Anna Lee Huber


Lady Darby: The Anatomist’s Wife (2012), Mortal Arts (2013), A Grave Matter (2014), A Study in Death (2015), A Pressing Engagement (2016), As Death Draws Near (2016), A Brush with Shadows (2018)

Verity Kent: This Side of Murder (2017)



Lady Darby


The Anatomist’s Wife (2012)

The-Anatomists-WifeSet in Scotland in August 1830

Lady Darby has spent the last year and a half hiding in Scotland with her sister and brother-in-law, after the death of her husband and the scandal that arose following that.

I quite like the relationship between Lady Darby and her sister. It’s a very true feeling sibling relationship.

I awoke the next morning to find Alana hovering over me, a frown pleating her brow. “Oh, thank goodness,” she exclaimed. “You’re awake.”

I hadn’t been, but I suspected my sister had been standing there for quite some time and very well knew that.

The other main character is Gage, who is the son of a famous inquiry agent, and when a murder occurs, Gage steps up to look into the matter. Unfortunately for Lady Darby, the scandal that has followed her to remote Scotland becomes an issue, and because of her past, she is asked to assist in part of the inquiry.

I realized we could have waited until dawn to examine Lady Godwin’s body. She would stay fresh enough in the chapel cellar. But I had decided it would be better to have the task over and done with. Procrastinating was not going to make it any easier, and I knew I would never get any sleep that night regardless.

There is much to like about this story.

It was a terrible thing to know you wielded the power to harm someone just with the knowledge of what rested on your tongue.

Although it was slow in places, the mystery was good as was the unfolding of Lady Darby’s past.
Rating: 6.5/10

Published by Berkley

Re-Read: December 2017

Set in Scotland in 1830.

I must have read the first paragraph of about twenty books before I settled on a re-read of The The Anatomist’s Wife. Lady Darby has been hiding at her brother-in-law’s estate after her husband’s death and the ensuing scandal.

At a house party, when a guest is murdered, suspicion falls upon her (by the guests, not her family) so her brother-in-law asks her to help Sebastian Gage (son of a renowned inquiry agent) to look into the murder until the local authorities can arrive. (Because her BiL *would* normally be the local authority, they have to send to a neighboring area, which takes several days.)

To be clear, none of her family knew what plans her husband had in mind when Kiera’s marraige was arranged.

I, on the other hand, had declined my father’s offer to have a season, content with an arranged marriage of his making so that I might spend the time painting instead. To be completely honest, I had preferred to remain single, but my father would have none of that.

The strongest part of this story is Kiera’s family, and how they stood by her and sheltered her after the scandal, and were willing to be patient with her lack of interest in returning to society.

As strong and courageous as my sister was, that strength and courage did not carry over to matters of the internal workings of the human body. She had once asked me about the things I had seen during the years I was forced to assist my husband, and later confessed she had nightmares for a week afterward just from imaging the few things I told her. Telling her to think of the body as a work of art did not seem to console her as it did me.

One of the things I find fascinating about reading historicals is that no matter how prim and proper things were on their face, in a society of arranged marriages, things were different, and in some ways far more immoral than current times.

“Did Lady Godwin know who the father was?”

“Yes, but she not tell me. Only say she was pleased.”

I looked at Gage. He looked just as puzzled as I was. I would have assumed Lady Godwin would be panicked at the realization she was expecting and that her husband had been hundreds of miles away at the time of conception. There was no way of fooling the man into believing it was his.

Another thing I liked is that although Kiera does place herself in danger, it is not through acting stupidly–and sometimes the danger was completely unforseeable.

Then I picked up a page of foolscap and jotted off a quick message to Gage explaining my findings and my intention to speak with Lady Stratford. No matter how much I wished to do otherwise, I knew better than to run off without leaving word of my whereabouts.

This ended up being a good choice for distraction when I didn’t know what else I was in the mood for.
Rating: 7/10

Publisher: Berkley

Mortal Arts (2013)

Mortal-ArtsSet in Scotland in October 1830

The sequel to The Anatomist’s Wife finds Lady Darby returning to Edinburgh with her sister, brother-in-law, and their family when they receive an urgent summons from Phillip’s Aunt to join them at Dalmay house where her daughter has just become engaged to Michael Dalmay–a childhood friend of Alana and Kiera.

This is a story about PTSD–except that it wasn’t considered such in the 1830s. Instead, men who were unable to deal with society after their return from war were hidden away–sometimes even in lunatic asylums.

Our nation was eager to welcome home conquering heroes, not broken men.

This is disturbing to Kiera not only because of her friendship with the former solider, but also because she had been threatened with such a situation.

(T)he realization of what I had narrowly escaped in not being confined to an asylum as my accusers had wished made me grow cold— but I still couldn’t help wondering if I would be forever grappling with memories I couldn’t forget.

I am really enjoying this series–the history is fascinating and the characters aren’t really outside of time as sometimes happens in historicals, and there are plenty of reminders of just how different life was two centuries ago–mostly to your detriment if you were a woman.

Plus, there are some lovely phrases and other bits.

She thrived on conflict. The bigger the reaction she got out of you, the more it pleased her. And the more likely she was to continue goading you. The swiftest way to beat her at her own game was to refuse to engage, be it with anger or discomfiture.

That’s something I need a reminder of myself right now.
Rating: 8/10

Published by Berkley

Re-Read: December 2017

Set in Scotland in 1930.

Alana and her sister and family are setting up in Edinburgh, because Alana is pregnant again, and the local doctor is a quack, and they want her to have access to better care.

Their journey–slow as it is with Alana’s carriage sickness–is interrupted with a summons from Philip’s aunt, to come to the house of her daughter’s fiancee–a family who were neighbor’s of Kiera and Alana’s when they were growing up.

“He’s acting in his brother’s stead.”

Philip nodded. “Yes, but that’s not the same as his holding the title outright.”

“And Lady Hollingsworth would certainly see the difference,” Alana pointed out with a wry twist to her lips. “I can’t imagine her being happy with such a circumstance when her daughter could be made a baroness instead.”

Neither of us argued with such an assertion, for we both knew it to be true. Lady Hollingsworth was nothing if not calculating. She had likely agreed to the betrothal thinking she could convince her future son-in-law to petition for the title.

Unfortunately, circumstances are far worse than expected, and Kiera becomes involved in another mystery, including the disappearance of a young woman.

The heart of this story however is the trauma of battle fatigue and the treatment of patient in insane asylums.

I knew what lunatic asylums were like. Black holes of filth and degradation where the unfortunates were, at the very best, drugged and left to rot, but more likely tortured until they turned into the very beasts they were alleged to be. Sir Anthony had taken me to tour one about a year into our marriage, dangling the threat of incarceration when my cooperation in sketching his dissections had wavered.

Which made me appreciate the references to Goya.

I stared unseeing at the Goya tapestry, my mind conjuring the soft gray eyes of William Dalmay shadowed with the pain that had seemed ever present in his gaze. Even when he laughed it had been there in the tight lines at the corners of his eyes.

Because the story is very much about how war harms people minds–and how the lunatic asylums and medical treatments of the time destroyed them completely.

But it’s not all completely dark.

Reminding myself to be grateful for the gifts I had been given instead of wasting my time longing for the things I couldn’t change.

Another good escape and enjoyable re-read.
Rating: 8/10

Publisher: Berkley

A Grave Matter (2014)

A-Grave-MatterSet in Scotland in 1831

Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) finds Lady Darby staying with her brother, in their childhood home, still grieving her friend’s death. But the Hogmanay Ball is interrupted (at the worst possible moment (of course)) with news of the murder of caretaker at neighboring Dryburgh Abbey, and Lady Darby is again drawn into a mystery, but this time she is surprised to discover it is not against her will.

I very much like how Lady Darby is slowly coming to terms with her abilities as an inquiry agent (despite the societal stigma added to her already scandalous past) and all that entails.

As always, the past is a fascinating place to visit (but definitely not a place I’d want to live).

I had not fallen asleep until just before dawn, and when my new maid, Bree, had woken me for church, I had been tempted to remain abed. But then I realized that if I missed Sunday service, the next week would be filled with visits from well-meaning villagers, worried about my health or curious what had kept me from church. After all, we were the highest-ranking family in Elwick, so our comings and goings seemed to naturally concern those around us, whether I wished it to be so or not.

The mystery is very good (and quite fascinating–why would someone steal bones?)

We see the relationship between Gage and Lady Darby continue to grow, and I thought a good job was done with her reluctance to wed and his impatience with her reluctance.

I also very much like Lady Darby’s relationship with her siblings, and how she and her brother slowly come to terms with her past and then hurt caused her.

“Everyone’s got their hurts. No matter who they are. It’s easy teh forget that when we’re no’ willin’ teh look too deep.”

I very much like this series.
Rating: 8/10

Published by Berkley

Re-Read: December 2017

Set in Scotland in 1831

After the death of her friend in the previous book, Kiera has fled to her brother’s home (her sister and brother-in-law are in Edinburgh during her sister’s pregnancy), but a New Year’s Eve murder pulls her into another investigation, and back into the public eye she has been avoiding for so long.

I do appreciate her relationships with her brother.

Certainly, I had danced with Trevor far more than any other gentleman of my acquaintance, for he had been forced to partner me by our childhood dancing master. We had stepped on each other’s toes and smacked one another in the face with an errant hand too many times to count.

More importantly, her brother points out that she needs to come to terms with her father, and how he didn’t protect her from Sir Anthony.

(T)hen Trevor spoke. “You always go to Mother’s grave.” Our eyes met for the first time since he’d joined me, and I frowned. “When you come here,” he clarified. “You always go to Mother’s grave. You seem to barely be able to look at Father’s.”

“Don’t be silly,” I scoffed uncomfortably. “Mother’s is just closer to the tree, and thus out of the wind.”

“But it’s not always windy when you visit here.”

“True. And I stand before Father’s grave then.”

“But you don’t.” His voice was gentle, but certain.

I like how it takes her time to come to terms with her past, and how her family gently but firmly pushes her to do so.

“Everyone’s got their hurts. No matter who they are. It’s easy teh forget that when we’re no’ willin’ teh look too deep.”

I also enjoyed watching Kiera and Gage’s relationship progress.

But why have I never seen you dance at the dinners and other soirees I’ve attended with you?”

I glanced back at him with a sardonic lift to my eyebrows. “No one asked.” I turned to survey the crowd surrounding the dancers inside the ballroom, not wanting to see pity in his eyes. But a tug at my wrist pulled my attention back to him. “What are you doing?”

He scrawled his name across my dance card in several places. “Claiming my dances before they’re all taken.”

It’s another lovely escape.
Rating: 8/10

Publisher: Berkley

A Study in Death (2015)

When Lady Drummond dies in front of Lady Darby, Kiera immediately believes the death not due to be apoplexy, but to poison. Unfortunately, Lord Drummond all but throws Lady Darby out, and so she cannot–even with the help of Gage–openly investigate the death.

Additionally, Lady Darby and Gage are finally engaged, however, it appears that Lord Gage is opposed to the match.

Normally, I hate it when obstacle after obstacle is thrown up between a couple, but in this case, the obstacles were not surprises but set in places much earlier (Gage’s conflict with his father appears in the second book, but we are not given the reason for it until now) which made the obstacles understandable and even expected.

Again, Lady Darby’s relationship with her siblings is very well done and appreciated. Pregnancy was a very dangerous even, with death in childbirth being quite common, and these books have done a very good job of showing that, with Alana’s confinement and the very real possibility of her death.

I simply can’t concentrate.”

“That’s understandable.”

“Yes, but not helpful.” She tipped her head back and groaned. “I’ve only been confined to this bed for a day and a half and I’m already restless. And yet I’m terrified of moving about, lest the bleeding start again.” Her face was drawn with fear and unhappiness.

I also appreciate how clear these books are about the place women had in the world at that time.

Lord Drummond was little danger to me. For him to strike a woman outside of his protection would have been beyond the pale of gentlemanly conduct. My fiancé or brother or even brother-in-law would have been quite within their rights to demand satisfaction for such a slight to their female relative. However, Lady Drummond had no such defense. Being Lord Drummond’s wife, he could do as he wished to her, as Sir Anthony had done to me. Yes, society generally frowned upon physically harming one’s wife, but they also expected that husbands should give their wives moderate correction, so spouses who went too far in their discipline were rarely prosecuted. Perhaps my standing up to Lord Drummond had been a personal triumph, but it had also potentially exposed Lady Drummond to harsher treatment.

The past IS a lovely place to visit, but I would most certainly NOT want to live there.

I really like this series, and wait impatiently for the next book.
Rating: 8/10

Published by Berkley

Re-Read: January 2018

Set in Scotland in 1831

Lady Darby is slowly returning to society, and has started taking commissions again. Her sister is planning Kiera’s upcoming wedding to Sebastian Gage as a way to deal with her confinement during her pregnancy and as a distraction from the danger she soon faces with the upcoming birth.

I knew she meant well. She wanted me to also have a celebration as big as my joy.

One of the things I especially like about this story is just how serious Alana’s pregnancy is, and just how likely it is she could die during child birth. This is something that is frequently glossed over in historicals: you might meet eligible bachelors with young children but you rarely actually get to know women who die in childbirth. They are just part of the background you never think about.

“I’ve only been confined to this bed for a day and a half and I’m already restless. And yet I’m terrified of moving about, lest the bleeding start again.” Her face was drawn with fear and unhappiness.

Childbirth was deadly for many women.

I also appreciated the emphasis on the place of women in society at that time.

I knew what the law and society’s opinions were on the matter. I was intimately aware of just how little power wives had. They were to obey their husbands, to defer to their decisions, and when they didn’t, they could be punished. A woman had very few options if her husband chose to mistreat her, regardless of her class or status. Regardless of whether she was a duchess or a whore, she was still subject to her husband.

“Lord Drummond is a worthy, honorable man; a decorated war hero. You will not sully his reputation or distress him further by making these baseless allegations.”

“They aren’t baseless,” I argued. Gage pressed a restraining hand to my wrist, but I did not heed. “You friend is a brute. Lady Drummond was terrified of him.”

“Of course she was. She was his wife.”

My mouth dropped open in shock, and I felt Gage jolt beside me.

(The man) scowled at him. “Do not look at me like that. I rarely lifted a hand to (my wife). I didn’t need to.” His eyes swiveled to me. “Lady Darby, on the other hand . . .”

Gage actually surged forward in his seat. “Do not even finish that sentence.”

Don’t misunderstand me, I love reading historicals. But I recognize that what we are typically presented with is a greatly sanitized version of what life was like–in that way they are very much like the fantasy I also love: an idealized world. It’s good to be reminded that we should be grateful to live in the present.

The mystery I also very much liked, as they try to find out why a kind, well-liked woman would have been murdered. Which brings me to another strength of this story–the complicated motives and feelings of the people involved.


He nodded despondently, and lifted his gaze toward his wife’s portrait again. I could see now that he had loved his wife, in his own warped, possessive way. Which didn’t mean he wasn’t capable of having killed her. Love was often an even stronger motive for murder than hate. But in this case, much as I was reluctant to admit it, I was starting to believe he had not been responsible for her death.

It was easy to cast Lord Drummond in the part of the villain. He was mean, violent, and bad-tempered, and quite frankly, I despised him. But his emotion was too genuine to be feigned, and his excuse for listening to the physician also made sense, even if I didn’t like it.

Lord Drummond may have treated his wife terribly, but he isn’t one-note here. And although unsaid, he’s also a war hero, and one has to wonder what affect that had upon his temper and temperament.

It’s good to be reminded that very few people are truly evil, and most people believe themselves to be the heroes of their own stories.


This is a strong mystery and a strong story, and one I highly recommend. Even if you haven’t read the previous books, you should be able to pick this up.
Rating: 9/10

Publisher: Berkley

A Pressing Engagement (2016)

Set in Edinburgh, Scotland in April 1831

This short story is Lady Darby’s wedding to Sebastian Gage. Except it isn’t really a short story, as much as it would truly be an excerpt from either the end of the previous book or the start of the upcoming book.

If you’ve read the Lady Darby series, you’ll want to read this. But if you’ve not read any of the Lady Darby series, this is not a good place to start.
Rating: 6/10

Published by InterMix

Re-Read: January 2018

Set in Scotland in 1831

This is a short story, but you should think of it as an outtake from the novels, rather than a stand-alone story you could pick up to read if you are unfamiliar with the characters or want to see if you like the author’s writing.

As such, I think it would have been stronger if one of the mysteries had been dropped, or if the timeline had been lengthened. The number of things that happen in such a short time period is ridiculous. I get that Kiera wants to be distracted from her upcoming wedding, but to have all those things happen in the day before her wedding is unlikely. I think it also gave short shrift to Bonnie Brock’s part in the story, since his motives are far more complicated than they would seem on the surface.

I do like seeing Kiera stand up to Lord Gage, and that he reasoning for doing so is perfectly within character: she rarely stands up for herself, but she will go to great lengths for those she cares about. So standing up to his father for how it affects Gage is something she’d do.

But the story itself is a bit of a mess. I realize she wanted to get all those elements in, and that they wouldn’t necessarily fit into one of the novels, but I think those elements deserved a bit more work and time than they got.

Publisher: InterMix

As Death Draws Near (2016)

Set in England and Ireland in 1831

Lady Kiera Darby and Sebastian Gage are honeymooning in Keswick when he receives orders from his father to go to Ireland to investigate the death of a nun, who happened to have been the niece of Wellington.

They decided to go, not especially because Gage was ordered to do so, but because in the end, a woman was dead, and they were best positioned to discover who murdered her.

Now that she has willingly engaged in another murder inquiry, Lady Darby (she keeps her courtesy title because she married down) she wonders about whether what she does is right.

“I said it is part of who I am, but is that true? Is it who I am? I didn’t want to learn all of these things about anatomy. My first husband forced it on me. And yet, I cannot deny how helpful it has been at times with our inquiries. But I still feel guilty for using what I know.”

“Perhaps it was forced on you, but it has certainly been used for good. ‘But as for you,’” she began to quote from the Bible. “‘ Ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring it to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.’”

“The Lord calls us to simply trust and seek. He will show us the way. But when that way is shown, we are not allowed to say, ‘Enough! Let me settle.’ We must go even where we think it is impossible, do those things that we think we are incapable of. For the Lord will make it possible; He will make us capable.”

Her eyes gleamed softly. “You may be called to a home and husband, but that does not mean He doesn’t also have more for you to do. The Lord does not say, ‘Go this far, only this far, and no further.’ He does not only call men to do His good work.

I liked that not just for the kindness the Mother Superior gives her, but for the thought that Lady Darby put into it, because she would have doubted what she was doing, and found it difficult to reconcile with her upbringing.

“In the end, we are only responsible for ourselves, no matter how much we might wish otherwise.”

Also, the mystery was very good, going places that I didn’t expect, but that were also completely consistent within the story and the time.

I really enjoyed this, and look forward to the next book.
Rating: 8.5/10

Published by Berkley

Re-Read: January 2018

Set in Ireland in 1831

Kiera and Sebastian are on their honeymoon when Gage receives a letter from his father, ordering him to Ireland.

(A) nun at the Loretto Abbey there, has gotten herself murdered. The matter is of some importance to His Grace, the Duke of Wellington, seeing as the chit is his distant cousin. We cannot allow the murder of his relative, foolish and disgraceful papist though she may be, to go unchecked.

On the journey Lord Marsdale, a rake who attaches himself to them, claiming he wants to escape an angry father. Unfortunately, there is no way to get rid of him.

“Oh, come now,” he wheedled. “I’m quite capable of behaving myself when the situation warrants it. In fact, I’ve been very well mannered this entire carriage ride. You know I have.” I rolled my eyes heavenward. He sounded like nothing so much as a little boy trying to persuade us he deserved a special treat.

I actually came to like Marsdale in this story. He’s still kind of a jerk, but he very obviously cared for Harriet, and may be a rake, but clearly isn’t a complete cad.

We also slowly learn more about Bree, the young woman who became Kiera’s maid. She’s another character I very much like, and I appreciate that they two of them are still working out the kinks in their relationships–something that was always going to be complicated, despite Kiera’s habit of familiarity with her servants.

I was well aware that I had always been a bit too familiar with servants, too concerned with their opinions, but it was a difficult habit to break, especially when I did not care to do so.

Although the murder is the center of the story, the Irish conflict takes a very large part in this story.

I’d seen the old cottages and mud daub homes of the lower classes of Irish society, a large majority of which were Catholic. They didn’t appear to have an abundance of extra income, nor did I believe they were burying it and saving it for a rainy day, or the moment they finally kicked the English off their island.

How could these men not see it? How could they not hear how ridiculous they sounded? They were wealthy Anglicans, part of the small majority controlling the island. Most of these men protesting the tithes were poor Catholic farmers.

No matter how much things change, they still remain the same. People have been fighting over religion for as long as history, and will create discord and disagreement where none should truly exist.

Sometimes it was difficult to accept the terrible lengths people would go to for their beliefs, particularly when they fooled themselves into thinking they were acting in the Lord’s name or for the public’s good when they were truly reacting out of hatred and fear.

The mystery is interesting, and the history is well-researched, which I deeply appreciate.

In the end, we are only responsible for ourselves, no matter how much we might wish otherwise.

This is an enjoyable series, and now I’m all caught up until the next book comes out.
Rating: 8/10

Publisher: Berkley

A Brush with Shadows (2018)

Set in 1831 in Dartmoor England

Lady Darby and her husband Sebastian Gage have been summoned to Dartmoor by Sebastian’s grandfather, because his cousin has gone missing. But when they arrive, it seems that everyone believes Alfred has simply gone off for awhile–he has a deserved reputation as a rake and a libertine.

The complaints were much the same. Alfred was snide and reckless, uncaring of who or what got in the way of his own pleasure. Just as Gage had feared, there was no end of angry fathers, brothers, and husbands who claimed his cousin had trifled with their female relations in some way.

But it’s been a fortnight, and no one has had any sign of him, so Gage begins a search, has to contend not just with a missing cousin, but also with the difficult relationship he had with his mother’s family–including being bullied by his cousins.

“You don’t have to be polite,” he told me before turning back to the window. His forehead furrowed. “Your family may be different, but the Trevelyans have never found such niceties to be necessary.”

“Then perhaps that’s your trouble,” I replied, perching on the opposite end of the bench. “After all, kindness and courtesy go a long way. And oftentimes family members need it to fall back on more than anyone.”

It was an interesting mystery, and I remain fascinated by Kiera and Sebastian’s relationship. They’re recently married, and are still learning about each other, and Sebastian was more damaged by his family and childhood than he let on, so things are rocky for a time. Since I have a fondness for stable relationships in my stories–and realistic relationships–I do quite like this series.
Rating: 7.5/10

Publisher: Berkley


Verity Kent


This Side of Murder (2017)

Set in England in 1919.

Verity Kent is a war-widow. Her husband was killed during the Great War and she has spent the last 15 months trying to come to terms with his dead and adapt to her new status.

The period during and immediately after the first world war, which is a time of fascinating and rapid change.

“That’s what comes of allowing females to drive motorcars,” another man muttered from his chair nearby.

Americans have looked a great deal at WWII and the Greatest Generations and the society changes of that time, but those changes started during and after the first world war.

“And you must call me Helen. In fact, I insist we all use our given names,” she declared. “It’s much too tedious otherwise.”

Everyone else seemed too stunned, or too enchanted, to answer, so I responded for them. “Frightfully tedious.”

“But who cares for your clothes?” Nellie leaned forward to ask. Her wide eyes roamed over my form. “Who dresses you?”

I smiled at her horrified disapproval. “I do have a maid.” Another soldier’s widow, who had been rather desperate for work. “But there’s no need for her to travel with me.” Especially on this trip. “I can dress myself, after all.” I flipped my bobbed hair in illustration. “There are some decided advantages to short hair.”

There were still plenty of restrictions on women (lack of voting rights for one) but the war and the struggle to deal with everything that had happened led directly to the roaring twenties and then the great depression, which set the state for those changes after WWII.

Another thing I also felt fascinating was how soldiers (and nurses) went back and forth between the war and life at home. Soldiers would get leave and then after a quick trip across the channel be home and expected to behave as if they were no different than they had been before going to war, even though they were seeing truly awful things in the trenches and on the battlefield.

All of which is giving short shrift to the mystery here, which is quite good. Verity is invited to the engagement party of a childhood friend–and discovers that the survivors of the group which with Sidney were also invited–and she also receives a note intimating that Sidney might have been a traitor.

There are lots of surprises there, even though with a “locked room mystery” of this sort, there are pretty broad limits on who could possibly have dunnit.

So they mystery is good and the setting is fascinating. I highly recommend it.
Rating: 8/10

Publisher: Kensington