Who Speaks for the Damned: A Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery (Book 15), by C.S. Harris, narrated by Davina Porter—A Review

Who Speaks for the Damned by CS Harris 2020 audiobookFrom the desk of Sophia Rose:

Over a decade ago, CS Harris released the first in a long-standing series of Regency Era historical mysteries featuring an aristocratic detective who starts out as the suspect solving his first crime to a renowned amateur detective in his own right. That book, What Angels Fear, introduced a complex hero who must solve murders and at the same time, the mystery of his own past. He must deal with what he discovers, learn the hard lessons of love, and come into his own throughout the series alongside other series regulars.

From the beginning, I was enamored with Sebastian St. Cyr and the rest of the characters who joined him along the way. I was enthralled with the author’s way of writing not just a mystery, but Sebastian’s story. Fifteen books later, I am still a tremendous fan and tend to fan girl over Sebastian and stalk the author’s website to get any tidbits about the next release.

Who Speaks for the Damned opens with the murder of black sheep Nicholas Hayes.  No one knew the man was still alive since it has been years since he was charged with the murder of a Frenchman’s wife and sentenced as a hard labor convict in a prison colony. Sebastian has heard of the man, of course, but now he has to discover the answers to the present murder and sudden appearance of Hayes by delving into the man’s past. There are still some around who knew him and knew him well including Sebastian’s own valet, Calhoun. Many give him half-truths and lies, but he ruthlessly picks them apart to expose a disturbing, emerging picture. Sebastian is slowly convinced that Hayes wasn’t necessarily guilty in the past and that means someone got away with murder and plans to keep it that way. Meanwhile, a young child who depended on Hayes has been missing since the murder and someone wants this last witness silenced.

Sebastian’s progressive and brilliant wife Hero isn’t idle during this time. She is conducting her own investigation in her ongoing crusade to bring to light the conditions of London’s poor. Her focus for this study are the street musicians and she observes one young musician who may be more than he seems and the key to her husband’s case.

Who Speaks for the Damned offers colorful and well-drawn historical backdrop, a clever twisting mystery, tastes of ongoing series plot advancements, but above all richly drawn and complex characters from Sebastian right on down to the victim and the villain.  There is also a blend of steady detecting work on Sebastian and the police’s part, to his home life and their life in society, and to the action sequences that have the reader breathless as Sebastian faces off with raw street roughs and smiling society enemies.  There is so much going on and yet it flows so well together. Each story, including this one, pluck at the reader’s emotions whether it is a social injustice of the time or the lives of the characters that are sometimes heartbreaking. There are little curiosities that sometimes are explained and sometimes left to be answered later. The book and the series simply sparkle.

For the first time since I started the series, I chose the audio version. I have known for some time that one of my favorite narrators, Davina Porter, narrated the books. If I had a concern that after fourteen books read and voices established in my mind not being the same as the narrators, that was put to bed quickly. These books always get to me and keep me enthralled but add her fabulous audio work and I had no desire to turn the book off even when I needed sleep. She narrates male and female, old and young, various classes, and accents with such talent.  I must go back and listen to the whole series now.

In summary, a murdered victim’s heartbreaking life leads to a gritty murder and I couldn’t put the book down. Those who appreciate a clever mystery, an engaging detective, and an authentic historical backdrop should not hesitate to pick up this series.  And, if you can, don’t miss the audio version.

5 out of 5 Regency Stars

Who Speaks for the Damned: A Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery (Book 15), by C.S. Harris, narrated by Davina Porter
Recorded Books, Inc; Unabridged Edition (May 23, 2020)
Hardcover, eBook, & audiobook (336) pages
ISBN: 978-1664460102

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOK DEPOSITORY | INDIEBOUND | GOODREADS | BOOKBUB

Cover image courtesy of Recorded Books, Inc. © 2020; text Sophia Rose © 2020, Austenprose.com

A Preview & Exclusive Excerpt of Accusing Mr. Darcy: A Pride & Prejudice Variation, by Kelly Miller

Accusing Mr Darcy by Kelly Miller 2020We are happy to welcome back Austenesque author Kelly Miller today in celebration of her new novel, Accusing Mr. Darcy. This storyline is a variation of the classic Pride and Prejudice plot and places protagonists Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy is an alternative universe—combining a love story and a murder mystery in the Peak District of northern England.

For those who are familiar with Miller’s previous two novels, Mr. Darcy’s Perfect Match (2020) and Death Takes a Holiday at Pemberley (2019), you will know of the author’s creative abilities. Great ready for another shake-up.

You will not find familiar characters such as Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, Lady Catherine, the younger Bennet sisters, or landmarks such as Longbourn and Rosing Park. Instead, you will be introduced to an entirely new set of characters and residences. Accusing Mr. Darcy propels us into a country house murder mystery. Will it have the traditional earmarks of a country house mystery such as red herrings and twists in the plot? I’m not telling.

The author has generously shared an exclusive excerpt with our readers to give us a glimpse into the setting and characters. Enjoy!

Could Fitzwilliam Darcy harbour a shocking, sinister secret?

Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet count themselves among the many guests of the Kendall family, whose estate lies amidst the picturesque hills, gorges, and rocky slopes of the Peak District in Derbyshire. Elizabeth’s cousin Rose Kendall believes her dashing brother-in-law, Captain James Kendall, is Elizabeth’s ideal match. Rose’s husband, Nicholas, hopes his good friend Darcy—a rich, proud, and taciturn gentleman with a spotless reputation—will fancy one of the other eligible lady guests.

News of a brutal killing at a neighbouring estate sends a wave of shock through the genial group of friends and family. When one of the Kendalls’ guests is attacked, all of the gentlemen become suspects, but the former Bow Street runner tasked with investigating the crime finds the evidence against Mr. Darcy particularly compelling.

In this romantic mystery, the beloved couple from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice cross paths with a ruthless killer. When faced with dire warnings against Mr. Darcy, will Elizabeth heed them or follow the dictates of her heart?

Continue reading

Her Summer at Pemberley: Kitty Bennet’s Story, by Sallianne Hines—A Review

Her Summer at Pemberley by Sallianne Hines 2020From the desk of Katie Jackson:

In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Kitty Bennet—the fourth of five sisters—has always been something of an enigma. Her father thought her silly, but mostly she was just an easygoing follower, overshadowed by the gregarious personality of her younger sister and the cleverness or beauty of her older ones. Imagine, if you will, a slightly older and more mature Kitty. Three of her sisters have married, and she’s yearning for a new life of her own. On that note begins Kitty Bennet’s story in Her Summer at Pemberley, a Pride and Prejudice sequel by Sallianne Hines.

At nearly 19 years old, Kitty Bennet “was still seen as merely a dimmer version of Lydia. How could Kitty gain respectability and marry well?” (1) “With an indifferent education, a less than respectable fortune, and a family estate entailed away, Kitty’s prospects were bleak at best.” (2)

Forlorn over her seemingly dismal future at Longbourn, she requests and is granted an invitation to visit her older sister, Elizabeth Darcy, at Pemberley.

“This visit would be a new beginning, away from her dull childhood home and the same tiresome people. Kitty was determined to prove herself worthy of a fine future, but she needed assistance.” (5) And assistance soon arrives in the form of a grand ball to be hosted by Darcy and Lizzy in her honor. Kitty will officially make her debut in society on her nineteenth birthday. The Darcys invite all of their dearest friends and neighbors to join in the festivities, and it seems this is the new beginning Kitty had been hoping for. She could finally enjoy the great pleasure of developing loyal and lasting friendships with other genteel ladies and gentlemen. Most importantly, she is finally at liberty to establish a close connection with her own sister Lizzy, as well as Mr. Darcy’s sister Georgiana, and even Mr. Darcy himself. Reliable relationships she never knew she was missing until she’d discovered them. “This was new—having others interested in knowing her, without the interference of a dominating sister.” (38) Continue reading

Georgiana: Pride & Prejudice Continued (Book 3), by Sue Barr—A Review

Georgiana Pride & Prejudice Continued by Sue Barr 2020From the desk of Sophia Rose:

I have been aware of Sue Barr’s work since she released the first book in her Pride and Prejudice Continued series, Caroline. My curiosity was aroused when she chose to continue Austen’s classic story with the memorable side character and didn’t hesitate to redeem Caroline Bingley and give her a chance at happiness in an unlikely place. Then it was Kitty Bennet’s turn in book two, Catherine, who fell hard for a man who was not what he seemed. And, here we have the third book, Georgiana, with Mr. Darcy’s little sister stepping out of the shadows of her past and becoming the current heroine.

Georgiana is recovered physically and emotionally from her youthful mistake with George Wickham, but now that she is on the cusp of her presentation and entrance into London society, she wonders if she is truly ready or if she will be fooled again. If only Max Kerr, Duke of Adborough, the kind gentleman who put her at ease and made her feel they belonged, felt the same way about her as she did for him. Their families are friendly, and she knows they could be happy. Instead, she hears nothing from Max and now must face a London season of discovering the difference between those who would pursue her for her fortune. She has her family around her, but the danger still circles and, in the end, after a painful, winding road, can she let trust grow and forgiveness heal so she can find love with the right man.

Georgiana was a story that I read out of order and from which I still found great enjoyment. I had no trouble doing so because the early chapters caught the reader up on the two previous books and the news of the family. However, it is something of a series spoiler because it shares what happened with the earlier couples to a certain extent. So, if a reader likes to get all the surprises and story as it happens, then it is best to start at the beginning with Caroline.

As to the story, the first half was gently paced, sweet, and rather predictable. Georgie was an adorable heroine and easy to like and wish well. She wants to be done with her past and have the love and friendship she sees in her brother’s marriage and those of her friends. She knows she can have that with Max but is not certain he sees her the same way. Max’s perspective alternates with Georgiana’s so the reader does know what Max is thinking and it’s all going on swimmingly toward a rapid conclusion even if there are sharks in the water after Georgie’s fortune and match-making mamas intent on Max as a future son in law. Continue reading

A Preview of Tempt Me: A Pride and Prejudice Variation, by Julie Cooper

Tempt Me by Julie Cooper 2020Fall is here and Halloween is just around the corner as the next holiday to celebrate. To get in the mood I always like to re-read Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen’s Gothic parody, and a new Austen-inspired Gothic fiction. This year it will be Tempt Me, by Julie Cooper. It is a Pride and Prejudice variation with a paranormal twist. Get ready to meet vampire Darcy, again.

The vampire concept is not new to the Janeite fan fiction world. Austenesque authors have been putting this paranormal slant on Mr. Darcy (for good reason) since Amanda Grange’s, Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, was released in 2009. There have been others along this theme too: Pulse and Prejudice: The Confession of Mr. Darcy, Vampire, by Colette L. Saucier, Vampire Darcy’s Desire: A Pride and Prejudice Adaptation, by Regina Jeffers, and recently, Darcy’s Clan, by Lari Ann O’Dell. I see you rolling your eyes. Stop that. Darcy as a vampire is so sexy—a moody hot mess of uncontrollable desire.

I have not read this author before, but I was won over by the beautiful cover (I am so shallow. I do judge a book by its cover!) and the creative storyline. Austenprose is the last stop on the Tempt Me blog tour so let’s check it out. Here is the description from the publisher and an exclusive excerpt selected by the author. Enjoy!

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single vampyre must be in want of a wife. Someone biddable, her memories easily expunged to allow for strange, inexplicable deeds and baffling circumstances. A tractable creature, of average intelligence, willing to attend to the business of producing heirs and keep out of all else. A girl easily moulded, incurious, indifferent, and demanding nothing beyond access to his fortune.

Fitzwilliam Darcy knows exactly who he needs. He can fix on the hour, the spot, the look, and the words which laid the foundation for an obsession he rejected. But ten years later, at an assembly in an obscure village in Hertfordshire, he finds himself in the middle once more.

His needs are unalterable. But can he resist the one woman he truly wants?

Continue reading

In the Shadow of Croft Towers: A Novel, by Abigail Wilson — A Review

Shadow of Croft Towers by Abigail WIlson 2019

From the desk of Katie Patchell: 

The highwayman: A mysterious figure riding on cloudless nights, a man whose purpose goes beyond treasure for wealth’s sake. There’s something about the highwayman that captures our imagination and has done so for centuries. Is it his inevitable strength and beauty (if he’s the novel’s hero)? Is it because he’s misunderstood by those who know him within the pages, so our sympathy reaches out? Or is it because he’s a figure in the vein of Robin Hood, a romantic symbol of a freer, wilder, more dangerous age? In Abigail Wilson’s 2019 debut, In the Shadow of Croft Towers, a masked highwayman appears once again, this time with gray eyes narrowed in laughter behind his mask, and a quest in his heart for something stronger than diamonds but as insubstantial as the mist: The truth. 

“I often wonder what my life would have been like if I had never learned the truth. I wouldn’t have set off as I did for Croft Towers. I never would have met him.” (1)

Sybil Delafield is well-educated but an orphan, and in a world tailored for men, her opportunities to make a way for herself are limited. When her mysterious benefactor’s funds run out and a strange message arrives to seek answers about her parentage at the unknown Croft Towers, Sybil sees no reason to decline the seemingly random offer to work as companion to the owner of the very same Croft Towers. In fact, she welcomes it. Even a highwayman – especially one smokey-eyed, confusing specimen who refuses to harm or steal anything from the carriage yet makes them all stand in the rain as he searches for something – cannot stop her from finding out once and for all who her parents are.

Unfortunately for Sybil, more questions – not answers – materialize at Croft Towers. Why is it that the charming Mr. Cantrell attaches himself to her, despite her low status? What is the secret that tortures Mrs. Chalcroft and why does she ask Sybil to deliver secret letters under cover of darkness? And why, oh why, does Sybil find herself in the same house with her employer’s moody godson, the man who only she knows is the highwayman?

When rumors of a traitor to the Crown swirl around the foundations of Croft Towers, Sybil must decide who to trust in a house where everyone has their own hidden past that they’d risk everything to protect. In the process, she might even find out who she is and where she came from…if she manages to stay alive, that is. Continue reading

Someone to Romance: The Westcott Series (Book 8), by Mary Balogh—A Review

Someone to Romance by Mary Balogh 2020From the desk of Sophia Rose:

I discovered Mary Balogh’s tender, relationship-driven historical romances by browsing a book shop about a decade ago. The cover of her book merely depicted a landscape, but I recognized the possibilities of a new to me Regency-era author who did indeed pay attention to the details of the historical background of her stories, the social mores of the day, and could still deliver engaging characters and romances.

Someone to Romance is the eighth in the Westcott series. This is Lady Jessica Archer’s story. Jessica watches her cousin Abby with her newborn, a daughter, a loving husband, and a lovely home. She is ashamed of the envy that stabs her especially when Abby had to go through so much to have this. Jessica is determined to participate in the London Season and choose a husband, so she need not feel left out as others get married and have their own lives. Her loved ones want her to choose for love, but she doesn’t believe love is for her. No man has ever stirred more than mild interest in her.  But, at a coaching inn, a bold-eyed man, looking like he is far beneath her, rouses her ire and confounds her at every turn. When other more eligible men come around, it is Mr. Thorne who sparks her interest and she feels a burning curiosity for the mystery surrounding him.

Gabriel Thorne is unhappy that he must return to England after thirteen years away. A terrible, dark event happened, and he was forced to flee his uncle’s home who had taken him in after the death of his parents. He lands in Boston with his mother’s cousin and builds a rewarding new life. Now, duty forces him to return. It occurs to him when he is ousted from the private parlor at a coaching inn for an arrogant duke’s sister that she is just the type of woman he will have to marry now that he is taking the family title and lands back. Only, he doesn’t want ‘a’ wife, he wants Lady Jessica Archer. She boldly dares him to romance her and so he will.

Jessica was a character I had mixed feelings about from the first book in the series and even into the early pages of Someone to Romance. She had several spoiled, rich girl moments and had some naïve notions. Her motivations at the beginning of the book reflected those notions and I was not sure I was going to like her or even care if she found her way to romance. But, getting her perspective and seeing her stumble, become confused, and then start along a new path was worth it. She was more than that spoilt woman and her good points came out as well as a shrewdness that stood her well. Besides, it wasn’t Jessica who naively under-estimates an enemy there near the end. Continue reading