Lisa Henry

Books: Mystery | Historical | Romance | Fantasy | Queer

The Lords of Bucknall Club: A Case for Christmas (2021), A Sanctuary for Soulden (2021)

Adventures in Aguillon: Socially Orcward (2021)

The Lords of Bucknall Club

A Case for Christmas (2021) J.A. Rock & Lisa Henry

A Case for ChristmasSet in an alternate England during the Napoleonic Era.

The only thing that makes this a fantasy is this bit:

In 1783, the Marriage Act Amendment was introduced in England to allow marriages between same-sex couples. This was done to strengthen the law of primogeniture and to encourage childless unions in younger sons and daughters of the peerage, as an excess of lesser heirs might prove burdensome to a thinly spread inheritance.

Not only does that remote the illegality of same-sex unions in historical Europe, it does so in a way that is clever and quite logical.

Lord Christmas Gale does not like people. But now that he has started finding solutions to conundrums and mysteries, society is quite interested in him.

Lord Thurston wondered in a low voice whether making people disappear— as opposed to finding them— was a service Gale offered.

The Honorable Benjamin Chant is back in society (despite rumors of madness in his family) and is drawn to Lord Gale not for his mental prowess but because he sees something in Gale that interests him.

Gale drew another uneven breath and muttered, "I do not like people. At all."

Chant smiled, though Gale wouldn't be able to see it. "Ah. I like nearly all people, it seems. Generally speaking."

Gale cast a glance at him, then stared out across the lawn once more. "I have no choice but to conclude there is something gravely wrong with you, sir."

When a poor drunk who had asked Gale to search for his daughter's missing dog–and then is found murdered only hours later–Gale decides to investigate. And not being good with people, asks Chant to come along to deal with the child.

There are a lot of things this story does that I absolutely loved.

First, the child (who is taken in by Gale's mother and sisters) is not a beautiful waif that everyone falls in love with.

Her hair was an ashy blond and hung in tangles around a face that seemed wider than it was long. Her eyes were set rather far apart, and were a mix of dark blue and brown. Her smile showed tiny, peg-like teeth that made her look a bit like some mischievous fiend from a fairy tale. She'd been cleaned up, but her skin had faint grey and yellow tones, likely from exhaustion and malnourishment.

Gale's family still falls in love with her, but she is definitely a child of poverty–which is something a LOT of historicals gloss over or ignore completely. (Such as the man who spent his childhood on the streets but somehow managed to grow to six feet with muscles and good hair.)

I also like how although they have same sex marriage, the other elements of society at the time were left.

As he had just proposed an act of grave indecency with a fellow to whom he was not married, it seemed rather shortsighted of Chant to call him decent merely for withdrawing that proposal.

Gale's family was wonderful. He speaks as if they are a terrible burden and he can't stand any of them.

"It will be loud," Gale cautioned him. "I have sisters. At least four, and possibly as many as seven."

But through his actions, clearly loves his family–even if he is terrible at showing it.

The characters were amusing, the mystery was decent, and I love the world building.

Cover by Mitxeran

February 2022 | Rating: 7.5/10

A Sanctuary for Soulden (2021) J.A. Rock & Lisa Henry

A Sanctuary for SouldenSet in an alternate England in the early 1800s.

Philip Winthrop, Viscount Soulden is easily bored. But you wouldn't guess that if you saw him out on the town, where he presents himself as a fop, concerned with little other than clothes and games, to cover his secret work in intelligence.

"You are a rake and a cad, sir!"

Soulden sipped his port. "You are not the first to mention it, it's true, so there may be something in it.

Edmund Fernside is a surgeon who does his best to learn from the dead to save the living. To do that he must have dead bodies, which he tries to source as ethically as possible.

He is more than a little surprised when one of those bodies sits up and tries to leave.

Important note: the description makes the story sound light and fluffy.

Philip Winthrop, Viscount Soulden, is a fop. An idle popinjay with nothing more on his mind than how to best knot his cravat. He definitely doesn't spy against the French. Or arrange hasty weddings. Or occasionally commandeer the navy. And he certainly doesn't seek out mortal danger in order to combat his pervasive ennui. It's all just a big misunderstanding when he's shot by a French intelligence officer during a merry riverside chase.

This book is many things, but light and fluffy it is not.

Philip throws himself into danger in order to distract himself from the past, which is full of blood and loss and grief.

"My father wears a set of false teeth. Expensive things, wondrously made. Do you know what they call them? Waterloo teeth. I asked him once if he ever wondered if it was my brother's teeth rattling around in his skull now."

Fernside may present himself as a misanthrope, but (like Lord Christmas) he does so to hide that he does care about the world and those who populate it.

Fernside drew a long breath. "After Waterloo, there were so many injured. So many men who desperately needed medical treatment. And there were not enough doctors, not enough by half. Medical students did not have enough cadavers on which to learn. I saw many things that summer, and beyond, that I shall never unsee."

So: dark, with damaged characters, and a mystery: my favorite!

As with the previous book, the only fantastical element about this story is that it's an alternate history where same-sex marriages were legalized to help preserve the wealth of the ruling class. The mystery was interesting, the characters were both deeply damaged by their pasts, but still try to better the world, in their own ways.

Cover by Mitxeran

March 2022 | Rating: 8/10

Adventures in Aguillon

Socially Orcward (2021) Lisa Henry and Sarah Honey

Socially OrcwardDave's favorite thing is dragons.

Especially his dragons. And he is thankful that his kings gave him a tower where he could raise and keep them.

Simon Perrin doesn't know how to do much, but his willing to try.

What he does know, however, is dragons. So he becomes fast friends with Dave and ends up helping out with Dave's dragons.

Simon was a good reader-alouderer, Dave decided. His voice was clear and pleasant, and whenever the words were too big he'd take the time to stop and explain what they meant in smaller words without Dave having to ask him, which was nice.

Neither Dave nor Simon seem to want any of the things those around them want. I mean, kissing? UGH! But they do like each other.

Dave's tooth-tusks actually looked very friendly when he grinned, like ivory towers set up at either end of the wall of his smile.

But Simon has a secret–one that he is certain will ruin his friendship with Dave. But he has no choice, does he?

This is silly story but also adorable, but despite that went to a couple places I wasn't expecting (mostly near the end).

This is the third book in the series, and I haven't read the first two, and probably won't; I read this because it was an ace romance, and although it is lovely, I'm pretty sure the other books in the series have a lot of boinking, and I'm just not that interested.

But I'm glad I read this.

Cover by Steph Westerik

January 2024 | Rating: 7.5/10