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).
In Grimsgrave Hall, enigmatic Nicholas Brisbane has inherited a ruined estate, replete with uncanny tenants and one unwanted houseguest: Lady Julia Grey. Despite his admonitions to stay away, Lady Julia arrives in Yorkshire to find Brisbane as remote and maddeningly attractive as ever. Cloistered together, they share the moldering house with the proud but impoverished remnants of an ancient family: the sort that keeps their bloodline pure and their secrets close. Lady Allenby and her daughters, dependent upon Brisbane and devastated by their fall in society, seem adrift on the moor winds, powerless to change their fortunes. But poison does not discriminate between classes.... A mystery unfolds from the rotten heart of Grimsgrave, one Lady Julia may have to solve alone, as Brisbane appears inextricably tangled in its heinous twists and turns. But blood will out, and before spring touches the craggy northern landscape, Lady Julia will have uncovered a Gypsy witch, a dark rider, and a long-buried legacy of malevolence and evil. Deanna Raybourn spins a gripping tale of loyalty and lust, set against the wild beauty of the Yorkshire moors.
I had to order this book through interlibrary loan, but I am glad that I did. I read all 465 pages in one day--I really didn’t want to set the book down. Raybourn writes a really good Gothic murder mystery/romance.
Lady Julia Grey is part of that movement that I sense in fiction right now to feminize the story of Victorian times. The role of women was definitely undergoing change during this time period, what with Margaret Sanger’s championing of women’s rights and birth control, plus the Rational Dress and the women’s suffrage movements. Upper class women’s desires to be able to move, to not be subject to restrictive social mores, and to control their own bodies. What must it have been like to have all your choices subject to parents or brothers?
Julia is a very sympathetic character to the modern female reader. We identify with her desire to pursue what she wants (Brisbane) without having to answer to her stuffy eldest brother. She is fortunate to have a father who is willing to aid and abet. I was also glad to see that Raybourn spreads the restrictions around, writing Julia’s brother Valerius as a frustrated medical doctor. Gentlemen aren’t allowed to “practice trade,” preventing Valerius from becoming what he is meant to be and showing that even men were hemmed in by the social contract of the time.
I’m disappointed that I will once again have to specially request the next volume of this series through interlibrary loan. Plus, I am unsure where Raybourn will be able to take it after the conclusion of this installment, but I am willing to give it a try.