Cover of Reader I Murdered Him by Betsy Cornwell. A woman in Victorian clothes with a domino mask

About the Book

Title: Reader, I Murdered Him
Published: 2022

Cover Story: I Am a Literary Figure.
Drinking Buddy: Red Wine
MPAA Rating: R (sexual assault, sexuality, violence, alcohol)
Talky Talk: Eyre Heads
Bonus Factors: Boarding School
Relationship Status: Platonic Friends

Trigger warning: Sexual assault

Cover Story: I Am a Literary Figure.

Kind of a meh cover. Okay, she’s a Victorian villainess, but it makes her seem kind of evil. Love the title.

The Deal:

Adele grew up in a whorehouse in a seedy section of Paris. Her mother was a prostitute and she was brought up by the ladies of the night. She was taught to be tough, self-reliant, and hard. But also to take pride in herself and where she came from.

Just before her mother dies of consumption, she introduces Adele to an Englishman she claims is Adele’s father from a tryst many years ago. Adele will be moving to London where her father will bring her up to be a proper English lady. She’s installed in a dreary manor out on the literary moors.

But then her father hires a new governess. A woman named Jane Eyre. And what are those weird sounds coming from the attic?

MPAA Rating: R (sexual assault, sexuality, violence, alcohol)

Adele is shipped off to boarding school where she is taught to be a proper, marriageable young woman. As are all the girls at the school. But Adele soon realizes that, much like at the brothel, the girls have few rights. In fact, some of the suitors get handsy. More than a little handsy, actually. And not just the boys. Teachers, uncles, fathers, even some of the most powerful men in the city. Can there be any justice?

Well, Adele is no English rose. She’s French, she grew up hard, and if society won’t help her friends, then Adele will. Soon Adele teams up with Nan, an Irish girl who also wants to crush the patriarchy. And maybe engage in other extracurricular activities with Adele.

But what about Eric, her cousin who lives on a sugar plantation in far off Jamaica? She’s been writing to him for years now, and the letters are getting steamier (yes, I know, but the cousin thing wasn’t a big deal in Victorian times). A guy who’d make a fine husband. Could she just pass that by for a life of crime and passion with Nan?

Talky Talk: Eyre Heads

So…Adele’s governess and new stepmother is Jane Eyre. Yes, that Jane Eyre. Now I’ve never read the book, but according to Wikipedia, this story kind of parallels the life of the Bronte heroine (down to the crazy woman in the attic). You don’t have to have read that book to appreciate this one. In fact, I wonder if the crossover fiction was necessary. Adele was a compelling, interesting character, and Jane was only in about a third of this book. It was a nice little Easter egg for fans, but this was Adele’s story, not Jane’s. Then again, a lot of readers won’t even catch the name, so no biggie.

Bonus Factor: Boarding School

Regal old boarding school building with turrets and ivy on the stone walls

So when Jane gets pregnant (I believe this is a departure from the original novel), Adele is sent off to a boarding school. A school where they basically train young women to become wives. They teach deportment and etiquette and bring in young officers to court the students. Well, not so much young. Some of them are old enough to be their fathers. But that’s how things were back then. The young, child-bearing woman and the older, established man. Okay, maybe this kind of rings of a pet shop where guys come and pick out the cutest doggie in the window. But, that’s just the way things are.

Except for Adele and Nan. By day, Adele is a respectable school girl. By night, she and Nan prowl the foggy streets of London, protecting the innocent. And, well…look at the title.

Relationship Status: Platonic Friends

I like you, Adele. As a friend. Seriously. My hands are on top of the table. Want to buy me a drink? I’ll…just sit over there. But I would like to read about more of your adventures.

Literary Matchmaking


Terry Pratchet’s Dodger also deals with a Victorian Londoner meeting literary and historical figures.

Peregrine Harker & the Black Death

Peregrine Harker & The Black Death, by Luke Holland, is a little more PG-rated Victorian adventure.

Bringing Down the Duke (A League of Extraordinary Women #1)

Evie Dunmore’s Bringing Down the Duke is also about revenge against the patriarchy.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received neither money nor mulled wine for writing this review, though the publisher did send me a free e-copy.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.