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review 2016-04-29 13:00
End of Series Review: Lady Julia Grey
Dark Road to Darjeeling - Deanna Raybourn
The Dark Enquiry - Deanna Raybourn

by Deanna Raybourn
Book #4: Dark Road to Darjeeling | Goodreads | Rating:  2.5 Stars
Book #5: The Dark Enquiry | Goodreads | Rating:  3.0 Stars

See Also Previous Reviews:


Overall Series Average Rating:  3.1 Stars


As much as there were a lot of things about this entire series that bugged me, a few things were quite evident to me upon finishing the last book in this series:

 

  • The books and the character and Lady Julia's world kind of grows on you.
    • They may all have their frustrating moments, and you might find that no matter how much you like a character he or she will also have a lot of annoying moments; but it rings true as a little family in real life, and that's kind of what I loved about Julia's world.
    • When Nicholas Brisbane wasn't being an arrogant jackass, he was actually pretty cool; specifically in the last book of this series.  The guy seems to have chilled out a bit.

 

  • The books are written very beautifully and have a charm to them that make you want to continue reading even though you may have reserves about the rest of the series.
    • The atmosphere of these books never ceased to set a great mood for me.
    • The descriptions were excellent.

 

  • Julia is an extremely charming narrator to follow throughout the five books, even if she has a penchant to act or speak before she thinks.

 

 

 

Dark Road to Darjeeling

 

 

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.



I continued to contemplate whether or not to finish this series.  The romance exhausts me.  And even though the writing is beautiful and does exceptionally well to set a moody atmosphere, the story itself seemed a bit tedious and overwrought with soap opera-like drama. Anything and everything you could think of to happen in a story to bring about angst reared into the surface.

 

Even what happens to Jane in the end.

(spoiler show)


The characters exhaust me as well, and despite how much I have been loving Julia since the first book, I'm becoming consistently more frustrated with her, with her husband (whom I have yet to find a reason to like), and with their overall interaction and relationship with each other. I am becoming increasingly tired of everyone letting Brisbane's burdens and past, tragic childhood misfortunes justify his acting like an arrogant ass or keeping all of his secrets until he feels it necessary to confide in his wife--and usually not because he wants to confide in her, but because he's been found out.

On another side note, I did not think I would become so frustrated with Portia either, but she was simply becoming irritating throughout the book. And Plum had always been a bit melodramatic.


These books are readily readable and, to be honest, aside from the sudden flux of melodrama near the end, I was actually enjoying this book pretty well.  I may have said this before, but I found myself enjoying more the scenes wherein Julia is maneuvering on her own, or whenever she and Brisbane finally stop quarreling and at least try to work together.  Their banter is lovely when they're not trying to hide secrets from one another, or whenever Brisbane isn't being a complete asshat.

 

 

 

The Dark Enquiry

 

 

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 Spirit 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 keepÂ….



As I'd already mentioned, the books kind of grow on you and you eventually stop letting the little quibbles and flaws bug you.  Nicholas Brisbane chills his intensity a lot in this last book and I find him much more agreeable than I have in any of the other books.  Unfortunately, with a more relaxed Brisbane, we somehow managed to acquire a much more reckless Lady Julia.

And to be honest, it hadn't really been until this last book that I actually started to understand the extent of Julia's recklessness when certain things happened to happen.  But that's a spoiler I'm not willing to divulge.

Anyway...

This last book was a rather more interesting and enjoyable one than the previous, which makes for a good ending note for the concluding book in the series... even if the series still kind of continues in the form of some short novellas following this book.  But that's another post for another time.


On a side note, a little tidbit from the beginning of The Dark Enquiry:

Not that I'm discounting Mademoiselle Hortense de Bellefleur's advice or wisdom, but I'm unnaturally jaded for reasons and her exclamation that "love conquers all" seems a bit too idealistic.  Nonetheless, her little rant to Julia made a lot of sense pertaining to Julia and Brisbane... while at the same time, it kind of provokes some thoughts of mild disagreement:

 

"Love is the only thing that lasts, Julia, the only thing that matters.  And both of you are trying to throw it away with both hands because you are proud and stubborn.  For all your differences, you are too much alike, the pair of you.  But you are lucky, so lucky and you are too blind to see it!  This man, this magnificent man, offers you love and you take it and say, 'Give me more, give me respect!'  And he does the same to you, saying to this beautiful woman, 'Your love is not enough, I want your obedience, as well!'  Why cannot love be enough for the both of you?  It is more than some of us have or will ever have again," she finished on a sob [...]


Take what you will from this quote, but there are certain parts of it that don't really settle well with me--a certain amount of double standard inequality that I can't quite pinpoint.  Of course, I might just be overly sensitive.  However, as I'd already stated, I can kind of see what the mademoiselle is trying to get at even if I don't a hundred percent agree.

Also, this kind of speech probably wouldn't fly very well in modern relationships--not that I'd know, being inexperienced and all, but I'm just sayin'.

 

 

 

Series Overall Thoughts:

 

I've probably already said all that I need to say about this series.  And I'm actually kind of surprised I still had anything to say at all.  After all, the structure of all five Lady Julia Grey books are almost exactly alike and almost felt tedious and dragged out at times.

It's just fortunate that the writing and Julia's charm kept me interested.

I almost didn't want to write another review, but I had some thoughts that I felt the need to share.

But as I'd stated before, and my reading BFF buddy concurs:  I've run out of things to say about the series.


***

2016 Reading Challenges:
• Goodreads Reading Challenge
• BookLikes Reading Challenge
• Bookish Resolutions Challenge

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/04/end-of-series-review-lady-julia-grey.html
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review 2016-04-22 06:30
Thoughts: Silent on the Moor
Silent on the Moor - Deanna Raybourn

Silent on the Moor

by Deanna Raybourn
Book 3 of Lady Julia Grey

In Grimsgrave Hall, enigmatic Nicholas Brisbane has inherited a ruined estate, replete with uncanny tenants and one unwanted houseguest: Lady Julia Grey

Despite his admonitions to stay away, Lady Julia arrives in Yorkshire to find Brisbane as remote and maddeningly attractive as ever. Cloistered together, they share the moldering house with the proud but impoverished remnants of an ancient family: the sort that keeps their bloodline pure and their secrets close. Lady Allenby and her daughters, dependent upon Brisbane and devastated by their fall in society, seem adrift on the moor winds, powerless to change their fortunes. But poison does not discriminate between classes...

A mystery unfolds from the rotten heart of Grimsgrave, one Lady Julia may have to solve alone, as Brisbane appears inextricably tangled in its heinous twists and turns. But blood will out, and before spring touches the craggy northern landscape, Lady Julia will have uncovered a Gypsy witch, a dark rider and a long-buried legacy of malevolence and evil.



My BFF and I both seemed to come to the same conclusion: that we have run out of things to say about these books. I can’t help but notice that each book has been the same kind of formulaic progression over and again. And while each has its own mystery, and while Julia is a constant character development in progress, not much else goes on that isn’t readily predictable.

Once again, I like Julia--she’s a great character, created to be loved, and has a lot of growth throughout the series’ first three books. She’s resourceful and smart and has slowly grown her backbone as her story progresses.

But I do not like Nicholas Brisbane--I have not liked him since the first book and I continue to dislike him still, even after a turning of some events by the end of the third book. And even as I type this, I have already begun reading the fourth book and I am STILL quite irritated with him. It’s not just that he’s a frustratingly annoying broody alpha, created as a Byronic hero, but he’s just a pompous, arrogant jerk who seems to, as I’ve stated before, be raring for a fight all the time. He’s got a stick shoved so far up his ass that I’m not even sure he knows how to get it back out.

And a lot of times, I just want him to chill the fuck off!

My only other grievance against him is how he continuously keeps secrets from Julia, and then expects her not to stumble into his investigations and stay out of his business, and then gets upset with her when she accidentally stumbles into his business and mucks things up. There were many times during these first three books wherein he could have just told Julia what was going on so that she could either stay out of his way, or stay out of danger. But his need to keep everything a secret from her is just plain frustrating if only because it manages to do the exact opposite of what he wants.

But then he turns around and claims that he’d rather have a spirited woman in his life who knows how to have an adventure and stand up for herself… but then expects Julia to be the meek little woman who lets him handle everything. He’s so contradictory that it’s aggravating. And I feel like he’s the one who causes all of his own romantic angst and drama.

Which brings me to the romance that also frustrates me. Julia is obviously obsessed with Brisbane… and what frustrates me the most about this romance is the amount of time that Julia spends chasing after him. The entire romance hinges on Nicholas Brisbane’s final word--if he wants to be with Julia, he only has to snap his fingers. But he continues to lead her on despite her telling him to be straight with her: if he doesn’t want her following him around, he needs to tell her and she’ll go away.

But Brisbane just keeps her hanging on a leash like a devoted puppy. And so long as he gives her that one little spark of hope, she clings to it. But then he turns around and treats her like crap. Because, as Julia even points out at the beginning of this book, he’s too much of a coward to end things between them himself--he wants HER to just walk away on her own without telling her that he wants her to walk away.

Furthermore, he's always the one getting angry with her and she's always the one apologizing, even when there are moments where there was no reason for her to apologize at all. He shows no intentions of hanging onto her when she means to leave him, but in the end, she comes running right back to him anyway, so it seems that there is not reason whatsoever for him to HAVE to hold onto her.

If she ever DOES leave him, he'll just move on in his life, but act like a sullen child scorned, as if he were the victim of their unfortunate meeting.

Again, aggravating!

Otherwise, the book was much like the previous two. The writing is fantastically beautiful; the descriptions are vivid and gorgeous, laying down a wonderful atmosphere. While the mystery wasn’t really much of a mystery to begin with, it DID prove quite intriguing.

On a final note, the best part of this entire book was probably the sisterly banter and interaction between Julia and Portia--these two are phenomenal together and kind of makes me wish the series was about how well the sisters get along and solve mysteries on their own.


***

2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Bookish Resolutions Challenge


Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/04/thoughts-silent-on-moor.html
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review 2016-04-15 13:00
Thoughts: Silent in the Sanctuary
Silent in the Sanctuary - Deanna Raybourn

Silent in the Sanctuary

by Deanna Raybourn

Book 2 of Lady Julia Grey series



Blurb:

Fresh from a six-month sojourn in Italy, Lady Julia returns home to Sussex to find her father's estate crowded with family and friends; but dark deeds are afoot at the deconsecrated abbey, and a murderer roams the ancient cloisters.

Much to her surprise, the one man she had hoped to forget - the enigmatic and compelling Nicholas Brisbane - is among her father's houseguests; and he is not alone. Not to be outdone, Julia shows him that two can play at flirtation and promptly introduces him to her devoted, younger, titled Italian count.

But the homecoming celebrations quickly take a ghastly turn when one of the guests is found brutally murdered in the chapel, and a member of Lady Julia's own family confesses to the crime. Certain of her cousin's innocence, Lady Julia resumes her unlikely and deliciously intriguing partnership with Nicholas Brisbane, setting out to unravel a tangle of deceit before the killer can strike again. When a sudden snowstorm blankets the abbey like a shroud, it falls to Lady Julia and Nicholas Brisbane to answer the shriek of murder most foul.



Despite the fact that there were consistent quibbles I had with this book, rolled over from the first book (Silent in the Grave), I found that Silent in the Sanctuary was quite enjoyable. Much like the first book, it is written well and easy to read; before I knew it, I was 200 pages in. And although it took about 25 pages more for the main conflict to start up, I’m surprised to find that I had actually enjoyed myself in spite of my complaints.

Julia is a very readily likable heroine with a subtle wit and the penchant to learn from her mistakes and improve upon herself. And it seems that she is finally, slowly but assuredly, growing her backbone--soon, I hope she won’t let herself be pushed around by that arrogant douche she is so obsessed with, but I suppose that might be too much to ask for.

Nonetheless, at least by the end of the book Brisbane has acknowledged her as an equal, even if I have some reserves he will act any differently than he’s been these past two books.

Really, the only thing about the Lady Julia Grey books that irritates me so far is Nicholas Brisbane and his attitude. The man just seems like he’s always angry or always trying to start a fight… or he’s got some stick shoved up his ass or something. His moments of being jokey are rare, and even then you’re not really sure if he’s really joking or just being his general assholic self.


Anyway…

The actual conflict took quite some time before getting started and I DID find myself asking aloud, “Where’s the murder mystery?” But despite the slowness of the story progression, the book itself didn’t really feel as if it dragged on too much at too many moments.

I enjoyed the setting of a snowbound house party wherein a murder has occurred. And I also found it intriguing that so many other mysteries were afoot. And when all the revelations come out in the last few chapters, I have to say that I was actually quite surprised by some of them. I knew there was something going on with certain characters, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what. I had an inkling suspicion about the murderer… but this time around, I have to admit that I was kind of stumped.

Some of the ending chapter revelations seemed a bit overly complicated though, and I found myself feeling overwhelmed by all the layers of secrets and reveals. It might just be me, but I felt like there might have been too much going on to absorb in the last few chapters alone.


Otherwise, there really isn’t much else to say about this book. I continue to like Julia and her interactions with her family and friends. I love that Julia is developing throughout the story in a good direction. I wish we could see more of Aquinas, Super Butler, as well as Grim, Talking Raven with an Attitude. The rest of the March family that we get to meet is quite fun, although Plum and Lysander did start to get on my nerves as the story progressed.

There's still an undertone of casual cultural and class stereotyping, and some subtle prejudice, which I assume I can take as just the behaviors and attitudes during this time period? I'm not sure I read enough historical fiction to know how to react to these things.


I suppose I could end off with this short paragraph excerpt from the book (page 132), of which I felt described Julia very well and says a lot about her character and her train of thoughts. It also shows off a short sample of the some of the beautifully descriptive writing by our lovely author Ms. Raybourn.

 

For what I did next, I can only blame my own unseemly reading habits. For years I wallowed in the unhealthy pursuits of Gothic heroines, tracing their footsteps as they wended their way through crumbling churchyards and decaying crypts. I walked with them into ghoulish dungeons hung with chains, and mouldering attics festooned with cobwebs. I thought them impossibly stupid, and yet when faced with the opportunity to chase a phantom of my own, I did not even stop to put on my slippers. I snatched a lace wrapper from the foot of my bed and hurried to the door, easing it open as silently as any practised burglar."



***

2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Bookish Resolutions Challenge

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/04/thoughts-silent-in-sanctuary.html
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review 2016-04-08 12:19
Thoughts: Silent in the Grave
Silent in the Grave - Deanna Raybourn

Silent in the Grave

by Deanna Raybourn

Book 1 of Lady Julia Grey

 

 

I’m not sure it’s possible to be more surprised than I am to realize how well I predicted the identity of the murderer and the motives behind it. And the amusing part is that I was really just joking with my BFF as we were doing an off-hand discussion about the book.

At this time in our buddy read, she was already 50% into the book while I had just gotten to chapter ten. And just from going by instinct and typical murder mystery patterns, I flippantly stated, “I’m fairly suspicious of so-and-so.” But I didn’t really give any reasons to her why, and so we ended up discussing other possibilities too and she told me who she thought was the killer.

Honestly, as I’d stated, I’m kind of impressed with myself, not only because I guessed the killer before getting too far into the book, but because the developments in Silent in the Grave and all the red herrings thrown about actually gave the reader a lot of twists and turns to think about. There was the plausibility of the killer being who I had off-handedly thought it was, but the possibility of it being one of several other suspects was even greater.

So my ready prediction--plain luck, I guess.


The Blurb:

"Let the wicked be ashamed, and let them be silent in the grave."

These ominous words are the last threat that the darling of London society, Sir Edward Grey, receives from his killer. Before he can show them to Nicholas Brisbane, the private inquiry agent he has retained for his protection, Sir Edward collapses and dies at his London home, in the presence of his wife, Julia, and a roomful of dinner guests.

Julia is outraged when Brisbane visits and suggests that Sir Edward has been murdered. It is a reaction she comes to regret when she discovers the damning paper for herself, and realizes the truth. Determined to bring her husband's murderer to justice, Julia engages the enigmatic Brisbane to help her investigate Edward's demise, following a trail of clues that lead her to even more unpleasant truths, and ever closer to a killer who waits expectantly for her arrival.



My Thoughts:
Revelation aside, Silent in the Grave might have had a lot of little frustrating moments throughout the read--Julia certainly had me sighing in exasperation many times over with her careless antics, and Brisbane still comes off as an arrogant asshole up until the end of the book--but overall, I really enjoyed myself with this read. Witty and thoughtful, Silent in the Grave is an excellent book with a good balance of everyday banal activities strewn about a murder investigation.

While at times I felt like it could have tried to stay on track just a little bit more, I actually kind of appreciated the little tangents of side stories here and there. It gives you lots of perspective about Julia and her family, and makes it easy to fall in love with her, even though she manages to bumble her way into trouble more times than I would have liked.

Truth is, Julia is a well-developed character, way too modern for her own era. Coming from a family of radical personalities, it was extremely entertaining to read along with her as she presents to us what goes on in her mind, and tells us about the little things that have happened as she grew up in and amidst her family. So, at times, it was a little hard to keep up with her, but it was still a lot of fun.

There are two fairly frustrating traits about Julia, however, that I wish could have been developed more as the story progressed. As the conclusion came about, I’m not entirely sure she realizes these things about herself, and even if she did, it didn’t seem like she was too keen on improving.

  • First of all, I’m not very happy with the fact that she frequently debases herself when she’s around Nicholas Brisbane.
    • Before anything, she is the first to apologize and the first to call herself stupid for her own actions.
    • And Brisbane just sits there and lets her do as such while throwing a few insulting kicks at her side while he’s at it.
    • While some of those times, she DOES tend to rush headlong into something without thinking, there were other times when she rushes to apologize and call herself stupid I felt was unwarranted.
  • Which brings me to frustration number two:
    • Julia’s reckless abandon for the sake of investigating her husband’s murder is very much, very frustrating--especially after hearing her tell herself again and again not to act in such a brash fashion.

 

 

But in spite of her faults I DO really like Julia.

I like that she’s got a quick wit and she’s keen to observation. I like that she’s a readily likable person in spite of the prejudices and stereotyped thoughts she has acquired through her upbringing. I like that she tries so hard to be thoughtful and kind. But I like that she knows how to make use of her position of power to get what she needs for, I guess for the lack of a better word, “the greater good”--for herself, for her siblings and friends, for her staff, and for the furthering of her husband’s murder investigation.

I like that she’s quick to admit her faults when she has royally screwed up. But as already stated, I don’t like that she is constantly viewing everything that upsets Brisbane as her fault. There were several times when it seemed highly unnecessary for her to feel ashamed or to apologize for something she did, when she HADN’T even known it was the wrong thing to do in the first place.


Some Final Thoughts:
Specifically about the rating of this book and this particular review:

When I finished the book, I was set on a 3.5 Star rating, if only because of the few things that really frustrated me. Upon finishing this book, I wasn’t entirely certain how I felt about it, and had come to the plan of writing a duo list of “What I Like” and “What I Didn’t Like” about this book as the review.

But upon finally sitting down and really giving it some thought, some of my decisions changed.

For one, my thoughts just managed to stream out in a rambling monologue without any difficulty. Erego, review written, even if haphazardly.

Secondly, I decided that despite all the quibbles and faults and frustrations I found with Julia’s behavior and Brisbane’s assholery and the story’s random, possibly unnecessary tangents, I overall really DID enjoy reading Silent in the Grave. The writing is fantastic, even if, maybe a little too easy to read. The characters are colorful and entertaining. The mystery is set up quite well. And the book didn’t focus a hundred percent on the romance, even IF I thought that Julia spent too much time basing her actions and desires on how Brisbane would react.


Side tangent: This was one of the bigger detractors from my enjoyment of this book--the fact that Julia’s notions of having a romantic love story, or just a romantic grand story were quite obvious. And it was a bit frustrating too. After the discussion with my BFF about this book, I came to the conclusion that I didn’t much care for how Julia felt like she needed to fall, head-over-ass to do what she could to impress Brisbane.

I get that Julia’s life before her husband’s death was quite plain and boring. And maybe she really just needed something to do with herself outside of the typical noble lady’s everyday piddling around. She’d admitted to herself that she wanted a romantic adventure akin to something storybook-like.

And being around Brisbane satisfied a lot of these desires: a Byronic hero as a potential love interest; an intriguing murder mystery, even though it might have hit too close to home; and the romantic ideals of adventures in sleuthing.

So I kind of get it… I guess. But it doesn’t mean I have to like it. Continuing to read through how Julia based so many of her actions and decisions on how Brisbane would react when he found her out was a bit deflating. Especially when I’d been really hoping to follow an independent female lead, a forward thinking woman of her times; someone who is above needing romance and men to define her life for her.

I suppose this is what many other reviewers meant when they said that this book is after all, a romance, first and foremost (and a Harlequin love child, at that).


In the end, however, this was still such an extremely entertaining book that I feel I’m entitled to be a little biased towards my enjoyment.

Oh, and also, I still think Nicholas Brisbane is somewhat of an arrogant asshole and I didn’t really care for him. I’ve never been keen on a love interest expending so much time and energy flinging insults at the other person so readily, and sometimes without provocation. It was a bit unsettling that Julia was so obsessed with him despite how rude he was always acting towards her.

Maybe I’ll come to like Brisbane at some point in time. But somehow, I really doubt it unless he does something quite redeeming for Julia.

***

2016 Reading Challenges:
Goodreads Reading Challenge
BookLikes Reading Challenge
Reading Assignment Challenge
Bookish Resolutions Challenge
Mount TBR Challenge

 

 

Source: anicheungbookabyss.blogspot.com/2016/04/thoughts-silent-in-grave.html
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quote 2013-10-19 15:30
Now I was more certain than ever of my decision. I could never love a man who did not love Jane Austen.

 -- Lady Julia Grey, Silent in the Sanctuary

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