Tag Archives: Lady Darby

Secrets in the Mist

secretsinthemist

Title:                                    Secrets in the Mist (Gothic Myths 1)
Author:                               Anna Lee Huber
Publisher:                           Brightstone Media
Publication Date:              2016
ISBN:                                   978-0-997-939613

Book Summary:
To say that life is challenging in 1812 England is an understatement.  Due to the conflict with the French, the economy is struggling and many of those in the small coastal town of Thurlton resort to a second form of income – smuggling.  However, smuggling is dangerous; if caught, the culprits could be charged with treason for transporting French goods.  If someone is discovered with French goods, there is a hefty fine.  Most of the townspeople are aware of the dangers and are willing to take bribes to keep the smugglers’ actions secret, but there is one final threat that terrifies them all – the mysterious Lantern Men who roam the fens, recognizable by their wisps of lantern lights.  These mischievous spirits haunt the marshes and lure careless travelers into a watery grave.

Ella Winterton has a healthy fear and regard for those who travel through the dangerous bogs and marshes, but when her best friend Kate comes down with an illness that threatens her life, Ella has no choice but to brave the trek through the mist.  Cautious for hidden bogs and tight twists in the path, Ella focuses closely on her travels when suddenly a dark cloaked figure appears out of the mist.  Unsettled by his appearance, Ella is shocked when he allows her to pass by safely.  Ella is convinced that the Lantern Man is more man than myth and most likely involved in the smuggling trade.  His secret activities create more chance encounters with Ella and she becomes fascinated and unafraid of him.

The thought of this mysterious man haunts her mind, but Ella has more pressing concerns to deal with.  Since the death of her mother and her brother, Ella’s father spends his days consumed with grief and alcohol.  Their home has fallen into disrepair and Ella is forced to sell what she can for survival.  When Sergeant Watkins, an officer with the Board of Customs, finds evidence of contraband alcohol in her father’s possession, a hefty fine is levied.  With nothing left to sell and estrangement from her parents’ families, Ella is forced to make a decision that threatens her family’s reputation, her home and property, and even her life.

Book Commentary:
As a huge fan of Anna Lee Huber’s Lady Darby mysteries, I admit I was bit nervous and apprehensive about this new series.  Would I like it as much?  Would it be as good?  The answer is unequivocally – yes!  Ella is a fascinating and relatable character; the reader feels for her situation but never feels sorry for her.  There is a naivety in her attitudes and perceptions but it not the wide-eyed innocence of a child; rather a woman of a certain station whose situation has faced a change in hardship so that she must have honest view of reality.  I admire her gumption and initiative but also wanted to yell out for someone to give this poor woman a break!

The rest of the characters are rather secondary but have their own individual backstories and motivations.  Ella truly drives the novel but it is the other characters who help guide, or divert her, from her path.  Huber has stated that this book series will follow in the tradition of Mary Stewart and Victoria Holt.  The series has interrelated story-lines but each novel will highlight different heroes and heroines.  Any one of these secondary characters could develop into their own new book and I am anxious to see what happens next. The second Gothic Myths book is due out in 2018.

According to historical notes on the author’s website, Huber stated that the Lantern Man myth is a real myth; she plans to build the series around some other not-as-well-known myths.  I think it will be fascinating to read about the contrast of fact and fiction in them.  My interest is definitely piqued!

Who might like this book:
Secrets in the Mist has a different feel than the Lady Darby books; it is more of a romantic suspense than a straightforward mystery.  I found the inner-workings of the smuggling operations fascinating; I was amazed at how it was so interwoven in the daily lives and needs of the residents while still being a supposed “secret.”

Although the series is different than the Lady Darby books, one can’t help but compare the two.  In true Anna Lee Huber form, the essence of the story lives in the development of the characters.  Their histories, motivations, and depth make them enduring and the reader becomes fascinated by the lives and adventures they lead.

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As Death Draws Near

As Death Draws Near

Title:                                    As Death Draws Near (Lady Darby 5)
Author:                               Anna Lee Huber
Publisher:                           Penguin
Publication Date:              2016
ISBN:                                   978-0-425-27772-0

Book Summary:
While relaxing on their idyllic honeymoon in the Lake District, Kiera and Gage’s bliss is interrupted when they receive a missive from Lord Gage, forcefully requesting their assistance with the murder of a nun at an abbey in the village of Rathfarnham in Ireland.  Not appreciating his father’s high-handedness, Kiera and Gage reluctantly agree to make the journey to Ireland; partly because of the heinous nature of the crime and partly due to the fact that the murdered nun was a cousin of the Duke of Wellington.  Kiera and Gage, along with their servants Bree and Anderley, travel across the rough waters, and along the way, they run into an old acquaintance.

When they arrive at Lorreto Abbey, the identity of the killer seems elusive, and many factors interfere with their ability to find out the truth.  The local constabulary isn’t totally honest about their loyalties or their knowledge of the crime; the nuns at the abbey and some of their day school students are reticent to confide in Gage and Kiera; and the political and religious conflict between the Ribbonmen and Orangemen is boiling just under the surface.

Kiera and Gage are frustrated with the lack of progress in the investigation but when masked men threaten them and another nun is found murdered, the threat strikes even closer to the newlyweds.  As more details and secrets come to light, Kiera and Gage find themselves embroiled in a conflict from which they must fight to escape.

Book Commentary:
I absolutely love the Lady Darby series and this newest installment does not disappoint!  The author has done a fabulous job at maintaining the dynamics and struggles of the two main characters – Kiera and Gage – while adding the new dimension of their marriage. Both are so fiercely independent and yet insecure; they each want to be their own person but need each other to do so. I love how they truly respect and appreciate each other’s intelligence. With that intelligence, there has be a bit of banter and accountability. They hold each other responsible for their thoughts and words.  They are also trying to figure out how to make marriage and their investigations meld into a meaningful and acceptable way.

The book also took a bit of departure from the previous novels in that the crime committed did not have any direct relationship to Kiera or Gage; they are investigating because they are good at it and not because they have a personal stake.  Of course, as the story progress, the reader realizes, perhaps even before the characters do, that they do take their investigations personally and through their inquiry and examination of the crime, they are also discovering more about themselves, their values, their commitment, and their future.

I found the history of the conflict between the Protestants and Catholics, and both the Irish and English perspectives, fascinating and also a bit depressing.  In some ways, so many attitudes haven’t changed in 175 years.  The author does a fantastic job at blending the fact into the story in a meaningful and understandable way; history helps the story along but doesn’t overshadow the character or plot development.  Old grudges and prejudices are revealed to the characters and the reader is able to process the facts and fiction along with Kiera and Gage.

We also see a great deal of growth in Kiera herself as she struggles with the useful, although not her choice to receive, knowledge of anatomy. With Gage, she sees what a marriage and relationship should look like and yet still struggles to put aside or come to terms with her past.  I think her personal growth and self-awareness really adds to the psychological depth of the crime analysis.  I look forward to watching her not just “come into her own,” but to accept and actually embrace it as well.

Who might like this book:
If you like a good, well-plotted historical mystery series that puts character development first, read this series.  Some of my other favorite authors – Deanna Raybourn, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Victoria Thompson, Carol K. Carr – have all written endorsements for this unique heroine and I couldn’t agree more!  I anxiously await the next story in this fantastic series.

As always, don’t ruin the story by starting in the middle.  Read the series in order.  You will thank me.

The Anatomist’s Wife
Mortal Arts
A Grave Matter
A Study in Death
A Pressing Engagement (an eNovella)
As Death Draws Near