RITA Reader Challenge Review

RITA Reader Challenge: The Anatomist’s Wife by Anna Lee Huber


Title: The Anatomist's Wife
Author: Anna Lee Huber
Publication Info: Berkley 2012
ISBN: 9780425253281
Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Book The Anatomist's Wife This RITA® Reader Challenge 2013 review was written by Mina Lobo. This story was nominated for the RITA® in the Best First Book and the Novel with Strong Romantic Elements categories.

The summary:     

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 Mina Lobo's review:

I read The Anatomist’s Wife (henceforth TAW, ‘cause I’m lazy) back in May, felt a bit disgruntled by it, and put off writing the review until I could understand why. Only last week did I remember it was up for two categories: “Best First Book (BFB)” and “Novel with Strong Romantic Elements (NWSRE).” And then I realized I’d signed up for the BFB review category, which helped me to reframe my perspective as I read it over again this week. Viewing it through the BFB lenses, I enjoyed it much more. I think what’d irked me was what I considered a “half-baked romance.” Granted, an NWSRE does not guarantee an HEA. That noted, if I were grading it under the NWSRE category, I’d have given it a C+. But as a BFB, I give it a B.

What I dig about TAW

1. Our heroine, Kiera, is a retiring, artsy sorta gal, with quite a bit of baggage. But, due to that baggage, she knows stuff. Not only does her unique knowing-of-stuff discover and correctly analyze pretty much all of the pertinent clues in this murder mystery, for all her natural reticence, she is confident and secure in her conclusions and unafraid to express them. If not for Kiera’s intelligence, ability to synthesize and interpret information, and moral fortitude, the killer would’ve triumphed. Rock on, Kiera, you BAMF, you!

2. It’s Goth, yo, and I dearly love the Gothic. Huber paints a gorgeous picture of a gloomy castle in early 19th C. Scotland. Verily, Huber’s descriptive prowess is so mighty that those of a more delicate disposition may not do well with the gruesomely depicted corpse(s).

3. Both times I read TAW, I became immediately engrossed in the story. It opens on a scream and quickly takes the reader through some freaky terrain as the (first) corpse is examined. (Gak! But a good Gak! you know?)

4. I enjoyed the portrayal of the relationship between Kiera’s sister, Alana, and Alana’s husband Philip. Sure, he was Great Boss Man and she had to obey him, and whatnot, but there’s no doubting the real love and caring between them.

What I didn’t dig about TAW

1. Though it starts with a BANG, I thought it dragged somewhat in the middle—possibly because of Kiera’s internal monologue which sometimes went on longer than strictly necessary.

2. The portrayal of Mr. Sebastian Gage, the “hero.” For a dude who can supposedly bewitch the knickers off a babe at 10 paces, at times, he’s strangely overbearing with Kiera. Kiera’s brother-in-law, Philip, asks her to assist Gage in his investigation of the murder, which happens on Philip’s ancestral land. Philip would not normally prevail upon a gentlewoman in such a way, but does with Kiera because of the expertise she acquired during her unfortunate stint as her late husband’s illustrator (the cad made her sketch the cadavers he cut up for the book on anatomy he was writing). (Euw.) Kiera obliges Philip, and Gage agrees to having her assist, only there are times when Gage is inexplicably douchey about her involvement. He forbids her from attending an interview with a suspect because that gentleman might not speak freely in front of a woman. OK, Gage has a point BUT when Kiera tries to discuss the matter with him, he talks over her, cuts her off, and absolutely refuses to hear her out (pp. 98-99, print version). From pp. 130-135, Gage repeatedly threatens to have her locked in her room for her own protection when she responds to his douchery by threatening to investigate the murder on her own. C’mon, guy. If, as the author takes pains to remind us, you’re so charming, can’t you seduce Kiera into doing your bidding? This aspect of his character really turned me off. Too, I don’t get a sense of him having learned anything, or changed in any way, from his experiences in the book.

3. The half-baked “romance.” Right, right, it’s not a “romance novel.” I geddit. But Huber’s clearly building a “thing” between Kiera and Gage. It’s easy for me to get why Kiera appeals to Gage, but I don’t see what attracts her to him, apart from his looks (in fact, were she in a better emotional state, I doubt she’d want him). To be fair, there are indeed times when Gage treats Kiera as a hero ought: he comforts her when she’s distressed, cares for her when she’s unwell, and (sometimes) respects her opinions on matters regarding their investigation. Homeslice even saves her life, as is right and proper in Romancelandia.

But he’s also arrogant (without cause, as far as I can tell), makes numerous mistaken assumptions in the investigation, and behaves boorishly, as noted above. What sticks in my craw, though, is that the story ends with him attempting to bugger off at the ass-crack of dawn without so much as a by-your-leave. He’s revealed feelings for Kiera by his actions, why not feed the gal some verbal crumbs, to go with her morning chocolate? Couldn’t the master of smexy banter come up with something meaningful for Kiera before he left her? The great lothario? For rizzle? In the final paragraph, Huber does tease us with the promise of the pair reuniting, plus this book is “A Lady Darby Mystery,” so obviously this courtship narrative is To Be Continued. But still, I found Gage’s parting from Kiera unnecessarily, and nonsensically, abortive.

All bitching aside, I had to think about the criteria I’d use to grade TAW. What are my expectations of a “Best First Book?” Well, I think it should at least 1) Engage me; 2) Make me care about the main character; and 3) Make me want to know what happens next (in the event of a series) and/or make me stay up waaaaaaay past my bedtime to know how it’s gonna end. I found that all of these applied to TAW, and I do plan to buy the next book in the series.

This book is available from Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Kobo | iBooks | All Romance eBooks.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Miranda says:

    The portrayal of Mr. Sebastian Gage, the “hero.”

    This is what bothered me too. Early in the book (in the Kindle sample, which was what got me to buy the book), there was a good bit of discussion about how he was a rakish fop, and I got the impression that he’d traded on his father’s reputation as a private investigator. I thought that sounded like a fun setup, that Gage would be raskish, foppish, sort of know-it-all who would get put in his place, have to stand on his on, etc. Or his rakish, foppish behavior would cover up him being nervous over being in Dad’s shadow. Or something.

    Instead, Gage was a sober upholder of the law, who didn’t have much of any kind of personality (other than being an arrogant douche occasionally).

    I also didn’t have much of a sense of Kiera as a historical woman, but Gage was my main quibble.

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