Character Spotlight: Rachel McMillan’s Jem & Merinda with a giveaway

The Bachelor Girl's Guide to MurderMeet two unconventional women in

Rachel McMillan’s

Herringford & Watts mystery

The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder

Harvest House


The Story

In 1910 Toronto, while other bachelor girls perfect their domestic skills and find husbands, two friends perfect their sleuthing skills and find a murderer.

Inspired by their fascination with all things Sherlock Holmes, best friends and flatmates Merinda and Jem launch a consulting detective business. The deaths of young Irish women lead Merinda and Jem deeper into the mire of the city’s underbelly, where the high hopes of those dreaming to make a new life in Canada are met with prejudice and squalor.

While searching for answers, donning disguises, and sneaking around where no proper ladies would ever go, they pair with Jasper Forth, a police constable, and Ray DeLuca, a reporter in whom Jem takes a more than professional interest. Merinda could well be Toronto’s premiere consulting detective, and Jem may just find a way to put her bachelor girlhood behind her forever–if they can stay alive long enough to do so.

Introducing Jem & Merinda

Brief physical description  


Merinda has an angular face and flat build. She’s tall and blonde. The only remarkable attribute she has are her eyes which Jem describes as cat-like. She has a fierce intelligence about her face, with a look that always seems to betray she knows something you don’t. While striking, her profile and build were not considered conventionally attractive for an Edwardian woman


Jem is classically beautiful, like the popular Gibson girls of the time period. When Ray sees her he is inspired to think in poetry! She has chestnut brown curls and bright blue eyes.  Men stop and stare at Jemima! And she’s curvy. It’s far easier for Jem to be found out as a woman (even when she wears her usual disguise of trousers and bowler hat) than her best friend .


MERINDA: Kelly Reilly

JEM: Erin Krakow (but a tad more shapely)

Strengths and weaknesses

MERINDA is smart and very, very loyal. She is willing to do anything when in pursuit of a case and has an innate sense of justice. But, she also thinks that life is a Sherlock Holmes story which gets her into a lot of trouble

Her downfalls:  she’s proud and very competitive and she needs to be right! This leads her into all sorts of interesting conundrums with the opposite sex: especially Benny Citrone (a Northwest Mounted Policeman) and her long-time friend Constable Jasper Forth.

JEM is an unabashed romantic waiting to be swept off her feet. She’s been picking out porcelain dishes and choosing songs for her wedding since childhood.  She is smarter than she thinks she is and excels at social situations thanks to her proper upbringing. She’s also what I like to call “the Merinda Whisperer.”  She also has strong (some might say old fashioned) convictions and she’s pretty resolute.

She also gets woozy in tense and frightening situations (which thanks to Merinda happen far too often).  But her biggest weakness is Ray DeLuca. You’ve read the stories where the hero doggedly pursues the heroine? It’s the other way around here. Jem would follow Ray to the ends of the earth. He’s not the guy she picked out from the books she read as a child but she’s learning that her heart and her life-time ideal can be completely at odds with each other.

Quirk (if any)

Merinda is addicted to strong Turkish coffee and sleeping late.

Jem smells like lavender and is actually a bit of a pickpocket (but you’ll have to read the book to see exactly what she steals! And why!)

Your inspiration for the character

I think every woman has some Jem and some Merinda in them. Women are not one thing. They are romantic and logical: they are sweet and strong.  We can’t put women into boxes or categories.  Homemaking women can be fierce career women. Single women can possess a strong maternal instinct for their nieces and nephews. I explore these ideas in the series.

Background to the story

My agent was currently shopping a straight historical romance I had written and was having little luck. At ICRS, she kept hearing about the popularity of romantic suspense. She skyped me and, knowing that I was a MASSIVE Sherlock Holmes fan, suggested I try a female Sherlock Holmes. I took a notebook and a bunch of post-its to a favourite café over the weekend and brainstormed an entire world. (Note: when Arthur Conan Doyle was first brainstorming Sherlock Holmes,one of the first potential names he scribbled was Sherrinford Holmes and I play on that with Merinda Herringford).

I also feel very strongly about validating women: especially in church circles. I once described myself as feeling so quirky –unmarried and single in her 30s —that I might as well have been an Edwardian woman in trousers.  That fed the idea even more.

The Bachelor's Guide to MurderGA

US/Canadian residents only

To enter:

  1. Post a comment here about what you love about strong female literary characters; AND
  2. Pop over to Rachel’s blog, meet her fabulous men – Ray DeLuca & Jasper Forth – and post a comment on her blog post!

A winner will be drawn on Sunday May 1st!

Thanks Rach ~ so excited for you and loving this series! 

Relz Reviewz Extras
Review of The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder
Rachel’s Author Alert
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Buy the novella A Singular and Whimsical Problem
Buy from Amazon: The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder or Koorong

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8 Responses to Character Spotlight: Rachel McMillan’s Jem & Merinda with a giveaway

  1. As the author spoke on, I appreciate women being validated in church circles. I’m coming to appreciate more and more of that, and love seeing a good strong female in books that I can admire! Too often they’re painted as stubborn, simply for having an opinion that’s different than that of the leading male. Why should her opinion be less valid, and therefore considered stubborn?

    I also love Sherlock Holmes, and have since I was about 10. I can’t wait to read this book!

  2. I think it’s about balance, a strong heroine is wonderful but I like women in books to have a vulnerable side to. This book sounds interesting and reading about how the author wants to show women that are many things and not stereotypical makes me want to read the book even more.

  3. I think most of us want to be strong women so we relate more to heroines who are strong rather than simpering, silly, helpless characters. Also, when we read about women who accomplish much, it can give us hope that we can also do what may at first seem beyond our abilities. I’m looking forward to reading this book; I enjoy mysteries.

  4. Firstly, I love that these are Canadian women! and set in a Canadian setting :) Way to go, Rachel!! Proud proud of you <3 and thanks for sharing these tidbits about your creation process… What I love about strong female literary characters is the effect it has on me as a reader. I find it inspirits me. inner seed planting… Thanks for that!

  5. What I like about strong female characters is when they have character traits that I admire and are in situations/adventures/settings in which I may never be! I love it when they are clever and strong enough to solve problems and not be a helpless female waiting for a guy to make everything right. I love the example they provide about following God, with God-honoring romance thrown in!

  6. What I love about strong female literary characters is that they are a wonderful example of what we all strive to be. A person who honors the Lord by following His way and truth.

  7. Deanne Patterson

    What I enjoy about a strong female character is she is dependent upon herself to make strong and the right decisions. She shows us what a strong faith filled woman she is.

  8. As I read Rachel’s excellent debut I was curious who she pictured as the lead characters. I can see Kelly Reilly as Merinda but not so sure about Erin Krakow for Jem. Strangely, I struggled to (and still do) to see a fit for her. Hopefully, in the next instalment my mind will gravitate to someone.

    I particularly liked how Rachel portrayed both ladies. Strong and independent but vulnerable. I did enjoy how important they were to each other.

    Thanks, Rel for bringing Merinda and Jem to RelzReviewz.

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