Except for bad timing, Jane Austen might have enjoyed the friendship of Florence Nightingale. Like ships that pass in the night, these extraordinary ladies missed each other by just a few decades—to think, they might have been friends!
Born in 1820, Florence spent much of her early life at her family’s estate in Derbyshire. She might have journeyed to Hampshire and perhaps have met Jane, but one was born too early and the other too late. I do like to imagine these two dynamic women meeting over tea and bonding immediately as they did see the world with a similar critical eye.
Florence Nightingale’s name is synonymous with radical changes in nursing, but she did much more to shake up the male dominated world of the Victorian era. She was a force to reckon with and a lady who might have been the inspiration for a character in Jane Austen’s collection of amazing women. Miss Nightingale was a social reformer, a suffragette, and a hero of her time.
Queen Victoria honored Florence for her devotion to healing the injured soldiers during the Crimean War by awarding her with an engraved brooch that came to be known as the “Nightingale Jewel.” At the time there was not a medal for women equivalent to those presented to men; so Queen Victoria had Prince Albert design a special pin for The Lady of the Lamp.
I have taken the liberty to add Florence to my own collection of comedic heroines—no; I didn’t give her the gift of comedy for that would have been disrespectful. In my new series, Florence Nightingale Comedy Mysteries, I have given her a snarky young sidekick, Poppy Throckmorten. The lass keeps a written account of the cases Florence solves and how she goes about them. Poppy is to Florence, as Dr. Watson is to Sherlock Holmes. (The mysteries are clean and wholesome)
Everyone asks about the owl on the book covers…
While traveling with her family in Greece, young Florence rescued a baby owl that was about to be abused by a gang of boys. She adopted the owlet, named her Athena and carried her in her apron pocket. The little owl became very protective of her mistress as the lady went about healing the sick and injured in Derbyshire.
The Florence Nightingale Comedy Mystery series
The Giggling Corpse – Florence Nightingale Comedy Mystery – Book 1
Derbyshire and London England ~ June, 1839
Queen Victoria (age 20) has been queen for two years.
Journal of Poppy Throckmorten
If someone had told me when I was little girl, that one hot, sticky day in my sixteenth summer I would be riding in a carriage with Miss Florence Nightingale speeding toward Buckingham Palace in response to an urgent request from Queen Victoria, I would have thought her to be telling fairytales.
Although I had always hoped for a future out of the ordinary, I certainly did not expect my life to beextra ordinary. All the hours spent while a child sitting on the floor of my closet, eyes shut tight, wishing and wishing with all my might for an adventure now appeared to be coming true.
I studied the stern expression on the face of my heroine. Her growing reputation in the healing arts had attracted the Queen’s attention. That and a bit of mischief I had perpetrated. My mind raced through the possibilities of what we might encounter, foremost among them was the concern that someone at the Palace might be seriously ill. It was a stretch to imagine that Florence’s fledgling skills were required to heal royalty. But then what was the reason for this cryptic call to arms?
Settling back in my seat I contemplated the mysteries of life. Be careful what you wish formy grandmother had often cautioned. Was I about to be given more than I asked for?
Derbyshire girls, like all proper young women throughout England, were expected to lead lives according to a precise calendar. At a certain age they would marry a man of similar if not better circumstances. From their wedding day forward a woman would manage her husband’s household and endeavor to increase his social standing, but most important of all as a wife, her primary duty would be to supply him with an adequate number of male heirs for his estate, plus a few daughters to sweeten his life.
The concept of being a broodmare did not appeal to Florence or me. I was not the sort of girl who played with dolls; all my mothering went to my moody cat Diana, who routinely rejected my ministrations. It was not that I did not like children; I enjoyed the company of little ones as long as they could be returned at the end of an afternoon.
When a Buckingham Palace lady-in-waiting is killed, Poppy Throckmorten is up to her crinolines helping her mentor, Florence Nightingale, solve the murder. But in tracking the clues, they uncover a plot to kill Queen Victoria herself!
Poppy must use all the detective skills she’s learned from Florence to foil the villains before the young monarch’s first meeting with her future husband, Prince Albert. This is a Clean and Wholesome read sweetened with chuckles and snark.
“Drop that corset!” Florence screamed. The sound was loud and frightening.
Stunned by the sudden command, Granny flipped the corset into the air. It came down, slid across the floor and landed on the boot tip of one of the Dragoons.
“Don’t touch it!” Florence commanded. She turned on Granny. “Did that dainty came from Mrs. Dupree’s shop?” She motioned toward the red box that rested innocently on the chair.
“Don’t blame me. I’m new on the job!” Granny said indignant at being caught in the act of posing with the lingerie. She marched toward the guard reaching out to retrieve the corset.
“Stop where you are and listen to me, Mrs. Throckmorten!” Florence said. It was at that moment that the Queen and Baroness Lehzen entered the room each wearing quizzical looks on their faces, obviously drawn by Florence’s scream.
Greeted with the odd sight of Miss Nightingale holding Granny at bay, plus two Dragoons one of whom was wearing the corset on the toe of his big black boot, Queen Victoria asked, “What is going on here?”
Florence performed a quick curtsy before she launched into her explanation. Having bowed earlier I figured my curtsy account was up to date and did not bother to bend. Granny stood near the mirrored platform looking dazed due to the fuss Florence was making over one undergarment. It did seem a bit extreme.
In celebration of the release of Book 2 in my new series I am giving away a signed paperback set of THE GIGGLING CORPSE and THE KILLER CORSET – to one winner. U.S. only.
Overseas: ebook versions of both books to one winner.To qualify for the drawing, please leave a comment on this post by July 16 th. The winner will be notified over the weekend of July 21st.
With love & laughter!