You guys, when I came across Mortal Arts by Anna Lee Huber? I felt like I’d struck gold. Romantic historical mysteries are my basically my jam. How could all three of those genres together not make magic? Some of the best series I follow fall into this category, and these Lady Darby books are definitely the newest addition to the list.
Lady Darby is a widow surrounded by scandal. Her husband, a famous anatomist, forced her to participate in his gruesome autopsies. She is a super talented artist, so he needed her to draw diagrams of body parts so that he could publish a book. Once he dropped dead, she was exposed as being “unnatural.” In the first book of the series, The Anatomist’s Wife, we learn that she has been living with her sister and brother-in-law in Scotland, basically hiding out from society. When a murder takes place on their estate, however, she gets dragged back out into the open…enter Sebastian Gage, the mysterious and sexy inquiry agent.
Now, in Mortal Arts, she becomes enmeshed in yet another scandal when some old family friends reveal that a man previously thought to be dead has actually just been locked away in an insane asylum.
The mystery and suspense weaved into the plot of Mortal Arts is far superior to the first book of the series, in my opinion. You guys, it is impossible not to become emotionally involved in the story. William, who has been locked away, is a former soldier suffering from PTSD in a time before it was recognized or understood. The combination of watching him suffer as well as seeing everyone around him at a total loss as to how to help? Heart wrenching, seriously. PTSD is still so misunderstood even today when it is possible to seek treatment – it must have been unbearable in 1830.
Another plus is that even after only two books, I completely trust Anna Lee Huber with historical accuracy. Her notes at the end always fascinate me – and I can tell she does her research. So many fascinating tidbits pop up throughout the story – I honestly feel like I learned some things.
As for the characters? FABULOUS. Kiera Darby is wonderful and complex – she is dealing with her emotional traumas while still being devoted to her art and family. I love watching her mind at work. Watching her fight the swoons when it comes to Sebastian Gage is just an added bonus. He is fiercely hot, y’all. There is little to no actual development in their relationship (or lack of a relationship, I should say)…but that doesn’t stop the swoons. Just putting them in a room together sets off the tension nicely. I absolutely cannot waaaaaait to see where they go from here.
Basically, if you’re a (intensely rabid) fan of Tasha Alexander and/or Deanna Raybourn like I am, you absolutely have to give Lady Darby a spin! Then we can join forces and demand the next installment by any means necessary…