books

Anna Lee Huber

Books

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), An Artless Demise (2019), A Stroke of Malice (2020), A Wicked Conceit (2021)

Verity Kent: This Side of Murder (2017), Treacherous Is the Night (2018), Penny for Your Secrets (2019), A Pretty Deceit (2020)

Secrets in the Mist (2016)

Anthologies: The Deadly Hours (2020)


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.

Published by Berkley
Rating: 6.5/10

Re-Read: December 2017
Rating: 7/10

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.

Published by Berkley
Rating: 8/10

Re-Read: December 2017
Rating: 8/10

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.

Published by Berkley
Rating: 8/10

Re-Read: December 2017
Rating: 8/10

A Study in Death (2015)

Set in Scotland in 1831

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.

Published by Berkley
Rating: 8/10

Re-Read: January 2018
Rating: 9/10

A Pressing Engagement (2016)

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.

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.

Published by InterMix
Rating: 6/10

Re-Read: January 2018

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.

Published by Berkley
Rating: 8.5/10

Re-Read: January 2018
Rating: 8/10

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.

Publisher: Berkley
Rating: 7.5/10

An Artless Demise (2019)

Set in London in November 1831

Kiera and Sebastian are in London, trying to settle into married life, but murder and body snatchers are reminding people who Kiera left in the first place, and Lord Gage is reminding Sebastian that his marriage to Kiera would bring this down upon them.

What a delight, that Lord Gage.

The investigation into the murder discovers a young lord who nobody seems to miss.

“Wait.” Redditch glanced between us in startlement. “You think someone deliberately murdered my heir?”

“The evidence does seem to point in that direction,” Gage said.

Redditch sank back into the sofa as if he’d had the wind knocked out of him.

“Does that surprise you?”

He lifted a hand to rub his forehead. “Actually . . . no.”

I thoroughly enjoyed this, even if there were a few things I took issue with.

First, I’m not certain I believe Lord Gage’s softening towards Kiera. I’m not sure that seeing her flinch when he raises his hand would really make him start to see things differently.

Second, I’m still unsure about the rationale for the second murder.

The burking and body snatching bits were fascinating (and true) but they weren’t truly involved in that investigation–the primary mystery was the murder of the young lords, and I have qualms, as I said, about that second murder.

BUT

It was still an enjoyable story and an interesting mystery, and I do recommend this series.

Publisher: Berkley
Rating: 8/10

A Stroke of Malice (2020)

A Stroke of MaliceSet in Scotland in 1832

Kiera and her husband Sebastian Gage are spending the holidays at Duchess of Bowmont’s Twelfth Night party, when a group stumbles upon a dead body. Although it’s suspected that the decayed body is the husband of the Duchess’s daughter, no one knows for certain, and Kiera and Sebastian are asked to investigate.

Although I’ve read this time and again, marriage among the wealthy and noble throughout history were just awful.

For my part, I was most surprised to see them standing arm in arm, though I knew they often enough did so for show. Both of their current lovers might be present among the guests, but that wouldn’t stop them from performing this bit of pageantry.

Having been raised by a mother and father who adored each other, and taught us to eschew such immoral behavior, I found the rampant infidelity among a large portion of society to be awkward and disconcerting. But I was also aware that much of the nobility did not marry for love, but for wealth and connections.

Considering what’s going on in the world right now, it was a bit concerting to come across this.

Her eyes gleamed in her pale face. “The cholera outbreak.”

Her simple reply sent a chill of fear whispering down my spine. The deadly disease that had ravaged Russia and the Baltic lands had reached the shores of Britain— despite all efforts to prevent it— in early November at the Port of Sunderland in northern England. From there, it had begun to spread to the north and south along the coast, leapfrogging its way closer to the densely populated cities, leaving death in its wake.

(T)he housekeeper at Lord Helmswick’s estate— a diligent, but chatty woman named Mrs. Coble— has insisted that everyone wear kerchiefs tied around their faces when they leave the manor to prevent them from inhaling the bad air.

SURPRISE!

The strength of this series is the characters. I love Kiera, and how she and Sebastian are navigating their marriage. I also appreciate the secondary characters, how not only does Kiera’s family (and in this book the children of the Duchess) support and love one another, but they also fight and bicker.

There were several surprises in this story, the fall out of which will happen in later books, but they weren’t cliff-hanger surprises. Just developments that will certainly cause upheaval for the characters, but in a normal life kind of way.

The mystery was good, and I’ll admit I was concerned about how they were going to deal with the issues around Lady Eleanor. The resolution ended up being true to the time, which means it might not be satisfying to those who place justice before all else, but I think that makes the mystery more realistic.

So another good addition to the series, and sadly now I have to wait another year or more for the next book.

Publisher: Berkley
Rating: 8.5/10

A Wicked Conceit (2021)

A Wicked ConceitSet in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1832

Lady Darby is very pregnant at the start of this book, so it was clear she was going to the baby at the end of the book. “Let’s hope she doesn’t end up having the baby in some weird place because of the machinations of the mystery.”

Guess how that went for me.

Someone has written a novel about Bonnie Brock Kincaid, and unfortunately Kiera and Sebastian feature in it–with just the tiniest bit of obfuscation so the publisher doesn’t get sued.

Both Brock AND Sebastian & Kiera want to know who the author is. And Alana (Kiera’s sister) is distressed and wants all the talk to stop as well, for fear of what it will do for Kiera and her baby.

Sadly, I had multiple problems with this story.

First, why on earth would Brock accuse Kiera & Sebastian of being behind the book, when the story quite obviously slanders them as much as Bonny Brock?

Second, there are a lot of references to the novella that came out a bit ago as part of an anthology. Since I didn’t really love that anthology, I wasn’t thrilled to be reminded of it.

Third, I really did not care for the Hollywood ending. That’s typical for me, but having the baby’s birth be part of the ending was just too much.

Fourth, this anachronism really bugged me.

And I had never colored inside the lines.

Coloring books were invented in the 1880s.

On the plus side, she totally referenced John Snow in the bibliography!

It wasn’t until 1854, when Dr. John Snow was able to trace the source of a single cholera outbreak in London to a specific water pump, and then a decades-long fight for germ theory to overtake that of the miasma theory, that the real cause of cholera was pinpointed and accepted.

It’s not that I disliked this book, it just wasn’t as good as I have come to expect these mysteries to be.

Publisher : Berkley
Rating: 7/10

 

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.

Publisher: Kensington
Rating: 8/10

Treacherous Is the Night (2018) 

Set in Europe in 1919.

The second Verity Kent story finds Verity and her husband trying to come to terms with each other–and decide if their marriage will survive his letting her think he was dead for more than a year.

I was still coming to grips with his return. Still trying to reconcile myself to the fact that he’d allowed me to believe him dead for fifteen months. Still trying to bridge the distance four and a half years of war had built between us. Our five-year wedding anniversary would be in October, and yet these four weeks since his reappearance were the longest we’d ever spent together.

I’ll be honest, I borrowed this from the library, because as much as I like Anna Lee Huber, I can’t afford a lot of new releases, and for her it’s her Lady Darby series. It’s not that I won’t buy the book eventually–it’s just that it’ll have to wait till the price drops.

Verity’s friend Daphne drags her a spiritualist, where Verity receives a supposed message from a woman with whom she had worked undercover during the war. This messages draws Verity into searching for the agent (and friend) and puts an even greater strain on her marriage.

One of the fascinating things about this series is that it takes a blunt look at the aftermath of the Great War.

Tens of thousands of laborers were at work on the monumental task of tidying up the battlefields, but it would take years to set things to right. To gather up the barbed wire, the twisted scraps of wood and metal, the spent shell casings. To remove the empty ammunition boxes and rifles, the heaps of overturned tanks, and the stumps of shattered trees. To extract the unexploded shells and corpses. To fill in the trenches and cratered landscape of shell holes.

London wasn’t exactly short on men wearing masks these days. Those soldiers who had come home with horrific facial injuries often had to settle for concealing their disfigurements with galvanized copper masks painted with their former likeness, or that of another person.

I’ve actually seen pictures of some of these masks, as we’ve gone through the 100th anniversaries of important events of The Great War. The damage done to the men who survived was horrifying–and yet so many of those scars were ignored in so many ways.

The mystery here was interesting, but not quite as compelling as the history as well as the difficulties Verity and Sidney were having, coming to terms with what they did in the war. It was fascinating to me that Sidney expected Verity to be totally okay with allowing her to believe he was dead, and that he might take exception to actions she took while she believed he was dead.

But it was 1919, and things were very different.

I do like this series very much, just not quite as much as the Lady Darby series.

Publisher: Kensington
Rating: 8/10

Penny for Your Secrets (2019)

Penny for Your SecretsSet in England in 1919.

Verity and Sidney are on more solid ground, but still trying to work through both Sidney’s issues from the war, and her issues of having spent more than a year thinking he was dead.

What I enjoy most about this series is the post WWI view of the world.

The idea of filling my days and nights with nothing but an endless round of tedious teas, morning calls, and society events— as I’d expected to do before the war— no longer appealed to me. I supposed my time with the Secret Service was to blame for that. I was no longer content with such a life now that I’d known adventure and made important contributions. I wondered how many other women were chafing under their enforced return to their prewar life. How many soldiers were missing the excitement and comradery of the battlefield, no matter its danger and deprivations, when faced with the drudgery of their normal life?

Unfortunately, I just didn’t enjoy this book anywhere near as much as the first two books in the series. I don’t think it was Sidney working out his issues–that’s usually something I am fascinated by, but I can see how it might feel slow to other readers.

My biggest problem was trying to keep track of everyone–I actually looked for a cast of characters at one point, to help me keep things straight. Also, there wasn’t one, and I kept getting confused as to which of the two guys Verity had had an affair with during the war, and which she’d had feelings for during the first book. And all the other men in the book ended up a muddle when they started talking about motives for murder etc.

Part of it is that people go by a variety of names throughout the story, and I simply got all the rich white men confused.

The other part is that the heart of the mystery never really made any sense to me. I mean, they stated their reasons, but I never got why they thought their plot would work, OR why so many people had to die to keep the plot a secret.

So, this book as a sad disappointment compared to all the other books of hers I’ve read and loved. I hope it’s just a blip.

Publisher: Kensington Books
Rating: 5.5/10

A Pretty Deceit (2020)

A Pretty DeceitSet in England in 1919

Verity and Sidney are still searching for evidence as the crimes they know were committed by Lord Ardmore, but in the meantime, Verity’s parents guilt her into visiting her aunt, whose house had been damaged by the RAF soldiers living there during the war, and whose cousin returned from the floor blind.

I borrowed this from the library when it became available, so even though I wasn’t sure I was in the mood for it, I read it anyway.

Which probably means I enjoyed it less than I might have otherwise.

One of the things I particularly liked were Verity’s interactions with her cousin. Initially she isn’t sure how to treat him, but she does figure it out, and you can see that he had desperately been needing some kind of normalcy in his life, which is mother (her aunt) was completely able to give him. Also, both were still struggling with the losses of their siblings, which gave them a point to bond over.

Mostly I just had problems getting into the story. I’d forgotten the events of the previous book, and there weren’t quite enough reminders me to feel as if I’d caught up, which kept pulling me from the story as I was trying to figure out / remember what had happened.

Perhaps because I wasn’t fully immersed in the story, I also kept finding weak points in the story. It wasn’t anything big, just doubts that the characters would have acted quite in the way they did. Such as Sidney’s reactions to some of the things in Verity’s past. At times he came across as old fashioned but at others he felt strangely modern–I could never quite get a feeling for how he would react in any given situation.

None of these were deal-breakers for this story, but I think that if I’d been more in the mood for this book (or had recently re-read the previous book) I might have enjoyed it more.

Publisher : Kensington Books
Rating: 7/10


Secrets in the Mist (2016)

Set in England in 1812

Ella Winterton has spent the past four years dealing with loss and grief and anger. The deaths of her mother and brother sent her father into an alcoholic decline, and being jilted by the man she thought she loved while still in mourning made things worse.

I wondered as I had so many times before whether my mother and Erik were together in Heaven. Whether they looked down on me and saw my troubles, or whether they had ceased to care, forgetting me much as Father had.

But Ella managed to hold onto her friendship with Kate–her childhood best friend and the sister of the man she thought she loved–and Kate’s illness sends her out into the marshes at night, where her life takes an unexpected–and dangerous–turn.

Everyone in Thurlton knew about the smugglers. People in Norfolk had been smuggling goods in and out of the country for the better part of 150 years. It had begun initially as a solution to the hefty import and export taxes few could afford to pay, but the system had simply become too ingrained in people’s lives to stop even when the taxes were lowered or repealed. Much of the village depended on their enterprise, and a large number of the men were employed by them in some capacity, including Mr. Turner and Mr. Harper. We all knew, but no one talked about it. At least, not in public.

Ella may be aware of the smuggling, but being the well-bred daughter of gentry, she doesn’t really know, and isn’t really a part of the town. Really, the only people she truly has are her family’s elderly housekeeper and her best friend, Kate.

I’d had this book on my wishlist of a couple of years, hoping it would drop in price, but it never did. Since it also isn’t available from the library, I finally broke down and bought.

Why did I wait? Because I like her other books very much, so I of course was afraid that I wouldn’t like it. (This isn’t actually completely ridiculous. I have authors whose writing I either love or don’t enjoy at all.)

I needn’t have worried, I did enjoy this story. It’s full of mists and darkness and dashing men and danger. And even though I was pretty sure what was going on, I didn’t mind that Ella didn’t guess, because–why would she? She is a sheltered young woman. Her not guessing what was really going on didn’t make her stupid, or even naive, really. It just made her a young woman with no world experience who had a lot going on in her life.

Plus, there was a lot to like about Ella.

And I felt something loosen inside me I hadn’t known I’d been holding tight until that very moment.

I had not realized how much I’d needed Robert to express his regret. I’d lived so many years believing it would never happen that I supposed I’d stopped hoping for it. And now that he had, I hardly knew what to say. It was balm for my bruised pride to hear him apologize, but it did not change what had happened. The hurt did not miraculously vanish, nor did the discomfort his presence caused me.

Those last two sentences: His apology didn’t change what had happen. The hurt did not miraculously vanish.

There are a couple weaknesses. Kate is one for the first half of the book. We know Ella loves her, yet she is an enigma to the reader, not doing much except providing a reason for Ella to cross the moors. She does develop more in the second half of the book, so perhaps it was just that Kate is sick at the start of the book, and so doesn’t have a lot of personality.

Ella’s complicated relationship with her father was also very well done.

I sat listening to his broken weeping, wanting to reach out to him, wanting him to go away. He was my father after all. I wanted to comfort him, to tell him all was well. But it wasn’t. It never was.

I enjoyed the book, and wouldn’t mind reading another, but I’m also ok if this is a stand-alone.

Publisher: Brightstone Media, Inc.
Rating: 9/10

Re-Read: November 2020
Rating: 8/10


Anthologies


The Deadly Hours (2020) Susanna Kearsley, Anna Lee Huber, Christine Trent, C.S. Harris

The Deadly HoursTheses are four novellas, each connected by a cursed time piece.

“Weapon of Choice” by Susanna Kearsley
“In a Fevered Hour” by Anna Lee Huber
“A Pocketful of Death” by Christine Trent
“Siren’s Call” by C.S. Harris

“In a Fevered Hour” by Anna Lee Huber
Set in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1831

This story features Lady Darby and her husband Sebastian Gage, soon after their wedding. Bonnie Brock Kincaid comes to Lady Darby asking for her help in finding a cursed watch he inherited. While visiting them he falls ill–possibly from the curse and possibly from an illness going around the city. Lady Darby calls Kincaid’s sister (whom she was instrumental in rescuing in an earlier book) to help care for him and she and Gage try to find the watch.

I enjoyed this story, because I like Lady Darby and Gage, and because Kincaid and his sister are interesting characters.

I also liked how the Typhus outbreak was worked into the story.
Rating: 7.5/10

It was a very interesting idea, and for the most part I enjoyed seeing the way the stories wove bits and pieces into each other. I just wish the third story had been stronger, since it drug down the rest of the anthology.

Publisher : Poisoned Pen Press
Rating: 7/10