RITA Reader Challenge Review

RITA Reader Challenge: The Dark Enquiry by Deanna Raybourn

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Title: The Dark Enquiry
Author: Deanna Raybourn
Publication Info: MIRA 2011
ISBN: 978-0778312376
Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Book Cover This review was written by Blake. This story was nominated in the Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements category.

The summary: 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….

And here is Blake's review:

The Dark Enquiry is the fifth jewel in the crown of Deanna Raybourn’s Lady Julia Grey series.  Building upon the rich foundation of the previous books in the series, this installment carries us deeper into the lives of the clever and curious Lady Julia, and her dashing and mysterious husband Nicholas Brisbane.

After negotiating ground rules, Brisbane has finally consented to have Julia as a partner in his investigating agency.  However, Julia quickly learns that Brisbane still “holds his cards close to his chest”.  When she discovers that her brother Lord Bellmont has surreptitiously met with Brisbane, and that Brisbane will not confide this to her, Julia inserts herself into the investigation, forcing Brisbane’s hand to include her in what quickly becomes an inquiry into murder and political intrigue.

This book contains all of the elements I’ve come to expect from Deanna Raybourn; a colorful cast of characters, an engaging mystery, and a palpable romance.  Having read the previous books in the series, I’m delighted that this one provides a good dose of the eccentric March family.  There are several new characters as well – one in particular whom I am deliciously conflicted about; to love or to loathe, that is the question! Julia is clever yet reckless, Brisbane is competent yet headstrong, and I like how their common desire to protect one another initially puts them at odds. They face new challenges that could sever or strengthen their bond.  The twists and turns of the complex mystery left me guessing until the end.  Gasping at the reveal, the villain took me – and the Brisbanes – by surprise!

The Dark Enquiry’s nomination for Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements, however, came as no surprise to me.  Raybourn has a beautiful talent for putting emotions into words and creating characters that earn a reader’s affection.  Her writing is eloquent and well rounded, containing just the right measures of humor and poignancy.  I can only imagine the challenge an author must have in keeping romance fresh and exciting in a series.  In this fifth book of the Lady Julia Grey series, Raybourn has maintained excitement and deepened the romance between her beloved characters Julia and Brisbane.  Never has it been clearer that each is essential to the other’s happiness.


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

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  1. 1
    Melinda Smith says:

    Oh, my, I have to say I beg to differ in my assessment and enjoyment of this book. Before reading The Dark Inquiry, I would have said the Julia/Brisbane books were among my favorites. This book, however, disappointed me in a big way. I thought Julia approached TSTL territory, characterizations approached caricature, and the ending seemed cliched. I actually wondered from time to time whether Deanna Raybourn had actually written it, or if I would wake up one morning to find Bobby in the shower and it would all have been a dream.

  2. 2
    Joann says:

    I so agree!! The first three books in this series are some of my favorite re-reads. I felt things slip a bit in the 4th book. But what happened to Julia in Dark Inquiry?? She was a selfish, boorish mess! I would give this book a D.

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