So . . . to mix things up a little, every Friday I will list four things with a common theme. Hope you enjoy and I would love to hear feedback.
Four FAVORITE HISTORICAL MYSTERY SERIES on Friday
As you might have realized, I love historical mysteries. Set them in England, and I am an even happier girl! Here are four of my favorites.
Sebastian St. Cyr by C.S. Harris
Set in the early 1800’s under the decaying rule of King George III, a brilliant nobleman Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, has returned from the Napoleonic Wars disillusioned and reckless. When he is caught in a web of secrets and accused of a crime he didn’t commit, he uses the skills he learned as an agent during the war to clear his name. To his surprise, he realizes that not only is skilled at solving puzzles, he enjoys it. Joined in his adventures by a peg-legged Irish surgeon and a street urchin, he moves effortlessly through all tiers of society.
This series is the only one on my list to feature a primary male protagonist and it might be my favorite. Harris does an amazing job at intertwining the history with a very believable and complex plot. Her secondary characters have a great deal of depth and I look forward to their appearance in each novel. Sebastian’s relationship with his father, the Earl of Hendon, and Charles Jarvis, cousin to the King and the most powerful and ruthless man in English, adds to the tension in each novel; but it is his interaction with the actress Kat Boleyn and Jarvis’ daughter Hero that really defines his character.
As always, start with the first – What Angels Fear. There are ten books so far in the series; the eleventh book, When Falcons Fall has a release date of March 2016.
Lady Darby by Anna Lee Huber
In Scotland in 1830, Lady Kiera Darby is still hiding from society following her husband’s death. A cold and heartless man, Sir Anthony was a renowned surgeon with a fascination for the workings of the human body. Upon his death, a manuscript was discovered with detailed anatomical drawings of human dissections. As his lack of illustration skills were well-known, accusations flew against his wife Kiera, a talented artist. Society didn’t care that Kiera was married to Sir Anthony without her knowledge of his true purpose: to have her illustrate his anatomical book. She hides away at her sister’s estate, finding solace in painting. When a guest is murdered at a house party, Kiera must use her knowledge of human anatomy to aid Inquiry Agent Sebastian Gage. They discover a wary partnership of skills as they solve this, and future mysteries, together.
I love this series – Scotland, brogue, handsome men in kilts – seriously, what’s not to like. I really enjoy the character of Kiera, as she is a very unique heroine. I feel like each book is a step in her coming-of-age; the knowledge she possesses, albeit unwillingly, combined with society’s restrictions on woman provide a unique and clever perspective. Huber does a fabulous job describing both the city of Edinburgh and the untamed countryside of 1830’s Scotland that truly completes the mood and feel of the book. As if I didn’t already want to visit!
First book is The Anatomist’s Wife. There are three more that follow, with the novella A Pressing Engagement set to be released in May 2016, and the fifth book As Death Draws Near set for July 2016.
Lady Emily Ashton by Tasha Alexander
Set in England in the late 1880’s, Lady Emily Ashton discovers her deceased husband’s journals two years after his death. As he left for a safari expedition soon after their wedding and died abroad, Emily feels that she might be able to better understand the man she married but didn’t really know by reading his journals. What she discovers is shocking. First, her husband was a much better man that she ever gave him credit for, and second, it is very possible that his death did not occur naturally. With guarded caution, she works with her husband’s best friend, Colin Hargreaves to seek out answers, which in turn sparks more questions.
I was drawn to this book when I read that the author became an English major as an excuse to read. How wonderful is that! Alexander’s plots are complex, intricate, and very carefully crafted. Lady Emily discovers a fascination with Greek stories and art. I’ve read The Odyssey and The Iliad but these novels present a completely different viewpoint and a fascinating way to look at literature and ancient art. Alexander is also very in tune to the social mores and conventions of the time. I absolutely love Emily’s mother, who pretty much doesn’t approve of anything Emily does. The dry humor makes me think of Lady Bennett on steroids!
And Only to Deceive is followed by eight more novels; The Adventuress will be released in October 2015.
Lady Julia Grey by Deanna Raybourn
Lady Julia March Grey is a charismatic, upper class woman in Victorian England; Nicholas Brisbane is a half-Scottish, half-Gypsy inquiry agent. Their two lives intertwine when Julia’s husband Edward Grey dies of an apoplexy. Brisbane suggests that Edward’s death might have something to do with the threatening letters her husband had asked Brisbane to investigate. Julia ignores his suggestions only to discover a year later evidence of more threats. Although the case is cold, Brisbane grudgingly helps to solve the crime, and Julia’s previously ordered and understood world is shattered with new light.
I enjoy these books in the same way I enjoy the Tasha Alexander ones, but these have a little less history and a bit more sass. Julia is a naïve yet optimistic and refreshing character; I cringe at some of her mistakes but I love her feistiness and drive. As the youngest of ten siblings in the March family, her relatives always provide amusement and diversion. Her father, the Earl of March, rules his roost with a kind but firm hand; however the reader is often reminded that the term “mad as a March hare” originated with his ancestors. The stories expose some of the more shocking elements of Victorian society but do so in a way that only compliment that character development.
There are five wonderful books in this series, starting with Silent in the Grave, and four novellas. Unfortunately, Deanna Raybourn switched publishers and there is no plan for any future Lady Julia stories. Raybourn has written a few other smaller series and some stand-along books; she has a new series starting with A Curious Beginning in September 2015 about a Victorian woman with a scientific mind.