I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
Fresh from a six-month sojourn in Italy, Lady Julia returns home to Sussex to find her father's estate crowded with family and friends— but dark deeds are afoot at the deconsecrated abbey, and a murderer roams the ancient cloisters.
Much to her surprise, the one man she had hoped to forget—the enigmatic and compelling Nicholas Brisbane—is among her father's houseguests… and he is not alone. Not to be outdone, Julia shows him that two can play at flirtation and promptly introduces him to her devoted, younger, titled Italian count.
But the homecoming celebrations quickly take a ghastly turn when one of the guests is found brutally murdered in the chapel, and a member of Lady Julia's own family confesses to the crime. Certain of her cousin's innocence, Lady Julia resumes her unlikely and deliciously intriguing partnership with Nicholas Brisbane, setting out to unravel a tangle of deceit before the killer can strike again. When a sudden snowstorm blankets the abbey like a shroud, it falls to Lady Julia and Nicholas Brisbane to answer the shriek of murder most foul.
I know that this series is generally considered a mystery series, but to me it is more of a romance series. The mystery portion of the plot merely provides the grit around which the pearl of the romance is gradually being formed. As per usual with Gothic romances, the mystery portion unfolds at an extremely leisurely pace and at least half of the fun of the reading experience is the amount of time the couple spends bickering rather than kissing—they seem to get 1-2 kisses per book.
There are the usual romance tropes—a strong willed heroine, a man who doesn’t feel like he quite fits into her world, annoyance gradually changing to passion.
Raybourn also gives me enough amusing dialog to keep me entertained:
”I suppose it is quite certain he is dead?” I asked faintly.
“There are bits of him stuck to your shoe,” he remarked, rather unhelpfully.
However, the ending of the book, with Julia’s final visit to the Roma camp, just didn’t ring true for me. In my humble opinion, she drastically overpaid for the information that she received. Nevertheless, I will be happy to proceed to the next novel.