At its heart, the book is mystery. In terms of the romance, it's put together more like an urban fantasy, with a slow-building relationship stretching over several books (instead of HEAs in specific books). The romance, of course, is between Brisbane and Lady Julia, and it develops as they solve mysteries together. This is their second. There has been a murder at the Abbey!
One cool thing.
I'm enjoying getting to know the various guests and distant relations who are staying at the Abbey. First we had snapshots of them, those thumbnail assessments you make when you first meet a person, but being that there was a murder, Lady Julia really gets these people's stories.
It's really quite fun from a human interest point of view to see what these different Victorian era characters are about, and how they wound up the way they did. There is one instance of Brisbane finding out what another man there is made of that is particularly brilliant and juicy.
Which brings me to Brisbane.
At the SAME TIME we get to know all these potential suspects, handsome, smoulderingly attractive Brisbane is becoming more and more mysterious. Raybourn, you taunt me!! We met Brisbane in Silent in the Grave, and I just absolutely love these two together. I won't say how things end, but throughout the book, Brisbane and Julia are both clearly attracted to each other, but stay aloof for various character reasons, unless they sort of want to get the upper hand on the other. It's not quite cat and mouse. I would say it's more cat and cat, which is delicious!
Like there is this one thing Brisbane does to distract Julia from something he doesn't want her to see, but I won't spoil it by telling you about it. And then Julia does it back. You don't get a balls-to-the-wall romance here, but there are many small wonderful moments with these two, and the air between them is so honeyed, in way, you can live on the small moments.
Lady Julia: Actually changing!
It is seldom I see so pronounced and meaningful a character change. Her evolution as a woman is central to the larger tale. For this reason, I would suggest starting the series at Silent in the Grave. Okay, a passage to go with some of what I'm talking about:
He [Nicholas Brisbane] stared at me a long moment, those astonishing black eyes searching mine. Finally, he shook his head. "You are up to something, but I cannot make out what and I do not have the time at present to compel you to speak."I snorted. "Compel me indeed! I think you know me better than that. I should like to see the man who could compel me to do anything I did not wish." That little speech surprised even me. I had come far from the quiet little dormouse I had been before my husband's death. Widowhood had been the making of me, I decided.But before I could admire myself too thoroughly, Brisbane leaned forward in his chair, pinning me once again with his gaze, but softening it somehow, and in the process drawing me in until I could see myself reflected in the inky depths. There was something otherworldly about that gaze, something oblique and unspoken, and yet it held all the sensual promise of a courtesan's smile.My corset felt suddenly too tight.
[she goes on for a para speculating on this and that...and then:]
...my defenses always fell to Brisbane, usually when he needed to breach them the most. How convenient for him, I thought bitterly.My throat felt thick, and when I spoke, my voice was like honeyed whiskey."Brisbane," I sad softly. Holding his gaze, I slid to my knees, coming to rest between his booted feet. I heard his breath catch, and a noise in the back of his throat that might have been a stifled groan.I held up my own hand teasingly. "A question first, my lord."I dropped my hand to his boot top. It rested there a moment, my fingers just below the curve of his knee, before I slid it with deliberate, teasing slowness down the supple leather to his foot, he exhaled slowly through flared nostrils, his eyes never leaving mine.Suddenly and without warning, I grabbed the boot hard and swung it up. He pulled back, swearing fluently in Gaelic, but I had caught him by surprise. I clamped onto the boot with both hands and held it...
Busted! She goes on to tell how she could tell from the state of his boots that he'd been roaming outside the Abbey. Oh, oh, all so fun and great.
Corsets from wikimedia commons.