Category Archives: Deanna Raybourn

>Author Deanna Raybourn takes the Paperback Proust…and giveaway!


It’s always a pleasure to welcome Deanna Raybourn to the Dollhouse, she was after all, one of our very first guests and she does write an awesome series with a fabulous heroine and one BadAss hero.

Her latest book, the fifth in the Julia Grey series – The Dark Enquiry(read Noa’s review here) will be out tomorrow, and since, horror of horrors! Ms. Raybourn has never taken the Paperback Proust we decided it was about time to do something to change that…enjoy!

What are you reading at the moment?

DR: Justine Picardie’s biography of Coco Chanel.

Most recent splurge?

Dark Road to Darjeeling (Lady Julia Grey)DR: I literally ordered shoes online about five minutes ago—butter yellow and gray heels to go with a dress I bought for RWA. When I was first published, I always made a point of wearing interesting shoes and now readers always want me to show my feet! I have even had readers identify me at conferences because of my shoes, so now I feel I have to up my game every time. I fear this is going to get costly…

What you appreciate the most in your friends?

DR: Loyalty and a lack of drama. I like people who are funny and intelligent and kind with a slightly warped sense of irony.

Who are your favorite heroes in fiction?

DR: Atticus Finch, Frederick Wentworth, Rochester, Darcy, Julian Kestrel.

Who are your favorite heroines in fiction?

DR: Flora Poste, Amelia Peabody, Elizabeth Bennet, Precious Ramotswe, the Provincial Lady.

What characters in history do you most dislike?

Silent On The Moor (A Lady Julia Grey Novel)DR: I used to adore Mary, Queen of Scots, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten progressively more annoyed by he r stupidity. I’m Team Elizabeth now. I have issues with quite a few Renaissance popes and most dictators. I also have a fairly active loathing for Henry VIII.

Who are your heroines in World history?

DR: Elizabeth I, Grace O’Malley, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Katherine Swynford. I should point out that I am slightly biased with regards to Katherine Swynford—she is my 17th great grandmother.

What is your present state of mind? Focused.

DR: I am immersed in research for my next project and loving every minute of it, but I am also learning how to put it down and focus on my family when they need to be the priority. Being an author calls for a very different skill set than being a writer, and after five years of being published I am finally learning to pull them all together!

What is your motto?

DR: “Specto subitus.” Expect the unexpected. The last time I was in Las Vegas I very nearly got it tattooed on my wrist because it shows itself almost every day in my life.

What is your greatest extravagance?

DR: I am a pragmatic hedonist. I would rather buy a peony with my last dollar than something practical, but I never let things get too far out of hand. I do like to travel, so if I’m going to splash out on something, it will usually be a trip. I also think it’s important to treat yourself on a daily basis—flowers, good tea, nice chocolates, fabulous perfume—whatever makes you happy.

Silent in the Sanctuary: A Lady Julia Grey MysteryWhat is your favorite journey?

DR: Life. It’s very easy to think of travel only in terms of journeys, but I think life is utterly wasted if you don’t stop and take a look around and figure out where you’re going and if that’s really where you want to end up. That life philosophy is courtesy of Ferris Bueller.

On what occasion do you lie?

DR: I don’t. I never want to hurt someone’s feelings, so I may only tell a small part of the truth, but whatever I tell will be the truth. Life is vastly simpler that way.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

DR: Imperfection. I think being content with uncertainty or loose ends or the little messes that life tends to throw at you is the secret to it all. If there is no such thing as perfection—and I don’t think there is—then you are free to be happy anytime with the imperfection of it all. You can’t live your life on the premise that you’ll be happy when X happens or when Y is over. Life is now, it’s here, it’s untidy. Be happy with that, and you can be happy always.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?

DR: Something with wings—a butterfly or a showy little bird with some fascinating plumage.

What is your greatest regret?

Silent in the GraveDR: I don’t believe in regret. I think every choice brings you to where you are. If it’s a choice you wouldn’t make again, then you learned something and that is not a thing to be regretted. If it’s a choice you’re happy with, then there’s certainly nothing to regret there either.

When and where were you happiest?

DR: Any given moment. Many times I’ll be puttering away at work or hanging out with my family or even tidying up the house and it hits me that this is happiness, those quiet everyday moments that don’t come with a trumpet fanfare. It just tiptoes in and sits with you and waits for you to notice sometimes. A good meal and a nice glass of wine in a lovely setting don’t hurt either…

Which talent would you most like to have?

DR: Singing or drawing. I think either would give me immense pleasure and I am rubbish at both.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

DR: Raising an extraordinary daughter. She will be seventeen this year and she’s an absolute delight to be around—funny, smart, and kind. Being her parent has taught me everything I know about kindness and patience and empathy and gentleness. I’m also extremely proud of sticking it out and writing novels for fourteen years before I got published, but that kind of perseverance still doesn’t compare to raising a child!

More about Deanna: A sixth-generation native Texan, Deanna Raybourn grew up in San Antonio, where she met her college sweetheart. She married him on her graduation day and went on to teach high school English and history. During summer vacation at the age of twenty-three, she wrote her first novel. After three years as a teacher, Deanna left education to have a baby and pursue writing full-time.

Fourteen years and many, many rejections after her first novel, she signed two three-book deals with MIRA Books.

Thank you so much to Deanna Raybourn for those wonderful answers!
You can find out more about Deanna and her books on her website
*~*~*Dark Enquiry Giveaway*~*~*
A chance to win a brand new copy of The Dark Enquiry is just one step away… 
We asked Deanna to tell us what her most recent splurge was and what her greatest extravagance was (read more about her answer on her Blog
The Dark Enquiry (Lady Julia Grey Novel)
Now share in the comments – what is your most recent splurge and your greatest extravagance? 
We would also appreciate if you share the link on twitter! 
A random winner will be selected on July 2nd winner to be announced on Sunday the 3rd in the Week in Review post! 
Giveaway is International

>ARC Review: The Dark Enquiry by Deanna Raybourn


*This book will be released on June 21*
*This review may contain spoilers of previous books in the series*
The Dark Enquiry (A Lady Julia Grey Novel)Partners now in marriage and in trade, Lady Julia and Nicholas Brisbane have finally returned from abroad to set up housekeeping in London. But merging their respective collections of gadgets, pets and servants leaves little room for the harried newlyweds themselves, let alone Brisbane’s private enquiry business.
Among the more unlikely clients: Julia’s very proper brother, Lord Bellmont, who swears Brisbane to secrecy about his case. Not about to be left out of anything concerning her beloved—if eccentric—family, spirited Julia soon picks up the trail of the investigation…

It leads to the exclusive Ghost Club, where the alluring Madame Séraphine holds evening séances…and not a few powerful gentlemen in thrall. From this eerie enclave unfolds a lurid tangle of dark deeds, whose tendrils crush reputations and throttle trust.
Shocked to find their investigation spun into salacious newspaper headlines, bristling at the tension it causes between them, the Brisbanes find they must unite or fall. For Bellmont’s sake and more they’ll face myriad dangers born of dark secrets, the kind men kill to keep….
I’m really pleased my review of The Dark Enquiry was set to be posted during BadAss Boys in Fiction Week because one of my favorite BadAss heros (More on that in my BadAss post) is Mr. Nicholas Brisbane husband of the intelligent and effervescent Lady Julia Grey.
By now some of you already know how much I love this historical mystery series. I mentioned it as being my most anticipated book in June and I might have also counted the days until the release…Ok, so I absolutely counted the days. Not that I had to really, my big sister only kept calling me on a weekly basis just to do the following: “When does the next Julia book come out? When will you have it? When will I have it?” Thankfully when I got the book the calls changed to “is there a lot of Brisbane in it?”
So, to answer that question and a few others without spoiling, Yes, this book has plenty of Brisbane. Just the way my sister (and I) like it. When we last left the Brisbanes they were getting over their less than relaxing honeymoon in India. Brisbane had also agreed to teach Julia what she would need to know about the detecting business so that they could work as (almost) equal partners.
In The Dark Enquiry Julia is making some progress in that department…when she isn’t blowing things up. Then she discovers her eldest brother Lord Bellmont visited Brisbane and is seeking his help with a very delicate enquiry. Julia wants in on the case and well, things go a bit haywire from there.
With mysteries it’s always very hard to write reviews because you never know what you can reveal without revealing too much. So, I won’t share more of the plot but what I will share is how much I enjoyed this book. Deanna Raybourn delivers as always – a wonderful intriguing mystery with just the right amount of humor and romance in a perfectly researched historical setting.
If Dark Road to Darjeeling was filled with a sense of something lurking just beneath the surface, understated drama that led to quite an explosive finish – seriously, you must read it if you have yet to do so; The Dark Enquiry was not as understated, it was action packed from the first page and right through to the epilogue (which made me want to sneak into Ms. Raybourn’s home to steal her notes on book 6).
This installment in the series also had Julia and Brisbane working together for most of the book, though not always with each member of the team being aware of the fact. A circumstance which led to quite a few of the action packed scenes and the humorous ones as well.
The ever-evolving relationship between Julia and Brisbane is always one of my favorite things to read about – there is no stagnancy here! No ‘been there, done that’ which many series become afflicted with a few books in. In the Dark Enquiry the focus turns to Nicholas Brisbane – more of his heritage, what makes him tick, his insecurities and just how much he loves Julia. It made for truly delicious reading, as did all their scenes together.
The Dark Enquiry also has guest appearances from my favorite supporting cast – The March family. Julia’s father is there in all his glory, Portia is back, now with a new responsibility and Plum is the proverbial third wheel. Then there is the stuffed-shirt Bellmont whose own personal life is about to wreak havoc on Julia and Brisbane’s…
There are some sad moments and quite a lot to think about as we wait for the next book in the series, but as always, it was completely worth the wait, another sublimely pleasurable read from Deanna Raybourn.
Happy Reading!

>ARC Review: Dark Road to Darjeeling by Deanna Raybourn


Dark Road to Darjeeling (Julia Grey 4)
by Deanna Raybourn
*Due for Release October 1st*

Dark Road to Darjeeling

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.

>Deanna Raybourn talks about her heritage


The Delightful Deanna Raybourn Dishes with PBD
When the Paperback Dolls asked me to guest blog, it was suggested that I might like to share a few details of my Texas heritage in honor of the theme this month. Naturally, I jumped at the chance, because honestly, the trick is getting Texans to hush about their heritage!
In my case, I am a sixth-generation native Texan, with roots on my mother’s side going back to the War for Texas Independence. With that kind of history come stories, lots of stories. In Texas, like the rest of the south, women gather in the kitchen to gossip, but the men like to tell a tale or two as well, and more than once I found my grandfather in the yard, telling the same story my grandmother was passing along in the house. Scandal was offered up in juicy tidbits, and I learned that if I was quiet and still, they often forgot I was listening. I got an accidental education in some rather grown-up subjects. I had family members who were adulterers and runaway wives, murderers and horse thieves.

Tales of untimely deaths or the occasional incarceration were related in ghoulish detail. I heard about the great-uncle who fell into a bonfire and perished while burning autumn leaves, and I learned about the wife-killer who carved a hope chest in prison, emblazoning the word “Mother” across the lid. (It now sits serenely in my mother’s bedroom, and you would never guess it had such dubious origins.) I listened to stories about angry fights that erupted into gunfire, and accidental deaths couched as suicides. We were the south Texas version of the Starkadders of Cold Comfort Farm, with more than a few nasty things to be seen in the woodshed.

But those tales became warp and weft to me of the fabric of storytelling. I learned that conflict is the essence of telling a good story, and that the twistier a tale, the better. I learned–like most southerners–that eccentricity was to be prized, and that being ordinary was settling for something less. And while my own storytelling might seem on the surface to borrow more heavily from the English side of my family, I owe my love of the macabre to the Texan half, to men and women who rustled horses and killed their wives and abandoned their babies and drove cattle north to Kansas. They lived larger than most, and because they insisted on living by their own lights, I have a hundred stories to tell.

Want to learn more about this amazing author?

>The Dead Travel Fast: A Gothic Horror Tale


Can lightning strike–the same place, or the same person–more than once? Statistically, yes, although a high concentration of electrical wires and/or electronic equipment seems to play a major role in determining the likelihood of such an occurrence. Under most conditions, though, it’s pretty unlikely.

But what if we’re talking about authors? (Metaphorically-speaking, of course; I’d really hate to see Zeus flinging lightning bolts at my favorite authors, all of a sudden…) What are the odds that an author with a very successful book or series already under her/his belt can create similar results, a second time?

With that question in mind, I had high hopes going into Deanna Raybourn’s latest book, The Dead Travel Fast. As the first standalone from her delightful Lady Julia Grey series, this new book would have a very pretty pair of slippers to fill. Still, the idea of a supernatural mystery set in the 19th-century was utterly compelling, especially coming from the mind of such a talented author.

The Dead Travel Fast starts off promisingly enough; Theodora LeStrange, a Scottish lass in her mid-to-latter 20s, has just lost her source of income following the death of her only living male relative. Her sole option, it appears, is to move in with her sister’s family–her sister, the husband (a parson), and four (soon-to-be-five!) small children–in their already-cramped home. The problems with that plan are abundant; Theodora and her sister have little in common, the husband is a busybody who insists he knows what is best for Theodora (regardless of how little he actually has a handle on any such thing), and the children are all small, noisy, and constantly underfoot. In addition to these frustrations, such conditions would also seriously hamper Theodora in pursuit of her dream–that of becoming a published author capable of sustaining herself.

It is, therefore, with a great deal of joy that she receives a most-fortuitous missive from an old boarding school chum, Cosmina Dragulescu. Cosmina, it seems, is soon to be wed, and would like nothing better than to have her dearest friend by her side for the upcoming nuptials a few months hence. Such a wonderful opportunity this presents for our fledgling writer, as Cosmina’s family lives far, far from Scotland… in the Carpathians, in the heart of mysterious Transylvania! Theodora accepts the invitation with alacrity, as it solves both her immediate problem of a place to live as well as offering her the chance to travel and have a great adventure. (Note: Theodora, although perhaps not fully-realized, is another admirable Raybourn heroine–progressive in her thinking and independent by nature–and it is interesting to see just how she goes about achieving her dream.)

Eventually Theodora arrives in Transylvania, only to encounter her first hints of the strange foreignness she will soon find. The tiny village she has been dropped off at isn’t her final destination; she discovers that she still needs to traverse the steep and rugged mountain nearby in order to reach the Dragulescu castle at the very top. Carriage travel isn’t possible up the shear precipice, though, and so she must be carted up–in what proves to be a most unsettling ride–in a sedan chair, on the backs of two strong men.

Once deposited safely–albeit a bit jostled–at the castle, she is nervous and excited, for the edifice awaiting her is straight out of a fairy tale–all dark and menacing and exotic–and the inhabitants of such further contribute to her overall sense of anxiety. Her old friend Cosmina is quite altered in appearance, not the plump, rosy-cheeked girl she’d known, but one grown thin and wan. The other castle-dwellers are even more distressing: the Countess, an older woman obviously suffering from some illness which has left her in a weakened state; the Countess’ companion, a stiff, severe Austrian woman who serves as her nurse/attendant; the nurse’s son, a taciturn young man who functions as the steward; the requisite cook and a couple of servants; and finally, the Countess’ son Andrei, now the current Count following his father’s recent passing.

Theodora doesn’t quite know what to make of her fellow residents. Even Cosmina is not as she’d expected, for she is suffering from some malaise (which Theodora soon learns is disappointment over her broken engagement). The Countess is polite but haughty, causing Theodora to be uncomfortable and wary in her presence. Frau Amsel, the companion, takes an instant dislike and is most unpleasant toward her. Florian Amsel is quiet, dour, and odd. And the Count? He is quite the enigma–an urbane, handsome man who has spent much time in Paris, he clearly doesn’t fit in with the rest of them, and yet there he is, forced to take over the running of the castle as well as the welfare of the villagers (who have a feudalistic relationship with the Dragulescu family), by dint of his father’s death. Of course, such interesting companions also have the potential to provide much fodder for a budding writer, so Theodora is determined to make the best of her time among them.

As her days are spent primarily in the library, writing, and her nights, with the family, it only gradually becomes clear there is much evil which lies beneath the surface of life at Castle Dragulescu. Rumors of supernatural things abound, and it isn’t just the uneducated peasants down in the village who believe in such legends. The family doctor tells Theodora tales of local werewolves, and the castle servants are sure the dead count has become a strigoi mort (a vampire who returns by night to suck the blood from those still living in his lands). From her room in the tower, Theodora experiences firsthand strange happenings; the dog wakes her up–then disappears, as if by magic–in the middle of the night, from within her locked room. She sees what appears to be a winged creature (a vampire bat?) from her window. She hears the eerie howling of wolves (werewolves?), at all hours of the day and night. Things come to a head when the castle is awakened one night by horrific screams, to find that a maid has been murdered, and there are two puncture wounds–still bleeding–visible on her exposed breast. It is clear that something must be done; everyone is surely at risk from whomever, or whatever, has committed this atrocity.

Theodora, meanwhile, has struck up a relationship of sorts with the Count. Their attraction doesn’t come as a surprise, since both are unattached, intelligent adults, but the fact that they meet in secret, late at night, is most shocking. It is through this unorthodox friendship of theirs that Theodora persuades the Count to set aside his playboy ways and take responsibility for setting things to right within his demesne–including the murder and the subsequent fears which everyone now labors under–no matter what the cost. His subsequent actions put in motion a sequence of events which lead to the eventual, inevitable, revelation of “who/what/why/how-dunit”.

The revelation is rewarding, paying homage to all the classic Gothic horror tales from which Raybourn obviously takes her inspiration. I also appreciate that she continues the story a bit past the denouement, because it gives her the opportunity to tie up those little loose ends (which authors so often neglect to do)–the “what happened to whom, afterward”, sort of questions.

There are a few little quibbles, though. The middle of the story is a bit repetitive, with Theodora thinking the same thoughts again and again. Also, it would have been nice if the legends she introduced had been explored more fully; we only come face-to-face with a few of the possible horrors mentioned–even though the groundwork was laid for there to have been so much more. (Perhaps Raybourn is saving some ideas for future books?) Finally, one can’t help but make comparisons between this book and the Lady Julia series–and Lady J comes out the clear victor. That series is superior both in degree of complexity (so many more details and such a richly-layered world), and in the nature of the conversations between the characters (witty banter and genuine feeling in the Lady Julia books, versus a somewhat flatter, thinner dialogue here).

The Dead Travel Fast is an enjoyable book, but it isn’t an outstanding one–especially not from Ms. Raybourn. It’s definitely worth a read for all her fans, though, as well as for anyone with a hankering for an old-fashioned, classic tale of Gothic horror.

Visit Deanna Raybourn’s Website

This book was purchased by GlamKitty.

>Noa’s Next Reads

>Happy Sunday everyone!

As spring begins to show signs of its arrival, with crazy weather around the globe, here in Tel – Aviv, the spring cleaning craze has commenced. As usual, I find myself with books galore but no where to put them.
My solution – read them and then lend them to my book-starved siblings so that they will have the pleasure of housing the books for the next few months. Yes, they do eventually end up back on my shelf, but, “tomorrow is another day…”
Before these books move on to their new temporary homes (note to siblings: if you lose a book, I expect a replacement within 60 days of said loss), here’s what I’m reading:
Sashenka: A Novel
by Simon Sebag Montefiore
Winter, 1916: In St Petersburg, Russia on the brink of revolution. Outside the Smolny Institute for Noble Young Ladies, an English governess is waiting for her young charge to be released from school. But so are the Tsar’s secret police…
Beautiful and headstrong, Sashenka Zeitlin is just sixteen. As her mother parties with Rasputin and her dissolute friends, Sashenka slips into the frozen night to play her part in a dangerous game of conspiracy and seduction.

Twenty years on, Sashenka has a powerful husband with whom she has two children. Around her people are disappearing, but her own family is safe. But she’s about to embark on a forbidden love affair which will have devastating consequences.
Sashenka’s story lies hidden for half a century, until a young historian goes deep into Stalin’s private archives and uncovers a heart-breaking tale of passion and betrayal, savage cruelty and unexpected heroism, history and redemption – and one woman forced to make an unbearable choice.
The Dead Travel Fast
By Deanna Raybourn
A husband, a family, a comfortable life: Theodora Lestrange lives in terror of it all.
With a modest inheritance and the three gowns that comprise her entire wardrobe, Theodora leaves Edinburgh—and a disappointed suitor—far behind. She is bound for Rumania, where

tales of vampires are still whispered, to visit an old friend and write the book that will bring her true independence.
She arrives at a magnificent, decaying castle in the Carpathians, replete with eccentric inhabitants: the ailing dowager; the troubled steward; her own fearful friend, Cosmina. But all are outstripped in dark glamour by the castle’s master, Count Andrei Dragulescu.
Bewildering and bewitching in equal measure, the brooding nobleman ignites Theodora’s imagination and awakens passions in her that she can neither deny nor conceal. His allure is superlative, his dominion over the superstitious town, absolute—Theodora may simply be one more person under his sway.
Before her sojourn is ended—or her novel completed—Theodora will have encountered things as strange and terrible as they are seductive. For obsession can prove fatal…and she is in danger of falling prey to more than desire.

What Remains of Heaven (5th book in Sebastian St. Cyr mysteries)
By C. S. Harris

Another gripping mystery in the series that has won six starred reviews, set in the glittering yet dangerous world of 1812 London, where nobleman and former spy Sebastian St. Cyr courts personal disaster in his effort to expose a murderer.

The latest request for help from Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin–from the Archbishop of Canterbury, no less–is undeniably intriguing: The bodies of two men have been found in an ancient crypt, their violent deaths separated by decades. One is the Bishop of London, the elderly Archbishop’s favored but controversial successor. The identity of the other seems lost in time, although his faded velvet attire marks him as gentleman of the eighteenth century.
To Sebastian’s consternation, the last person to see the Bishop alive was Miss Hero Jarvis, a woman whose already strained relationship with St. Cyr has been complicated by a brief, unexpectedly passionate encounter. It also soon becomes obvious that her powerful father has reasons of his own for wanting the Bishop out of the way. In an investigation that leads from the back alleys of Smithfield to the power corridors of whitehall, Sebastian amasses a list of suspects that ranges from some of the Prince Regent’s closest cronies to William Franklin, embittered son of famous American patriot Ben Franklin. Each step Sebastian takes toward the killer brings him closer to a devastating truth that could ultimately force him to question who–and what–he really is.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest (3rd book in the “Millennium” Series)
By Stieg Larsson
Lisbeth Salander—the heart of Larsson’s two previous novels—lies in critical condition, a bullet wound to her head, in the intensive care unit of a Swedish city hospital. She’s fighting for her life in more ways than one: if and when she recovers, she’ll be taken back to Stockholm to stand trial for three murders. With the help of her friend, journalist Mikael Blomkvist, she will not only have to prove her innocence, but also identify and denounce those in authority who have allowed the vulnerable, like herself, to suffer abuse and violence. And, on her own, she will plot revenge—against the man who tried to kill her, and the corrupt government institutions that very nearly destroyed her life.
Once upon a time, she was a victim. Now Salander is fighting back.
Before I sign off, if you would like to share your thoughts on these books – please, comment!
Reviews to follow….

These books were all purchased by Noa

>Silent in the Grave: Modern-Day Gothic Perfection


Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn

It seems highly likely that Deanna Raybourn grew up on a steady diet of those deliciously-atmospheric gothic novels… the ones peopled by intelligent young heroines–hampered only by the (mis)fortune of their sex; dark, brooding, mysterious men (not-quite heroes, but fantastically appealing, nonetheless); and a certain number of crazed (whether caused by a chance of birth, serious illness, or being forced to endure one too many personal/emotional traumas) characters; all of whom can be seen, by turns, milling or skulking about one stately manor house or another (which are always replete, naturally, with a surfeit of dark, draughty corners and a multitude of well-hidden secrets), or scurrying along busy city sidewalks with some stealthy plan in mind. Yes, I think such novels must have been akin to mother’s milk for the supremely-talented Ms. Raybourn, since favorable comparisons to the like seem inevitably to spring to mind when reading her books.

Raybourn’s suspenseful series introducing us to the inimitable Lady Julia Grey begins with 2007’s stellar debut, Silent in the Grave. In the grand tradition of those classic, gothic page-turners, SitG quickly ensnares the reader, then continues to enthrall for another 500+ pages. We are told of a key death in the very first sentence, and in the paragraph which follows we learn that it is hardly a peaceful or tidy death (when is a “still twitching” body tidy?). As simply as that, the stage is set for a book which promises to be something rather out-of-the-ordinary.

Even though our heroine suddenly finds herself a young widow–for it is her youngish husband, the delicate-of-constitution Edward, who has died–she is neither grief-stricken (as would have been the case were she madly in love with him), nor relieved (had he been an ogre or an utter cad to her). Contributing to her calm acceptance is the (seeming) manner of death: natural causes. Edward, after all, came from exceedingly frail stock–his forebears all died quite young of heart problems–and he had been sickly the whole of his life. When he collapses at the party, therefore, no one present is terribly surprised. It is, instead, something of an entirely different nature which discombobulates the young widow–the inexplicable presence at this party of a mysterious (dark, brooding) stranger, who–after carrying the still-twitching, dying Edward upstairs to his bedroom–introduces himself as a certain Mr. Nicholas Brisbane. Brisbane, it seems, was secretly invited to the soiree by Edward on a matter of business… investigative business… about which Lady Julia knows nothing at all. Worse, Brisbane has the audacity to claim to her–following Edward’s rapid decline and the last rasping breaths he draws–that Edward has actually been murdered!

Lady Julia dismisses that as preposterous, and then proceeds to forget the handsome man and his wild theories, for she is promptly smothered by the attentions of her sizable and eccentric family (her father, nine siblings, and a pair of elderly aunts), most of which descend en masse upon news of her bereavement. (Well, on news of Edward’s death, anyway.) With her mandatory mourning period beginning immediately, Lady Julia is left to endure a long, very boring, and rather lonely year (her only distractions being occasional visits from family, reading, guiding her servants, and doing plenty of that milling about the late Edward’s depressingly-ornate home).

Various things conspire to happen, though–as they will do in a book of this sort–which cause Lady Julia to rethink everything she had previously believed true about her husband and his passing. As her official “full mourning” is nearing its end, she finds a threatening note hidden among Edward’s things, and she realizes that Brisbane may have been right with his crazy claims, after all. And so it is that almost a year after the fact, she finds herself seeking the not-entirely willing (nor trusting) aid of the handsome investigator.

To say that the pair do not instantly hit it off would be putting it mildly. Lady Julia is frustrated that Brisbane doesn’t tell her everything he learns, or let her take a more active role in the investigation, and appalled that he views members of her family and staff with suspicion. He, on the other hand, finds her headstrong and impetuous to a fault, naive about those around her, and fears her putting the investigation–or herself–in jeopardy. (At least he never doubts her intelligence, though.) He is also plagued by debilitating migraines, which make him unavailable to her and to the investigation for days at a time… leaving her (in a state of impatience) to her own devices. (Does she manage to get into some trouble? Does he get a teensy bit irate about it? Yes and yes.)

As the seemingly-unlikely duo follow a trail of clues leading them all over London, they gradually learn more about each other (as would, of course, be the case), in addition to unraveling the threads of the investigation, and a begrudging respect–along with something approaching attraction–is born. (Note: I would categorize SitG as an historical, romantic suspense novel–but using “romantic” in the classical sense instead of the more modern one, as this is neither a bodice-ripper nor an overly-sentimental tale; it is very definitely a suspenseful period-piece, with a slow-burning romantic element riding shotgun.)

Along the way, we also encounter a truly delightful assortment of auxiliary characters, whose rich depictions add great depth to the story. The sights and smells all over the city are well-described, contributing vibrant color and further realism to the world. And, whereas the original gothic novels could, at best, only hint at the most taboo or salacious subject matter, Raybourn is able to introduce such risque topics–but she does so in a manner appropriate to the story and to the era, handling everything tastefully and respectfully (and quite often, with a large measure of humor, which is delightfully present all through the book, as well).

SitG is a richly-layered and complex story, well deserving of its 500+ pages. The denouement is one not readily obvious from the beginning (and the “why” and “how” of it perhaps even less so), yet understandable and believable once all has been explained. Many characters–including their additional storylines–are firmly-established in SitG, so that their appearances in subsequent books blend seamlessly into the overall world, yet they do not feel incomplete within the parameters of just this one book. In all, it is really a fabulous read, and anyone who harbors a deep tendre for the great traditions of the classic gothic novel should find it a genuine pleasure… and will likely want to seek out the later books, post-haste.

Lady Julia Gray [M]
Silent in the Grave-2007
Silent in the Sanctuary-2008
Silent in the Moor-2009

Visit Deanna Raybourn’s Website

This book was bought by GlamKitty.