Desert Isle Keeper
There is something about a well-done mystery that grabs the reader, regardless of whether or not you are a mystery lover. I am not a mystery lover. That being said, I love Sherlock Holmes (kind of the ultimate detective, yeah?), I love the Lady Julia series by Deanna Raybourn, and I love Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell series (which is kinda still Sherlock Holmes, but whatever). So maybe it’s just one specific genre of mysteries I enjoy, but if you are a fan of any of the aforementioned series, I would say it’s a good bet you would also enjoy Anna Lee Huber’s Lady Darby series.
Lady Kiera Darby has had an eventful few years. After the death of her husband, the reveal that he was forcing her to help with his anatomy book – specifically by sketching and painting dissections – which led to her becoming a social outcast in London, Kiera has been staying with her sister and brother-in-law in Scotland. After a murder at their home leads to the investigative pairing of Kiera and Sebastian Gage, she has been preoccupied with thoughts of the man, wondering why he left so suddenly, and has not kept in touch with either her or her brother-in-law, his good friend.
Beginning shortly after the first book left off, now Kiera’s sister Alana is again pregnant, and her husband is moving their family temporarily to Edinburgh for the birth. Stopping on their way to visit his old school friend, Michael Dalmay, who has recently become engaged to a cousin, Kiera once again runs into Gage. This time, however, it isn’t something so simple as a murder – there is a missing girl, an evil doctor and a suspicious madman. Unfortunately, neither Kiera nor Gage know how these all fit together.
I love Kiera. I simply adore her. She is strong and opinionated, a bit of a busybody, has a rather tragic past, is smart, talented, a good sister, and such a well-rounded character that I could easily buy her as a real person. And that is the kind of heroine I love – someone who could easily be real. We don’t get as much about Gage, since the story is told in first person from Kiera’s point of view, but what we do get is that he, too, has a complex history, and wears a mask in presenting himself to others. The initial impression in the first book of this series, The Anatomist’s Wife, is that he is a rakehell and a playboy, but there is so much more going on with him that Kiera slowly finds out through the progression of the two stories.
The actual mystery plot is deliciously complicated, but works itself out perfectly. The madman, William Dalmay, and his brother Michael were family friends with Kiera’s, and she remembers him from when she was a child – he was actually her painting tutor for a little while. He is tormented by both his experiences in war and his subsequent residency in an insane asylum. What bits of information the reader gets makes it obvious that he is truly a tortured soul.
Honestly, the best thing about this series, and this book in particular, is that every character has a backstory. You may not get their entire history, but you always get the feeling that they are concrete and multidimensional. As I think back to the story, they are what I remember the most.
I also loved the slow burn between Kiera and Gage. And by loved, I mean I positively squealed when they kissed. It was completely expected – what with the traditional witty banter and can’t-stop-thinking-about-you moments and all – but it was pretty much perfect. There’s not a whole lot of love story here, but what there is definitely worked.
Much like Deanna Raybourn’s Lady Julia mysteries, the Lady Darby books focus less on the relationship between our two main characters, and more on the mystery and the setting. Also, you really need to read the first book, The Anatomist’s Wife, to understand some of what is happening here. But the little sizzles between Kiera and Gage are fabulous, and definitely leave me wanting more in the best of ways. I now need to go purchase myself a copy of the first book in the series, and am really looking forward to the next!