Review: The Dark Enquiry

Last July, I participated in Sarah Wendell’s annual Rita Reader Challenge by submitting the following review of The Dark Enquiry by Deanna Raybourn. The review was posted on Sarah’s site, Smart Bitches Trashy Books, but I meant to share it on my blog (my poor, neglected blog) as well. Fortunately there is no time limit for when one can post a book review!

If you’ve not read Deanna’s Lady Julia Grey series — or ANY of her books for that matter — REMEDY THAT IMMEDIATELY… ahem… and know that this review is a bit spoiler-y.

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….

The Dark Enquiry is the fifth jewel in the crown of Deanna Raybourn’s Lady Julia Grey series. Built 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 ultimately 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, just as the others do, 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.

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  1. A Spear of Summer Grass | Deanna Raybourne « Books are my Drug

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