This is the third book in the Lady Julia Grey series, and I found myself a little disappointed with some aspects of it. To begin with, Julia is convinced that Nicholas Brisbane is in love with her – she just has to get him to admit it. In the first two books, they have had an on again, off again sort of courtship, if you can even call it that. He helped to solve the mystery of her first husband’s death, and they worked together (sort of) in book two as well. They have shared some heated moments but nothing was resolved. Now he’s gone off to the Yorkshire moors, and has requested her sister Portia’s help to put his newly acquired estate house in order. He has expressly forbidden Julia to accompany Portia, so of course Julia takes this to mean that he really wants to see her. Bad idea, Julia. Nevertheless, she and Portia, along with their brother Valerius (sent along by their father as a reluctant chaperone) make the trek to Yorkshire.
They arrive at the estate, finding it dark, gloomy and fittingly named Grimsgrave. They also discover that Brisbane is not there alone – the family he has purchased the place from is still living there as they had no where to go for the time being. So now you have this gothic mansion, with a slightly creepy family that consists of matriarch Lady Allenby, her daughter Ailith who is aloof and beautiful, her daughter Hilda who spends her time looking after the chickens, and their cousin Godwin who is a brawny shepherd. Most of them aren’t all that welcoming to the March siblings. And then Brisbane, who is naturally frosty to see Julia in his home decides to leave to attend to some business elsewhere. I didn’t blame him to be honest; Julia’s attitude is very stalkerish. Still, considering these two are supposed to be the main couple to root for, they spend most of the book either bickering or working on their own.
Anyway, the plot unfolds very slowly and it isn’t until about halfway through the book that the murder is exposed. Julia makes a grisly discovery in an Egyptian sarcophagus that had been hidden away, setting off their investigation into long buried family secrets. It’s all rather dark and depressing. Portia has her own problems to deal with as well; her lover Jane has decided she wants a family and children instead of being with Portia and is eloping. Valerius doesn’t have much to do, other than hang around with Hilda and build a chicken coop (seriously?) while Julia and Brisbane run hot and cold in their emotions. We do learn more about his family background, but I still don’t have any real feel for him as a character.
I don’t mind a long drawn out romance, after all in a series like this I don’t expect it to be instant but I do expect it to move forward. This whole book was maddening in that respect; and in the end, the problem holding Brisbane back from being with Julia is miraculously resolved thanks to Gypsy prophecy, and suddenly everything is coming up roses. There is precious little in the way of seduction or steamy encounters, but we are to assume the love is real! Hopefully the next book will have less emotional whiplash.
Lastly, the cover really doesn’t have anything to do with the story either – it looks like the publisher wanted to portray this as a Harlequin romance instead of a mystery.