The Vanished Bride by Bella Ellis is a historical fiction mystery inspired by the famous literary Bronte sisters. The cover of the book is perfect! The silhouettes of the Bronte sisters all huddled together, standing in front of an imposing silhouetted mansion. (An inspiration for my pumpkin carving this year). I’m aware that there is another cover image for the book but the one I’ve described was the first I saw and fell in love with. It invoked images in my head of Wuthering Heights or Thornfield Hall. The cover marks this book as one of those books I would buy regardless of the story just because it is so beautiful.
After falling in love with the cover I read the description. The Bronte sisters turned amateur detectives? What a crazy concept. Could the sisters be Sherlock Holmes? Or more of a Miss Marple, just out for a pleasure walk, holiday or friendly visit and, shock horror, murder! I was compelled to read further to find out which.
The novel is as beautifully compelling as the cover. Like most book lovers, I have read and reread the Brontes’ works, and with authors such as Mary Shelly or Jane Auston, the reality of the author’s life is just as fascinating, if not more than their fiction. Ellis is clever in this novel, it is very much a history of the Brontes’ with a tangent of a murder mystery mixed in. As we travel through the book the fictional story has many characters and events that give head nods to influences that inspired their books, or more likely, a fictional timeline with fictional characters and events that have similarities to their written work. For example, Mr. Chester could easily influence the characters of Heathcliff or Mr. Rochester. Ellis highlights this also in the author’s notes:
“The Vanished Bride is a novel written with fondness, warmth, and appreciation for the three legendary and revolutionary authors that have had a lasting impact on my life… I hope its a pretty good yarn too.” Kindle location 3709
It all begins in Charlotte’s later life, being the last sibling standing, reminiscing about the eventful year that all four siblings are reunited under one roof after three return to their father’s house under a cloud of scandal. Not long after, a bride goes missing from her home leaving behind a vast volume of blood that no human would be able to live without. Luckily, for the Brontes’ the governess of the house happens to be an old schoolfriend thus they have their excuss to visit.
The Brontes were introverts and loved the written word. I like how Ellis beautifully weaves this and other aspects of the sister’s personalities into the book and I feel I quite understand the sisters especially in their reflections of having a very small world but within that world having an infinite universe within the mind and that:
“The further the crowded coach carried them…the more appealing the quiet, uneventful hearth of home seemed” Kindle location 1358
Emily has always been my favorite of the sisters and I’m glad her character in this novel is how I think about her personally. Emily, very loving, caring and full of emotion is socially awkward, funny and a warrior. She is able to be her own person and to be confident to like what she likes without caring about what others think.
I’ll have to stop here or I’ll be giving out spoilers. As quirky as this book is it is a gem of a book and a 2019 favorite. I’m glad I came across it and very excited that the sisters will be back again with another mystery.
To end, Ellis has cleverly wrapped this mystery in an enigma. For Bella Ellis is not the real name of the author, rather like the Bronte sisters who published under different names originally. Bella Ellis is the reverse of Ellis Bell, the name Emily Bronte originally published under. Perhaps, a clue which sister is preferred? Who could this mysterious author be… you can either google it or wait for the author to turn up at your publishing house defending their honor.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an electronic ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.