USA Today bestselling author Sherry Thomas turns the story of the renowned Sherlock Holmes upside down…
Please summarize the book for the readers here:
Please share the opening lines of this book:
Had anyone told the Honorable Harrington Sackville that the investigation into his death would make the name Sherlock Holmes known throughout the land, Mr. Sackville would have scoffed.
Please share a few Fun facts about this book…
- One of Charlotte Holmes’s closest relatives will be penning the stories of Sherlock Holmes.
- A Study in Scarlet Women takes place in 1886, about 18 months before the publication of the first Sherlock Holmes adventure, to give said relative time to write that story
- The title, A Study in Scarlet Women, is a nod to A Study in Scarlet, the title of the first Sherlock Holmes adventure.
Please tell us a little about the characters in your book. As you wrote your protagonist was there anything about them that surprised you?
Originally I’d modeled Charlotte Holmes’s appearance on Sherlock Holmes’s, i.e., someone tall, dark, slender, with aquiline features and rather ascetic manners. But as the book progressed, she changed, physically at least, to his polar opposite. She became blond, chubby, very, very girly in her attire, and very corporeal in her passions, i.e., she really loves her cake.
But she still has a mind as sharp as a guillotine and a temperament that would have been problematic even for a woman today, let alone one in the 19th century.
If your book was optioned for a movie, what scene would you use for the audition of the main characters and why?
I would have them read from the scene where Charlotte and her love interest are reunited for the first time after she’d been kicked out of Society. It’s pretty fraught with emotional undercurrent.
Here’s a snippet
Other young ladies she knew enjoyed the construction of an ideal man for themselves. Charlotte never understood the point of such an exercise: She’d yet to meet a woman who thought her house perfect, and unlike men, houses could be planned, expanded, and redecorated from top to bottom. But had she indulged in intellectually devising her own perfect match, she would have come up with someone substantially similar to herself, an aloof observer, a creature of silence, a man happy to live life entirely inside his own head.
Whereas with Lord Ingram, she was always first struck by his physicality. She was aware of the space he occupied, his motion, his weight, the cut and drape of his coat, the length and texture of his hair—even though she had never touched his hair. She found herself observing, intensely, the direction of his gaze, the placement of his hands, the rise and fall of his chest with every breath.
He was not the only fine male specimen of her acquaintance. Roger Shrewsbury, for one, was considered handsomer and more stylish. But Lord Ingram possessed something else, a vitality with a jolt of sensuality and an undercurrent of hostility to the world at large, which made for a masculinity magnetic to both men and women.
What do you want people to take away from reading this book?
High concept books are often more interesting in their logline than in reality. After all, a high concept is something that makes you go, oh, I wonder how they’ll pull it off. And the sad truth is, a lot of the times, they don’t.
So I hope readers who are lured in by the high concept idea behind the book—Sherlock Holmes as a woman—will close it pleased by the execution of that idea.
And that they’ll say, of course it’s possible that the real Sherlock Holmes was a woman.
What are you currently working on? What other releases do you have planned for 2016?
A Study in Scarlet will be my only release in 2016. I am working on book 2 of the Lady Sherlock series. But between now and January 15, I also hope to find time to finish a novella of mine to be published in an interesting anthology that will feature known authors writing in subgenres they are not known for.
Thanks for blogging at HJ!
Giveaway: Print copy of A STUDY IN SCARLET WOMEN (The Lady Sherlock Series) by Sherry Thomas
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Excerpt from A Study In Scarlet Women:
On the day Mr. Harrington Sackville met his darkness with
fangs, certain parties in the know were bracing for— and
eagerly anticipating— a major scandal involving the youngest member
of the Holmes family.
Lord Ingram Ashburton did not share in their anticipation. The
idea that such a catastrophe could come to pass had haunted him for
days. He did not yet know that Holmes was already doomed, but a sense
of dread had been growing in him, a tumorlike weight on his lungs.
He stared at the envelope on the desk before him.
Mr. Sherlock Holmes
General Post Office
St. Martin’s Le Grand
Any idiot could see the frustration that seethed with every stroke
of the pen—
several places the nib had nearly torn through the
The writing on the note next to the envelope was equally agitated.
And if you must, not with Roger Shrewsbury. You will regret it
For once in your life, listen to me.
He dropped his forehead into his left palm. It would be no use.
Holmes would do as Holmes pleased, carried along on that blitheness
born of extraordinary ability and favorable circumstances.
Until disaster strikes.
You don’t need to let it happen, said a voice inside him. You step in. You
give Holmes what Holmes wants.
And then what? Then I carry on and pretend it never happened? He stared out of the open window. His unimpeded view of the
sky appeared as if seen through a lens that had been smudged with
a grimy finger—
polluted blue, a fine day for London. Peals of irrepressible
mirth rose from the small park below—
laughter, a sound that would have brought a smile to his face on any
He picked up his pen.
Do not do anything without first consulting me again.
Was he acquiescing? Was he jettisoning all caution—
He sealed the unsigned letter in the envelope and walked out of
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A Study in Scarlet Women · 5
study, envelope in pocket. He was scheduled to give
an archeological lecture in the evening. But first he wanted to spend
some time with his daughter and son, rambunctious children at the
peak of their happy innocence.
After that he would decide whether to post the letter or to consign
it to the fire, like the dozen others that had preceded it.
The front door opened and in came his wife.
“Afternoon, madam,” he said politely.
“My lord.” She nodded, a strange little smile on her face. “I see
you have not heard about what happened to your favorite lady.”
“My favorite lady is my daughter. Is anything the matter with her?”
He kept his voice cool, but he couldn’t stop the hair on the back
of his neck from standing up: Lady Ingram was not talking about
“Lucinda is well. I refer to . . .” Her lips curled with disdain. “I
refer to Holmes. Your Holmes.”
“How dare you humiliate me this way?” Mrs. Shrewsbury rained
down blows on her husband. “How dare you?”
The painted French fan, folded up, made for a surprisingly potent
cross between a bolt of silk and a police baton.
Roger Shrewsbury whimpered.
He didn’t understand the way her mind worked.
Very well, he had committed an unforgivable error: The night
before he’d been so drunk he mistook his wife for Mimi, his mistress,
and told the wife what he was going to do this afternoon with Charlotte
Holmes. But if Mrs. Shrewsbury hadn’t wanted him to deflower
Miss Holmes, why hadn’t she smacked him then and there and forbidden
him to do anything of the sort? Or she could have gone ’round
to Miss Holmes’s and slapped her for not having a higher regard for
Instead she had mustered a regiment of sisters, cousins, and friends,
set his mother at the helm of the entire enterprise, and stormed the
Bastille just as he settled into Miss Holmes. So how could she accuse
him of humiliating her, when she was the one who had made sure that
a good dozen other women saw her husband in flagrante delicto?
He knew better than to give voice to his thoughts. After twenty-
years as Lady Shrewsbury’s son and three as Anne Shrewsbury’s
husband, he’d learned that he was always wrong. The less he said,
The missus continued to hit him. He wrapped his arms around
his head, made himself as small as possible, and tried to disappear
into a nice memory, a time and a place in which he wasn’t a bounder
hours a day, three hundred and sixty-
days a year.
Lady Shrewsbury frowned mightily at the young woman who sat
opposite her in the brougham. Charlotte Holmes was still, her face
pale but composed.
Eerily composed, given she was now ruined beyond repair.
So composed that Lady Shrewsbury, who had been prepared for
any amount of hysterical sobbing and frantic pleas, was beginning
to feel rattled—
sensation she hadn’t experienced in years.
Lady Shrewsbury had been the one to throw a sheet over the girl.
She had then ordered her son to go home with his wife, and the rest of
the women to disperse. Miss Holmes had not trembled in a corner, her
hands over her face. Nor had she stared numbly at the floor. Instead
she had watched the goings‑on as if she were a mere bystander, one
whose own fate had not in the least taken an unthinkable turn. As
Roger was shoved out by his wife, Miss Holmes glanced at him, without
anger, loathing, or any reflection of his helplessness.
It had been a sympathetic and apologetic look, the kind the
ringleader of a gang of unruly children might give one of her followers,
after she had got the latter into unlimited trouble.
Lady Shrewsbury had fully expected this bravado to disintegrate
once the others had gone. She was famous for her sternness. Roger,
whenever he found himself alone with her, perspired even when she
hadn’t planned to inquire into what he had been doing with himself
But her formidableness had no effect on Charlotte Holmes. After
the gaggle of eyewitnesses departed to spread the salacious story in
drawing rooms all over London, Miss Holmes, instead of dissolving
into tears, dressed and ordered a considerable tea service.
Then, under Lady Shrewsbury’s increasingly incredulous gaze,
she proceeded to polish off a plate of plum cake, a plate of cherry
tartlets, and a plate of sardines and toast. All without saying a single
word, or even acknowledging Lady Shrewsbury’s presence.
Lady Shrewsbury controlled her vexation. Silence was one of her
greatest weapons and she would not be goaded into abandoning that
strategic advantage. Alas, her magnificent silence had no effect on
Charlotte Holmes, who dined as if she were a queen and Lady Shrewsbury
a lowly lackey, not worthy of even a spare glance.
When the girl was ready to leave, she simply walked out, forcing
Lady Shrewsbury to catch up. Again, as if she weren’t a strict moral
guardian escorting a fallen woman to her consequences, but a simpleminded
maid scampering behind her mistress.
The silence continued in the brougham. Miss Holmes studied
the carriages that clogged the street—
lacquered town coaches
jostling for space amidst long queues of hansom cabs. From time to
time her gaze fell on Lady Shrewsbury and Lady Shrewsbury had
the distinct sensation that of the two of them, Miss Holmes considered
Lady Shrewsbury the far stranger specimen.
“Have you nothing to say for yourself?” she snapped, unable to
stand the silence another second.
“For myself, no,” Charlotte Holmes said softly. “But I hope you
will not be too harsh on Roger. He is not to blame for this.”
Inspector Robert Treadles of the Metropolitan Police always enjoyed
an outing to Burlington House, especially to attend Lord
lectures. They had met via a shared ardor for archeology—
Ingram had sponsored Treadles’s entry into the London Society
of Antiquaries, in fact.
But this evening his friend was not himself.
To the casual observer, his lordship would seem to command the
meeting room, thorough in his knowledge, eloquent in his presentation,
and deft with a touch of dry humor—
comparison of the
ancient family strife caused by variation in size and ornateness of
each member’s jeweled brooches with the modern jealousy aroused
by the handsomeness of a sibling’s new brougham drew peals of
laughter from the audience.
To Inspector Treadles, however, Lord Ingram’s delivery had little
of its usual élan. It was a struggle. A futile struggle, moreover: Sisyphus
pushing that enormous boulder up the hill, knowing that it
would roll away from him near the top, condemning him to start all
over again, ad infinitum.
What could be the matter? Lord Ingram was the scion of a ducal
family, an Old Etonian, and one of the finest polo players in the
world. Of course Inspector Treadles knew that no one’s existence
was perfect behind closed doors, but whatever turbulence Lord Ingram
navigated in his private life had never before been made visible
in his public demeanor.
After the lecture, after the throng of admirers had dispersed, the
two men met in a book-
nook of the society’s soaring library.
“I’d hoped we could dine together, Inspector,” said Lord Ingram.
“But I’m afraid I must take leave of you very soon.”
Treadles was both disappointed and relieved—
he would be able to offer Lord Ingram much consolation, in the
latter’s current state.
“I hope your family is well,” he said.
“They are, thank you. I’m obliged to pay a call on short notice,
that is all.” Lord Ingram’s words were calm, yet there was a hollowness
to his tone. “I trust we shall have the pleasure of a more leisurely
meeting in the not too distant future.”
“Certainly, my lord.”
Inspector Treadles did not mean to delay his friend, but at that
moment he remembered his other purpose for being at Burlington
House this evening. “If it isn’t too much trouble, sir, may I ask you
to convey a note to Holmes? I’m most grateful for his assistance on
the Arkwright case and wrote a few lines to that effect.”
“I am afraid that would be impossible.”
Inspector Treadles almost took a step back at his friend’s expression:
a flare of anger that bordered on wrath.
“I understand that you are engaged this evening, my lord,” Treadles
explained hesitantly. “My note requires no haste and needs be
relayed only at your lordship’s convenience.”
“I didn’t make myself clear,” said Lord Ingram. All hints of rage
had left his countenance. His eyes were blank, the set of his jaw hard.
can anyone else—
any notes to Holmes. Not
Treadles stuttered. “Has something terrible
Lord Ingram’s jaw worked. “Yes, something terrible.”
Inspector Treadles blinked. “Is . . . is Holmes still alive?”
“Thank goodness. Then we haven’t lost him completely.”
“But we have,” said Lord Ingram, slowly, inexorably. “Holmes may
be alive, but the fact remains that Holmes is now completely beyond
Treadles’s confusion burgeoned further, but he understood that
no more details would be forthcoming. “I’m exceedingly sorry to
“As am I, to be the bearer of such news.” Lord Ingram’s voice was
low, almost inaudible.
Treadles left Burlington House in a daze, hounded by dozens of
unhappy conjectures. Had Holmes leaped from a perilous height
armed with nothing but an unreliable parachute? Had he been conducting
explosive experiments at home? Or had his brilliant but
restless mind driven him to seduce the wrong woman, culminating
in an illegal duel and a bullet lodged somewhere debilitating but not
What had happened to the elusive and extraordinary Sherlock
Such a tragedy.
Such a waste.
Such a shame.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
With her inquisitive mind, Charlotte Holmes has never felt comfortable with the demureness expected of the fairer sex in upper class society. But even she never thought that she would become a social pariah, an outcast fending for herself on the mean streets of London.
When the city is struck by a trio of unexpected deaths and suspicion falls on her sister and her father, Charlotte is desperate to find the true culprits and clear the family name. She’ll have help from friends new and old—a kind-hearted widow, a police inspector, and a man who has long loved her.
But in the end, it will be up to Charlotte, under the assumed name Sherlock Holmes, to challenge society’s expectations and match wits against an unseen mastermind.
Meet the Author:
USA Today bestseller Sherry Thomas is one of the most acclaimed historical romance authors writing today, winning the RITA Award two years running and appearing on innumerable “Best of the Year” lists, including those of Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, Dear Author, and All About Romance. Her novels include My Beautiful Enemy and The Luckiest Lady in London. A Study in Scarlet Women is the first in the Lady Sherlock Series.