Summer Reads: Historical Mysteries #amreading

My usual monthly Book Review Club is still on hiatus, but I thought I’d share some reviews anyway of four historical mysteries I read this summer.

Anatomist's Wife coverThe Anatomist’s Wife
by Anna Lee Huber,
Book 1 in the Lady Darby Mystery Series

Historical Mystery, Scotland 1830

My friend, Rebecca Anderson, recommended this book to me and I was glad she did.

Keira, Lady Darby, is the widow of a notorious anatomist who married her because of her artistic talent and then forced her to illustrate his anatomy book by observing autopsies. There was a scandal after his death and her part became public knowledge. She has been hiding out at her sister and brother-in-law’s estate in Scotland, until her sister decides to throw a house party and all the old pain comes back. The other guests treat her with disdain and mutter about her behind her back.

Then one of the female guests is murdered in a brutal fashion, and Keira is asked to help Nicholas Gage, who has some experience as an inquiry agent. Her anatomy training comes in handy, but she has a hard time dealing emotionally.

Very engaging main character and excellent mystery. I will read more in the series.

Maisy Dobbs Bundle 1 civer

Maisie Dobbs Bundle #1:
Pardonable Lies and Messenger of Truth

by Jacqueline Winspear
(actually books 3 & 4 in the series)

Setting: England in the early 1930s

I read the first two books in this series, Maisy Dobbs and Birds of a Feather and wanted more.

In Pardonable Lies, Maisie is asked to confirm the battlefield death of a man’s son, as well as to find out more about a friend’s brother who was reported missing, presumed dead, in WWI as well. It means Maisie must return to France and fight her own demons after being wounded at a battle station while nursing. And to make matters worse, someone wants her dead. I loved this book. I think it’s one of the best so far, after the first book which was excellent.

Messenger of Truth also revisits the specter of WWI. A female journalist, Georgina Bassington-Hope, asks Maisie to investigate whether her artist brother’s death was murder or a terrible accident. Maisie, who is a psychologist as well as an investigator, never does anything half way, so she ends up dredging up a lot of skeletons from the Bassington-Hope closets. Also good, but not quite as good as Pardonable Lies.

I do recommend this series to mystery readers looking for more depth of character than often found in series books.

Sovereign coverSovereign
(C. J. Sansom)
by C. J. Sansom,
Audiobook narrated by Stephen Crossley

When King Henry VIII goes on a progress to York, which rebelled the year before, Matthew is hired to assist with petitions from the Yorkers to the king. Henry is trying to consolidate his power and force the nobles to swear allegiance to him. Of course, nothing goes right for poor Matthew, a hunchback lawyer at Lincoln’s Inn. His father dies, so he and his assistant Jack Barak make a side trip to his old home, arriving a day late in York. Then a glazier removing stained glass from an abbey church falls into a wagon full of broken glass and dies after making a strange prediction about the king. Matthew can’t resist a mystery, so he sets out to investigate only to be foiled by higher up authorities, but not before Matthew uncovers an important clue, putting his life in danger.

This is a really long book, 676 pages in print, and 21 hours in audio, so it took me two months to finish. It’s really good though. Steven Crossley’s narration is excellent given the number of voices and accents involved.

Great series, though I recommend reading the books in order. The first one is Dissolution, set earlier in the reign of Henry VIII.

What have you been reading this summer?




Book Review Club: Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase #historical #romance

Original paperback cover

Original paperback cover

My choice for June’s Book Review Club is Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase, a historical romance set in 1828 Paris and England.

Loretta Chase has long been one of my favorite Regency/historical romance authors. This book balances her trademark humor with the hero’s emotional trauma.

The hero is Sebastian Ballister, the Marquis of Dane, known as the “bane and blight of the Ballisters”, a rake with a terrible reputation. The book starts with a chapter on Dane’s childhood, which is kind of a no-no in romance, but in this case was absolutely necessary. Without understand his miserable childhood, the adult Dane would have been complete unlikable, but knowing that there was a hurt, damaged child inside made a big difference. Still, there were times when I wanted to shake some sense into him.

The heroine, Jessica Trent, is the twenty-five-year-old spinster sister of one of Dane’s friends, Bertie Trent. Bertie isn’t the brightest candle in the room, so he’s easily led astray by Dane, whom Bertie tries to emulate. Unfortunately, Bertie can’t afford to lose money gambling, so Jessica and her grandmother Genevieve go to Paris to rescue Bertie from the clutches of the despicable Marquis of Dane.

Jess got all the brains in the Trent family, so she is more than a match for Dane. The clash between them is quite delicious, full of biting barbs and sexual tension. Jess is a marvelous heroine: smart, wise for her years, and Dane’s worst nightmare: a respectable woman who drives him mad with lust. Theirs is a volatile relationship, but really fun for the readers. Highly recommended for lovers of historical romance.

audiobook cover

audiobook cover

If you enjoy audiobooks, Kate Reading’s narration is brilliant. She does a fabulous job with all the different voices, accents and foreign languages, in this case French and Italian. (Dane’s mother was Italian.) Kate Reading is quickly becoming one of my favorite narrators.

Dear FCC: I bought this with an Audible credit and listened in the car.


As always, click on the graphic below for more great reviews in the Barrie Summy Book Review Club.

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