Scotland, 1830. Following the death of her husband, Lady Darby has taken refuge at her sister's estate, finding solace in her passion for painting. But when her hosts throw a house party for the cream of London society, Kiera is unable to hide from the ire of those who believe her to be as unnatural as her husband, an anatomist who used her artistic talents to suit his own macabre purposes.
Kiera wants to put her past aside, but when one of the house guests is murdered, her brother-in-law asks her to utilize her knowledge of human anatomy to aid the insufferable Sebastian Gage–a fellow guest with some experience as an inquiry agent. While Gage is clearly more competent than she first assumed, Kiera isn't about to let her guard down as accusations and rumors swirl.
When Kiera and Gage's search leads them to even more gruesome discoveries, a series of disturbing notes urges Lady Darby to give up the inquiry. But Kiera is determined to both protect her family and prove her innocence, even as she risks becoming the next victim…
And here is LJ's review:
Ugh, I hate writing this review, because I so wanted to like this book and it started with such promise.
Huber opens the novel straight into a grisly murder at a Scottish castle. She deftly introduces all of the main characters and demonstrates their relationships well within the first few chapters. She starts the story at a breakneck pace, describing the setting and mood through Keira’s eyes in a tense, claustrophobic way.
“The clatter of our footfalls echoed off the old stone, the only sound other than the creak of the swinging lantern. The silence unsettled me, but I somehow felt speaking would only make it worse. As if making conversation somehow demeaned the seriousness of our undertaking.”
To add interest further to the story, Huber draws on the fact that Keira is an artist and, thus, sees things differently to the way other people see them. Her observational skills and eye for detail are used in interesting ways to propel the story forward.
“But I didn’t think like a surgeon. I though like an artist. I saw everything as it was – the contours, the colors, the rhythm – not how it should be. My mind did not try to correct an image but capture it.”
The relationship that slowly develops between Keira and Mr. Gage is really well done; it seems natural and the characters react to the relationship itself in a believable manner. I really did enjoy this aspect of the novel. Spoiler alert for those planning to read this: there is no sex in this book! It’s the first in a series and I’m pretty sure Keira and Gage’s relationship is going to grow through the next few books.
Unfortunately, the solution to the murder mystery feels sloppy, like Huber got halfway through the book and ran out of ideas. I could tell who the murderer was approximately two-thirds of the way through, and it was frustrating that these characters who were supposed to be “so smart” and so “attentive to detail” were ignoring what was right in front of them.
In addition to this, the characters all seem to have a real penchant for drama which simply became ridiculous very quickly.
“Philip rose from his chair and came around to kneel before her. He gripped her hands and leaned forward to peer up into her eyes.”
This is a very public display of affection between Keira’s sister and her brother-in-law, which happens in a room in front of three other people, one of whom is a complete stranger. While it’s nice to see characters with genuine affection for each other, all I could think of was “Why is he kneeling? And why does the book act like this isn’t completely weird? How many people kneel in front of their spouses to talk to them?”
It’s not the only time in the book that people kneel in front of other people to reassure them/make a point/say something important, and it really started to drive me crazy. As did the extremely inappropriate public displays of affection that struck me as completely unsuitable for the time period.
“I rounded his desk to kneel by his chair. ‘She will be all right,’ I murmured as I grabbed hold of his hand.”
This particular example is the main character with her brother-in-law and happens in front of Mr. Gage, a person who is, at that time, almost a complete stranger. WEIRD!!
“Phillip took her face between his hands and stroked her cheekbones with his thumbs.”
Ugh! INAPPROPRIATE!! (In front of their in-laws and a few of their society houseguests?)
I’m also the type of person who is annoyed by accents when they’re written out in a book; and this book does it particularly badly.
Here is “French:”
“’Mmm…zee day before zee last day.’ ‘Two days ago?’ ‘Mmm…oui.’ She nodded.”
There’s the stock standard “Scottish character whose accent grows stronger whenever they are experiencing emotion of any description at all”
“If we’re gonna be trapped here for four days or more with all o’ these guests, and likely our murderer, I’d like to make every effort to catch him in case there’s a chance he intends to strike again.”
As well as all of this, Keira’s dark past, although interesting at first, is paraded past the reader constantly. It’s almost like Huber thinks that her readers are so stupid we can’t remember that the main character has issues, although these are mentioned almost every second page.
All-in-all, this book only gets a C grade from me. It was fluffy and had promise initially but all things considered, I’m not going to read the second book in this series because too many elements of this one annoyed me too much.