Tag Archives: Napoleon

Secrets in the Mist

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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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When Falcons Fall

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Title:  When Falcons Fall (Sebastian St. Cyr 11)
Author:  C. S. Harris
Publisher:  Penguin Random House
Publication Date:  2016
ISBN:  978-0-451-47116-1

Book Summary:
Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, his wife Hope, and their infant son Simon have traveled to the peaceful Shropshire village of Ayleswick-on-Teme to pay their respects to the family of a friend.  At the same time, Sebastian hopes to gain some more insight and answers to the secrets of his own mysterious heritage.

Emma Chance is a young widow who has also traveled to Ayleswick in search of answers to her own ancestry, but when she found dead along the banks of the River Teme with an empty bottle of laudanum by her side, the Constable quickly rules it suicide.  Archibald Rawlins, the Squire of Ayleswick, has only recently risen to the title following his father’s death; he is inexperienced and young but feels that there is more to the widow’s story.  Having discovered that Sebastian worked at times with Bow Street and had some success in solving murders, Archie asks for his assistance at the disapproval of the constable.

When Sebastian views the young woman’s body, he immediately knows that it was murder.  However, the more Archie and Sebastian dig into the woman’s life, they quickly discover that she is not who she was said to be and her death could possibly have international implications.

Is her death somehow tied to Lucien Bonaparte, brother to Napoléon, who has sought asylum along with his family at the local estate of Northcott Abbey?  What about the deaths of two other young women that were ruled suicide in the past fifteen years?  Why is Hannibal Pierce in town?  Pierce was a former captain in the dragoons who now works for the king’s cousin, Charles, Lord Jarvis, who also happens to be Hero’s father.  Could the secrets of Sebastian’s own troubling ancestry be tied to the murder?  More murders occur and the truth may be the link between the past, the present, and the future.

Book Commentary:
I have been waiting for this book since March 2015 . . . when Sebastian book 10 was released!!!  I love this series! Although definitely part of the aristocracy, Sebastian’s past as a soldier defines his need for justice and restitution.  His own questions about his past and his previously-thought-dead mother drives his insatiable curiosity and quest for answers.  His intense personality is at times contradicted by his passion for his wife and son and his sense of honor.  He is truly a complex and flawed human but the reader is drawn to his compassion and loyalty and accepts his frailty more than he does.  I have thoroughly enjoyed watching the growth and depth of this character develop over the course of eleven books.  The author has done an amazing job at truly allowing the character to grow and done so by seamlessly allowing it to occur with the varied plotlines.

This is the first novel to not be set in London, and although I missed the presence of Paul Gibson and Hendon, this story line allowed Sebastian to serve as a mentor to young Squire Rawlins.  As the setting and all the characters are completely new, the reader feels to be making the discoveries right along with Sebastian.  Although Jarvis is not in the story, his presence is definitely made through the character of Hannibal Pierce and it becomes clear that Jarvis’ power and control is all-encompassing.

I also really enjoyed watching how Sebastian and Hero took on the roles of husband and wife and mother and father.  Traveling with an infant is not easy at any time in history and it was fun to watch their roles adapt to both their personal and professional needs.  Once again, Hero is a strong sounding board to Sebastian’s inquiries while still doing some investigating on her own.  I really liked seeing her in a maternal role as well.

Not all of Sebastian’s ancestry questions are answered, but there is progress made.  I can’t wait to see what is revealed in the next story.

Who might like this book:
This is definitely one of my top two most favorite historical mystery series.  They are very well plotted and the characters are engaging.  The story lines tend to be a bit darker than some of the mysteries I read and there is a great deal of historical research.  I find that I have to concentrate a lot on how the history is evolving, along with the plotline.  I think I enjoy the seediness of the stories because they almost have a “true crime” feel . . . set in Regency England.  I can’t recommend these books enough!

If you haven’t read any of the series, start them in order.  Secrets are revealed along the way and you don’t want to spoil anything by reading out of order!!

What Angels Fear
When Gods Die
Why Mermaids Sing
Where Serpents Sleep
What Remains of Heaven
Where Shadows Dance
When Maidens Mourn
What Darkness Brings
Why Kings Confess
Who Buries the Dead