"No curative... is not a poison in the wrong hands."
Feb 2, 2009
Not only an involving story but a guilty pleasure, this imprint is associated with Harlequin, but in no way should this book be overlooked as simply a Victorian romance, as the author skillfully seduces her readers with the mysterious death of Edward Grey in 1886 London. An eccentric and spoiled young man long in poor health from an ailing heart, no one expects foul play when Edward succumbs, but when his widow, Lady Julia, meets Nicholas Brisbane over her husband's inert body, the darkly handsome inquiry agent informs her that he was hired by Edward. It seems Edward was receiving a number of threatening missives and was terrified that someone meant to do him harm. After the required period of mourning, her home filled with assorted relatives who have come to offer comfort, Julia contacts Brisbane, requesting that he reopen his investigation. Seeing this exercise as a diversion, Julia is completely unprepared for the revelations that will surface.
From a wealthy family like her childhood-sweetheart husband, Julia has enjoyed the safety of privilege in London society, but once the investigation begins in earnest, the still youthful widow has cause to pay closer attention to her home, her staff and her assumptions about those around her. For the frequently enigmatic Brisbane has, by prodding and curt lectures, finally impressed upon Julia that she may be in grave danger; indeed, the murderer may be someone in Grey House. Whether purposefully stubborn or unwilling to entertain that someone she knows means her harm, Julia tends to balk at Brisbane's air of authority, hiding critical information from him. The fact that he is inordinately attractive, with the appeal of a Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights, both unnerves Julia and increases her petulance. The result is a contentious relationship fueled by mutual interest and great resistance by both parties.
What begins as a parlor mystery accelerates into a truly menacing predicament, Julia drawn close to the eye of the storm, unaware of the increasing danger she invites. The pages filled with well-heeled gentry, the hard-working poor, the paucity of the servants' existence in Grey House, a delicious French courtesan, an enclave of gypsies, grave robbers and a house of ill-repute, the novel samples late nineteenth century London in all its gritty diversity. Julia's horizons expand considerably through her adventures with Brisbane and his associates, not to mention her own impulsive actions. But the truth is more shocking and painful than expected, Julia's enviable world in shambles by the time it is over. With a remarkable blend of menace, romance and skillful plotting, Raybourn has crafted a riveting tale of privilege and murder with a titillating twist, only the first of many, one would hope. Luan Gaines.