A Brush With Shadows by Anna Lee Huber
This is the sixth installment of the delightful Lady Darby Series. It’s coming out in the beginning of March, but as a member of the distinguished group of “F(Anna)tics” on Facebook, I knew I had to get my hands on a copy as soon as possible. I turned to my friend NetGalley, requested it, and got approved! Yes! Now I can jump back into the adventures of Lady Darby and her devilishly handsome now husband Sebastian Gage.
Much like Deanna Raybourn, Huber knows how to write a woman character with strength and vulnerability. And I love that. Make it much more real to the reader. Lady Darby is a complicated woman, who has dealt with many complications in her life and has emerged on the other side happily married and assisting her husband in investigations whenever she can.
This book takes the reader back to Gage’s early years at his Grandfather’s estate in the Dartmoor region of England. Summoned by his Grandfather, it had been 15 years since Gage had set foot at his mother’s family home. He’s called to help find the missing heir (his cousin) who had disappeared in mysterious circumstances on the moors surrounding the Estate. The reader learns more about this family and how they treated both Gage and his mother while she was still alive. By the time the end rolls around, the reader can understand all sides of the situation, and there is a modicum of respect that weaves through the house. While there are tragedies during this foray into the ancestral estate, the book does a good job of letting the reader find their way through the maze of misinformation and folklore. The person behind all the craziness came as a surprise to me, I had bet on someone else entirely! And I got a little misty eyed at the end for several reasons, of which I wouldn’t want to spoil for any other fans.
I’ve written about Anna Lee’s books before ( This Side of Murder) and I’m still a huge fan of this, her original series. She’s also a great follow on Twitter @annaleehuber. If you’re in to any type of historical mystery, she ticks all the boxes in various time frames.
The Phantom’s Apprentice by Heather Webb
Well, this book could not have come at a better time! Tomorrow I’m going to see the “sequel” to Phantom, “Love Never Dies” at the Boston Opera House.
I was never a HUGE fan of the original, and then the movie was just okay. So I was excited for this retelling of the story from the perspective of the manipulated woman, Christine Daae. This book makes her a strong character in her own right, just trying to honor her dead father’s memory by singing in the Paris Opera. She is fantastic at it, but she longs to do something more with her life. Her mother taught her illusions from a young age, and she was fascinated by mechanical objects. She loves being on stage, but wants to become an illusionist in her own right.
The story follows the plot of the musical. She starts to be tutored by the Paris Opera Ghost, “the Phantom”. He becomes increasingly more unhinged and takes to kidnapping her. We as readers find out more about how/why he became increasingly dangerous, and why he was so obsessed with Christine. I love that she uses her smarts to try and break free from his increasingly tight stranglehold.
For fans of the musical, this book takes a deep dive into a character we don’t really know about. I enjoyed it and I think it’ll be interesting to see how the show goes tomorrow. The end of this book opens the door for more in the lives of Christine and the Phantom.
As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner
This book. Man, it was so good. Another “Book of the Month” pick. And it was timely too! Set during the Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1918, it fits nicely during this time of flu crisis.
I’m not going to lie, I knew very little about the Spanish Flu itself. I knew it was a devastating epidemic, and I knew that it happened in the midst of WWI. That’s about it. This book puts a human face on the sickness, and also the randomness of it as well. It also gave me a chance to learn more about the sickness itself, and tell people about it. A co-worker had mentioned the Spanish Flu when talking about this year’s problem, and I could provide all the background on it. I felt so smart!
So, this book follows the Bright family from Quakertown to Philadelphia. The family of five is grieving over the loss of their youngest child, and believe a change of pace could be good. The husband’s Uncle runs a funeral home in the city, and they family relocates there to try and pick up the pieces. The story follows the four women of the family. Pauline (the mother) and her three daughters (Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa) ground the story. We get glimpses into the men in their lives including husbands, uncles, neighbors, friends, and potential loves. Everything changes when the city is hit with the worst pandemic since the plague. People die by the hundreds every day, and the funeral home is overrun with bodies. The girls lose loved ones, neighbors, and family members to the disease that doesn’t discriminate. Admist all the horror, there is hope when Maggie finds a baby living in an apartment with it’s mother and sister apparently dead from the flu. The family takes the baby in and vows to raise it. This comes with a whole other set of complications as the years go by. The book then jumps ahead to five years after the disease, and the reader gets a sense of how life has changed for everyone.
I loved this book so much. I finished it in less than two days it was so addicting. I’ve already recommended it to several people. I believe it comes out on Tuesday 2/6, so I highly suggest you check it out of you like historical fiction, and love when it’s based in a real situation.