Lavender House

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Modern Age

Lavender House
Author: Rosen, Lev AC
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Time Period: Modern Age
Time Frame: 1952
Geographic Area: North America
Country: United States
Topics: McCarthyism and the Red Scare
Genre: Fiction
Reading Age: Young Adult, Adult
Format: Novel
Published: 2023

Content Warning
homophobia, assault, talk of suicide

American History > Modern Age > LGBTQ+

A delicious story from a new voice in suspense, Lev AC Rosen's Lavender House is Knives Out with a queer historical twist.

Lavender House, 1952: the family seat of recently deceased matriarch Irene Lamontaine, head of the famous Lamontaine soap empire. Irene’s recipes for her signature scents are a well guarded secret―but it's not the only one behind these gates. This estate offers a unique freedom, where none of the residents or staff hide who they are. But to keep their secret, they've needed to keep others out. And now they're worried they're keeping a murderer in.

Irene’s widow hires Evander Mills to uncover the truth behind her mysterious death. Andy, recently fired from the San Francisco police after being caught in a raid on a gay bar, is happy to accept―his calendar is wide open. And his secret is the kind of secret the Lamontaines understand.

Andy had never imagined a world like Lavender House. He's seduced by the safety and freedom found behind its gates, where a queer family lives honestly and openly. But that honesty doesn't extend to everything, and he quickly finds himself a pawn in a family game of old money, subterfuge, and jealousy―and Irene’s death is only the beginning.

When your existence is a crime, everything you do is criminal, and the gates of Lavender House can’t lock out the real world forever. Running a soap empire can be a dirty business.

Emily's Review

I picked this up to read towards a reading challenge prompt - I needed a book about LGBTQ+ history, and this fit the bill. It was out of my comfort zone, as I don't read a lot of murder mysteries and I worried I might get bored. But the story kept my interest the entire book.

The set up, is that police officer Evander (Andy) Mills has been outed and fired from his job at the SFPD and he is feeling alone and like his life might be over. That's when he is approached by an older woman, Pearl, with a proposition. She believes her wife was murdered, and she needs someone discreet to solve the case. He's invited to live at Lavender House and solve the case. He reluctantly takes the case, but quickly becomes too sucked into the world of Lavender House to let it go.

This is a detective noir, and I know absolutely nothing about that genre. So I can't tell you how this book subverts it, but I hear that it does. What I found compelling was the character relationships and how through this case, Andy comes into his own as a gay man. It was very well written and I had a great time trying to solve the case alongside him.

I would recommend this book to older teens and adults. There is a lot of homophobia, so you want to be aware of that before diving into this one!

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