pun) to read the previous installment. However, I did piece things together with the information provided and enjoyed this book thoroughly. An excerpt of Scandal Above Stairs, the next in this series, was provided as well, so it is safe to become attached to Kat Holloway as she makes her way in life.

This was the year I became both a Jennifer Ashley and an historical mystery fan. So when I saw Jennifer's new historical mystery series on offer through First to Read, I snatched it right up. I do admit, the early part of it was a little slower and took me awhile to get into. I realize now there was a prequel novella that I wish I'd read first. It's not necessary, but previous parts of the characters' history, separate and together, are mentioned frequently. I think that would have helped me get my footing a little faster. But Jennifer quickly had me falling in love with this cast of characters. It's something she does extremely well - developing all the surrounding characters as much as the main ones. And this book opened up many avenues yet to explore with the characters. I can't wait to read the next one.

Kat Holloway is a cook for wealthy London households. She has recently left her last family after they move away and is assigned by her agency to Lord Rankin's home. Kat is a well trained, disciplined lady who is not prepared for the household she will be working for. Lord Rankin's wife is a sickly woman who is rarely seen by the staff outside her rooms. Lady Rankin's sister Cynthia can be found in men's clothing roaming about the parties in town. Kat is taken by surprise a few hours into her new job when Lady Cynthia runs into her kitchen after running man over with a borrowed horse and cart. From there things just get crazier. After a hard first day of figuring out a new kitchen and household Kat says goodnight to her kitchen assistant and heads to her quarters. When Kat comes down to the kitchen the next morning to start her day she finds her kitchen assistant dead in the pantry. It's a Clue like who-done-it mystery that soon has Kat reinitiating with an old acquaintance who isn't quite what he seems to solve the murder. While trying to solve the murder they uncover plot to kill the Queen of England. Kat and her crew race to find the would be killers as their plan unfolds. Soon Kat must find a fill-in for her kitchen duties as she is traveling to foil the killers murderous plans. I found this story a bit Clue and a bit Murder She Wrote. It can be a little unbelievable at times that a cook from a wealthy London household is running about solving a murder, but the author does a good job of filling the holes and making it seem as believable as possible. Ultimately, I really became fond of Kat and her band of amateur sleuths. I'm looking forward to the next book in the Kat Holloway Mystery Series.

I loved this book! It was a great cozy mystery and I had a lot of fun reading it.

Jennifer Ashley's new series is a welcome addition to the cosy mystery subgenre. The principal character Kat Holloway, an exceptional cook with an inquisitive nature, endures the stiff structure of Victorian England. Because of this oppressive atmosphere, Kat must keep the fact that she has a child secret. Also, she is drawn to, but frightened by the enigmatic Daniel McAdams. Her curiosity leads to Kat involving herself with Daniel and several other interesting characters investigating murder and much more. Ashley provides plenty of detail in her writing; moreover, she keeps the reader guessing by inserting little know facts and several more secrets. A well told story with adventure and a touch of scandal.

I really enjoyed this book. Perhaps because I did not read the introductory novella I felt I was a little off in the beginning thinking I should know more about Kat and Daniel then I did. It did take a little bit for me to get into this story but really enjoyed it. Also sets up for several good reads down the road. I really like Kat and Daniel and it does show the intrigues at the time. Nice job and definitely will recommend.

I was really intrigued by this story but I just wasn't able to get into it. I think it may have been that the writing style just wasn't for me.

Loved this book! I can’t wait to find out more about the no nonsense Kat and the mysterious MacAdams — Daniel and his son James. Jennifer Ashley writes a great mystery; it kept me guessing until the last chapter. I can’t wait for the next book and I’m off to find introductory novella. I don’t feel like I missed anything by not reading the novella first and I still have something I can read while eagerly waiting the next Kat Holloway novel.

Kat Holloway is an intriguing character. Very feminine for Victorian times and yet has a head on her shoulders. I will like keeping up with her in future issues of this new series. Storyline kept twisting and turning enough to keep your interest and make it a puzzle. I am glad I received an ARC from First to Read in return for an honest review. Bring us more like this one! Highley recommend to historical fiction fans.

4 STARS "You let me worry about my well-being. I've grown quite good at taking care of myself." Confession: When I saw this book and requested an ARC, my expectations were relatively low. It only caught my attention because of my recent interests in historical mysteries. I had no idea Jennifer Ashley is a beloved HR author until discussing how engaging this book is with a friend. I was drawn into this story from the first pages and found the storyline completely addictive. It has a Downton Abbey vibe, but with mystery and intrigue. There is nothing I adore more than a powerful, lovable heroine and Kat fills all my wishes. She's intelligent, strong-willed, and compassionate. She's a trained cook but has sleuthing skills Sherlock Holmes would envy. I could not get enough of the banter between she and Daniel. These two have amazing chemistry. Like with most first installments, a few secrets are revealed but left me longing for more. The mystery aspect is interesting but easily overshadowed by the delightful cast. I cannot wait for the next installment of the series. Kat Holloway has quickly become of one my favorite new heroines of 2017. I highly recommend this one to any historical mystery fan!

I enjoyed this book. The mystery fit in nicely with the historical setting and the characters were very well developed and different from the "norm" in period light reading. Definitely a quick and entertaining read and I will be looking out for more books in this series!

I loved this book!! I gave it 5 ? on Goodreads. The first in a new series about Kat Holloway a top cook in Victorian England. It's a great mystery with a engaging heroine and a mysterious hero in Daniel...who is either a gentleman or a working man, depending on the situation..Jennifer Ashley gives us a great sense of time and place. I loved how she incorporated food and recipes into the book without taking away from the story. I'm already looking forward to book 2 due out next year.

I gave this book about 130 pages, but I just couldn't get into it. I liked the set up and I think Kat could be a great character, but the mystery didn't intrigue me at all. I think the author tried to make Kat's past somewhat mysterious, but it just ended up being confusing. Random information was sprinkled throughout the story and it didn't really matter to me. I think this series has potential, but I couldn't get myself to finish this book.

I love Jennifer Ashley books and this one did not disappoint. Jennifer knows how to weave stories and characters into a web of mystery and love. This story kept me on the edge of my seat, so much so I had to buy the first in the series also. I loved the way Kat and Daniel interacted and the richness of each of the characters background. I would recommend this book to family and friends.

Really enjoyed this wonderful upstairs downstairs series with mystery thrown in,Kat Holloway a cook drawn into the murder of her young Irish assistant will find gherself involved in major intrigue,

The first in a new series from Jennifer Ashley, Death Below Stairs puts readers in the life of a 29-year-old Victorian cook. Kat Holloway is a fierce and passionate woman who makes her living cooking for wealthy homeowners. Her most recent post is suitably situated and she thinks she couldn't do better. Until she starts her second day of work by finding a dead body in her larder, that is. I don't read a lot of historical mysteries, but Death Below Stairs is one that makes me think I've been missing out. I felt like I was reading the diary of a real Victorian cook and transported to that time and place. I loved every minute of it! Kat is such a lively character and when Daniel McAdam comes around she practically jumps off the pages. Their chemistry is obvious, but Kat would rather insist he tell all his secrets rather than allow herself to be charmed. Surprise of all surprises, this fast-moving mystery has a bit of action to complement the drama. When Kat stumbles upon a Fenian conspiracy that could cause harm to the Queen she unites with various, and quite eccentric, characters to save the day. Kat's voice is unique in the way she tells the story as if she's speaking to you personally. She has a friendly, inviting tone that I was helpless to resist. Death Below Stairs is a fun cozy mystery that might leave you craving a giant slice of seedcake, but at least your craving for mystery will be satisfied! *ARC provided in consideration for review*

I found this book to be entertaining and interesting. I found Kat's character to be smart and her relationship to Daniel to be adventurous. I like the historical edge to this novel and the scenery as well. I will look forward to reading more from this author.

I really enjoyed this book, found it interesting, loved the characters! I will definitely be reading more in this series . Can’t wait to find out more about Kat

I’m a huge sucker for Victoria London mysteries and this one didn’t disappoint! I also love that, instead of following a gentleman or lady of the upper class, this follows a cook! Mrs. Holloway is a wonderful full character. I haven’t read the novella that comes before this book,but you get enough details to satisfy your curiosity about that. I really love Lady Cynthia! She doesn’t give two shits what anyone thinks of her walking around in men’s clothing. And Mr. McAdam is more mysterious than who killed poor Sinead. Even though I did not see that coming!! I love the little romance going on between Kat and Daniel. I really need the second one!! I need more Daniel and Kat!

Engaging historical mystery with a take-no-prisoners cook as the protagonist in this Victorian household. The story unfolds as the cook begins work in a new post and readers are treated to an inside look into the workings of an upper crust household, with some strange behaviors both downstairs and upstairs. On the second morning, a murder is found and solving it, along with some of the other mysteries, engulfs our cook. The book is a treat for lovers of British manners, history and mild murder mysteries.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I quite enjoyed this one! I love cozy mysteries, and I love historical fiction with strong female characters, and this book combined the best of both. I did feel lost at times when the story referenced Kat's history with Daniel, especially since this was billed as the first in the series. Thankfully I was able to follow the current story even without reading prior Kat Holloway adventures. I look forward to reading more about Kat and Daniel.

Relatable characters and a plot that twists and turns while remaining totally believable and within the time period made this a pleasure to read. With the gushing out of the way, I will mention that a little detail in the writing took a little bit of getting used to. There was apparently a novella that preceded this volume and the reader is expected to know every detail revealed in it - this doesn't detract much from the story but it is a bit annoying when something in the past keeps getting hinted at without ever being revealed. It is fully due to the strength of the characters that this detail didn't really keep me from enjoying the story presented. It's a fun, light case with quirky characters. You don't always need an epic story.

Thank you for the opportunity to read Death Below Stairs. I had been awaiting it eagerly since reading the prequel novella quite a while ago. I was not disappointed and read it in one sitting. I love the setting and characters, especially Kat. Of course, there is always the ever-resourceful and mysterious Daniel to appreciate as well. I will be writing a full review on my blog, goodreads and amazon closer to the publication date.

This was a very enjoyable read! Jennifer Ashley does a great job of telling the story of Kat, a new cook in an upper-crust London VIctorian household. Her first night there, Kat's assistant is killed. Kat investigates with the help of her mysterious friend and love interest, Daniel McAdam. There was a lot of detail about the demanding work of being a 19th century cook in a grand house, but it was very interesting. It was fascinating to learn more about the life of a working woman from the lower classes, and a single mother to boot, overcoming challenges and making her way in the world. I hadn't read the prequel novella, but one can fully enjoy this book without that. I will definitely read that next, as well as the sequel to this book, which is coming out soon (already pre-ordered it and looking forward to more of Kat's exploits). I look forward to reading much more by the talented Jennifer Ashley. 4.5 stars. Thank you to Penguin's First To Read program for giving me the chance to read this book in advance.

I really enjoyed this novel after being left wanting from the last novel I had picked through the program. Though it takes some time to warm up to the writing style and Kat's way of explaining things, I ultimately enjoyed the mystery. I do think the descriptions of the meals were a little overdone and took up more page space than necessary, but I get that she's a cook and therefore would explain that. I also have the feeling Ashley is trying to impart knowledge about the Victorian Era at the same so again, I can understand why there is extra focus on the menial things, but I don't think it's really necessary. I loved all of the characters and I'm looking forward to reading the next novel in the series! Thanks for the opportunity to read this!

This was totally delightful! I described it to my friends as "Downton Abbey with murder" whenever I raved about it to them. I just love a historical mystery with a sassy trailblazing female protagonist, and Kat could not be more enjoyable to spend time with. I can't wait to catch up on Jennifer Ashley's back catalog while I wait for the next Kat Holloway book. Highly recommended if you're looking for something fun to curl up with on a winter day.

I loved this book! Let’s just get that out of the way straight off. Historical fiction isn’t something I read a great deal of, but I have read enough to know that this is very good. I had never read anything by Jennifer Ashley before, so I didn’t have any particular expectation. But I liked Death Below Stairs so much that I went back and bought the prequel A Soupcon of Poison, actually before I’d even finished this one. I love Kat Holloway, the main character, who is very no nonsense, and yet is madly in love with an enigma of a man, Daniel McAdam, who just can’t be pinned down. Is he a policeman, a gentleman, a spy or? Well, I am looking forward to the next volume and reading more about these two fascinating people.

The role of Kat in the investigation of the crime didn't convince me, I lost the interest when the author reveal the truth about the mystery, that by the way is not at the end of the book but around page 200.

A Penguin First to Read ARC e-book in exchange for an honest review. A cozy Victorian mystery. The storyline is character driven making it a slow paced read. We open the story to Kay Holloway starting as a cook in a new house, the next morning she stumbles across the dead body of her young assistant. Though it is the maid that is killed in the first chapters the real mystery doesn’t start until well over halfway through the story. Reading this, I felt like I was missing something so went researching online more about the story. I felt this novel heavily relied on the character development that happened in entirely different story and I think I might be right? There is a novella that initially starred the characters in these stories. Though the author labels the novella a prequel to this series I feel like I needed to read it in order to enjoy this story more fully. Kat is an interesting character and seems to have a lot of facets to her character that this story failed to explore as the first in a series. I just felt like I constantly was left behind and honestly was relieved when I found out about the novella/prequel. I also really enjoyed Daniel and James characters but again felt shorted when they never seemed to be built but glossed over, again this might be due to the novella/prequel? Overall the story was entertaining enough. I was never too invested due to previously mentioned reasons and was sorry I couldn’t get more involved in it. I think this series has potential but would probably recommend that everyone start with the novella even though I have not read it.

I received a preview download of this ebook via the first to read program of Penguin Books. This was my first book by Jennifer Ashley and I really enjoyed reading this Victorian cozy mystery. I thought that the characters and the relationships were both well rounded and yet still had room to grow. Ms Ashley did not give up all the details of their past in the first book either. I look forward to reading more in the series.

This was an enjoyable first book in the new series. It's slightly darker than a cozy mystery, but still a fairly light and fast read. Kat's no-nonsense efficiency in all aspects of her life frames the POV in a refreshingly objective and rational light. The few times that she breaks emotionally, it has that much more impact. Daniel McAdams is an interesting and enigmatic character -- I look forward to learning more about his true identity. Also, the descriptions of Kat's cooking definitely made me hungry! My one complaint is that the story seems to rely a lot on the prequel novella that I did not realize existed until I was part way into the book. There are a lot of references to things that happened during that story, and some key details about the characters felt glossed over because it was assumed the reader already knew them. I plan to go back and read that now, but it would be good to mention up front to readers in case they also were unaware. Thank you to PRH First to Read program for providing an advanced copy for review!

This is not the first book I have read by Jennifer Ashley, and it certainly will not be the last! Her writing style is amusing and fast-paced, and her main character, Kat Holloway, has an intriguing mix of wit, resourcefulness and confidence that is refreshing. The intrigue was captivating, and I found myself reading faster and faster, wanting to know more about the mysterious Daniel, the entanglements of Lord Rankin, and the trouble that led to the death of the innocent kitchen assistant. I can't wait to see what new adventures this series brings! Thank you to Penguin's First To Read program for giving me the chance to read this book in advance!

This is the first book by Jennifer Ashley I've read and I loved it. It was fast paced and a great read! Can't wait for the next book in the series.

First time reading this author and I was pleasantly surprised. It kept me interested and entertained throughout. I really liked the characters and it felt like the perfect amount of back story and information was given. The mystery was layered and I was kept guessing to the end, which is rare. I liked the historic detail and the cooking information was unique. I will be reading more of this author and look forward to the continuation of the story.

I always enjoy books by Jennifer Ashley and this title was no exception. So often the focus is on "above stairs" but it was interesting to have the narrative from the perspective of the cook. It would have been nice to have a little more insight into the back-story of Kat and Daniel, e.g. the Richmond incident and their past interactions; I understand that this will be part of a series and Ms. Ashley most likely did not want to reveal her entire hand in the first book. Overall, it was a good mystery and provided edification of a part of the British/Irish history with which I was not as familiar. Looking forward to the next book in the series.

A fast, -based Victorian-era mystery with a fresh take on the genre. The sleuth is Kat Holloway, a sought-after cook to the rich and aristocratic families in late 19th-century London. A touch of romance is added by the elusive and mysterious Daniel McAdam, a man of many useful skills whom the rich and powerful rely on to solve their trickiest problems. The mystery storyline, about the death of Kat’s kitchen maid, kept me guessing right to the end and is resolved with an unexpected twist. A subplot involving Fenian terrorists adds nice historical detail and distraction from the main mystery storyline, while also adding a plausible red herring. But the most compelling aspect of the novel is Kat herself, with her no-nonsense practicality, big heart and sharp mind. Her professional world, offering up details of the dishes she cooked gleaned from Mrs. Beaton’s Book of Household Management (according to the Author’s note), adds wonderful texture to the story.I’m looking forward to reaing the second novel in this new series from a New York Times bestsselling author.

This book hit all the marks for me: nicely paced plot, well-written characters, and setting descriptions that didn’t drag down the story. Based on this first book alone, the Kat Holloway series is going to be a “must read” for me. I'm a big fan of Jennifer Ashley's Captain Lacey series, written under the name Ashley Gardner, which has similar settings/themes as Death Below Stairs (historical mystery). Admittedly, I’m a bit confused why this is being sold under “Jennifer Ashley” since it seems to match her “Ashley Gardner” books a bit better, but it does make me want look at her back catalogue under this name and see what else she’s written. I’ll get my minor annoyance out of the way: Below the Stairs is being marketed as “first in the series”, but while reading it, I had this nagging feeling that I was missing a book ahead of it. After some quick research, I discovered a prequel; normally prequels are written later to add to an existing series or showcase different characters/events leading up to the series, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here. A Soupçon of Poison apparently includes a lot of events referenced in Death Below Stairs, including the meeting of the heroine Kat Holloway and the mysterious and dashing Daniel McAdam. I wish I knew about the “prequel” and had read it first, but skipping it does not have an impact on enjoying this one. Beyond that minor frustration, there wasn’t much to dislike in this enjoyable mystery. I especially appreciated the view “below the stairs” as many historical romance/mystery type books tend to focus on the upper classes. The food descriptions provided a glimpse into the meals of the age in fascinating detail without slowing the pace of the story. I highly recommend the book and look forward to seeing where the author takes the series.

I loved this first in the series story of the Victorian cook, Kat Holloway, the mysterious Daniel McAdam and the host of other characters that enlivened this lively mystery. The characters are as full bodied as a good bottle of wine. The solution to the murder of the young kitchen assistant had me guessing until the very last pages which revealed a most unexpected ending. But this is much more than a murder mystery, and while I would like to tell you all about it, I will just recommend you read it for yourself. You will not be disappointed in this new series by NY Times Bestseller, Jennifer Ashley. Highly recommended.

A fun, fast Victorian read about a feisty, forward thinking cook who solves mysteries while whipping up gastronomical delights for her household. Lots of adventure, romance, stay on your toes to pick up the clues kind of story. Kat, the main character is definitely nonconventional, maybe too much so, for women of the period, but that just makes the book so fun to read about a strong female from the working class. Recommend for a great series start. There is a prequel, if you are interested.


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