Book Reviews

Review: Lavender House & The Bell in the Fog by Lev A.C. Rosen

Today I’m going to be bringing you a join review of both Lavender House and The Bell in the House by Lev A.C. Rosen. If you love historical fiction, detective stories, and queer stories – this is for you! I’m obsessed with the world Rosen has brought to life! Keep reading this book review for my full thoughts.

Lavender House

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.


(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

The first in the Andy Mills’s series, Lavender House is perfect for fans of a historical fiction smoky detective story with grit, but also featuring a queer main character. So many of the stories do not touch upon the homophobia and queerphobia within these shadowy detective stories. Lavender House does not shy away from a community whose very existence is ‘criminal’. What that means for them in their lives – the secrecy and hiding – but also what kind of justice they can even obtain.

We all deserve a place without secrets, where we can be open, the moments of happiness playing out on our faces. Lavender House not only highlights the fragility and danger of their existences, but also the moments of love and community they find. In and of itself, this is a mystery story with swirling motivations, heartbreaking discrimination, and care. It’s one of the few ‘whodunnit’ where I thought, “do I even want to find out who is guilty” because of this family that has been created in Lavender House. But the pay off and mystery is worth it!

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Lavender House is one of those historical fictions which can sweep you away with the action and mystery. But for me, the core of this story are the characters as we get to know Andy, but also the constant reinvention of dreams, the integral pieces of found family, and the way happiness has been created – and defended. Find Lavender House on Goodreads, Storygraph, Amazon,, & Blackwells.

The Bell in the Fog

San Francisco, 1952. Detective Evander “Andy” Mills has started a new life for himself as a private detective―but his business hasn’t exactly taken off. It turns out that word spreads fast when you have a bad reputation, and no one in the queer community trusts him enough to ask an ex-cop for help.

When James, an old flame from the war who had mysteriously disappeared, arrives in his offices above the Ruby, Andy wants to kick him out. But the job seems to be a simple case of blackmail, and Andy’s debts are piling up. He agrees to investigate, despite everything it stirs up.

The case will take him back to the shadowy, closeted world of the Navy, and then out into the gay bars of the city, where the past rises up to meet him, like the swell of the ocean under a warship. Missing people, violent strangers, and scandalous photos that could destroy lives are a whirlpool around him, and Andy better make sense of it all before someone pulls him under for good.


(Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)

I was able to switch between my copy of The Bell in the Fog and the amazing narration of Vikas Adam who did a phenomenal job at delivering the grit and doubts within Andy’s narration. (We also love an audiobook with music at the beginning!) In The Bell in the Fog Andy’s past comes calling. With yet another mystery, Andy has to figure out how to grapple with our past, and our past mistakes, with all the regrets swirling. Will his past hinder him from being able to solve this case?

It was easier for me to fall into the mystery of The Bell in the Fog because these side characters had such a tenuous and long history with Andy. It meant that I wasn’t getting to know them and their preciousness – I instead saw the history, the mistakes, and the scars. The Bell in the Fog balances this mystery – which also directly confronts the homophobia within the government (and Andy’s own past) – with Andy struggling to figure out if he will try to move forwards, or live in the past.

I love the ways The Bell in the Fog continues Andy’s own story, as he tries to find his feet within the queer community, as well as force him to confront his past. This is an amazing installment in this rich and glittering world. Find The Bell in the Fog on Goodreads, Storygraph, Amazon,, Blackwells,, and Google Play.


What is your favorite diverse historical fiction?

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