by Deanna Raybourn
*Due for Release October 1st*
For Lady Julia Grey and Nicholas Brisbane, the honeymoon has ended…but the adventure is just beginning.
After eight idyllic months in the Mediterranean, Lady Julia Grey and her detective husband are ready to put their investigative talents to work once more. At the urging of Julia’s eccentric family, they hurry to India to aid an old friend, the newly-widowed Jane Cavendish. Living on the Cavendish tea plantation with the remnants of her husband’s family, Jane is consumed with the impending birth of her child—and with discovering the truth about her husband’s death. Was he murdered for his estate? And if he was, could Jane and her unborn child be next?
Amid the lush foothills of the Himalayas, dark deeds are buried and malicious thoughts flourish. The Brisbanes uncover secrets and scandal, illicit affairs and twisted legacies. In this remote and exotic place, exploration is perilous and discovery, deadly. The danger is palpable and, if they are not careful, Julia and Nicholas will not live to celebrate their first anniversary.
Dark Road to Darjeeling has been on my wishlist from the moment I finished Silent on the Moor (book three in the series). It has been a long wait, and I was surprised when I received this book a few weeks ago, to find myself not opening the book. I was terrified. What if it isn’t as good as previous books? Now that Julia and Brisbane are married, what if it doesn’t work anymore? I love this series! I want it to work! I kid you not, it was like a bride getting cold feet, I wanted to just go back to Silent on the Moor and ask Julia and Brisbane if really, they wanted to take this major step. I mean, who really needs marriage? It’s just a piece of paper… My big sister settled the issue for me. She said if I didn’t read the book pronto, she would see that as an opening to read the book first. Yeah, not going to happen. So, I took that major step, started to read, and well, fell in love with this series all over again.
Julia (now Brisbane) and her husband of nine months, the seriously attractive Nicholas Brisbane, are on honeymoon in Egypt, when out of nowhere they are approached by Julia’s siblings, Portia and Plum. Portia needs the newlyweds to take a trip to India to help her former companion and lover, Jane Cavendish. Jane’s surprising marriage and move to India, left Portia bereft, but a letter from a distraught Jane – now pregnant, widowed, and all alone – sends Portia rushing to her aid, to help her through the difficult process, especially since Jane’s child may be the sole heir of a tea plantation. Portia also fears that Jane’s husband was murdered, and if he was murdered, Jane and her unborn child might be next.
Soon the story sweeps us to exotic setting of the Himalayas (well, the foothills) as Julia tries to find out what lies behind the death of Freddie Cavendish. The mystery builds up at a steady pace, as Julia uses her wits and social graces to learn more about the inhabitants of the Valley of Eden, where the Cavendish tea plantation is located. As for Brisbane, he has stayed behind in Calcutta on a mysterious venture of his own, which makes Julia even more eager to solve the case, as she hopes it will prove to him that she is a worthy partner. I loved how throughout the book there is an atmosphere that is hard to explain, almost like the air is heavy with something but you can’t put your finger on it. It’s just out of reach and lends an additional facet to the mystery. Yet the drama in the book is understated, and as a reader, you are drawn deeper and deeper into the story as each layer is slowly unwrapped and revealed, until you are finally faced with the only possible truth of what or who lies behind the death of Freddie Cavendish, a revelation that leaves both you and the characters stunned.
Meanwhile, Julia and Brisbane are trying to get used to their new relationship as husband and wife, and it seems that after nine months of traveling, something is missing. I know, I know, been there? Done that? Yes, but you see, in this case – we have Ms. Raybourn’s phenomenal writing. In some books a plot like this becomes a load the rest of the story and characters must bear, as we see endless sniping between the couple without rhyme or reason, simply to re-create romantic tension that no longer exists after the “happily ever after.” Not so in Dark Road to Darjeeling; Ms. Raybourn’s plot is beautifully constructed. Here, too, the drama is understated; the troubles and concerns of Julia and Brisbane serve to enhance their understanding of each other’s personalities and bring their relationship to a new level. Is there tension? Well of course, what would the story be without it? but it isn’t tension for the sake of tension.
One of my favorite aspects of this series is the relationships between Julia and her family, the many March siblings. In Dark Road to Darjeeling we see more of Julia’s relationship with her sister Portia and her brother Plum. Not only does Ms. Raybourn give the reader some wonderfully humorous dialogues when this bunch gets together, it is through Portia and Plum that we understand why and how Julia became the woman she is. These characters are supposed to be “supporting characters” but really, they are so wonderful, I would love it if Ms. Raybourn wrote each of them their own book. Portia reminds me of my own big sister – funny, smart and bossy as hell, but there for you when you need support or a a quick trip back to facing reality. She is such an important character to Julia, giving her a more objective perspective. And Brisbane? I feel that it is through Portia that he realizes how important family is to Julia. I really hope we see more of her and all the Mad March clan in future books.
Dark road to Darjeeling was a superb book. It managed to renew my faith in marriage…I mean, historical mysteries. It always makes me happy when I can share books like these with other book lovers. This one is definitely one for the keeper shelf – right next to the rest of the books in the series.
*Special thanks to Elvie for her mad skills in editing 😉
Noa received a review copy of Dark Road to Darjeeling from Harlequin.
Visit Deanna Raybourn’s site here.
Lady Julia Grey Novels [HM]
Silent in the Grave, 2007.
Silent in the Sanctuary, 2008.
Silent on the Moor, 2009.
Dark Road to Darjeeling, October 1st, 2010.
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