Sunday, March 7, 2010

Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark by Donna Lea Simpson



Book Description:
A fascinating and exasperating young lady…
The Marquess of Darkefell has enough to worry about with a bloodthirsty wild beast rampaging the countryside and sinister family secrets to protect. Then Lady Anne Addison arrives, with unquenchable curiosity and intelligence that drive him to distraction…

An infuriatingly unyielding man…
Lady Anne finds the marquess darkly handsome, seductive, and forceful, with a ruthless magnetism that challenges and stimulates her. But he seems determined to keep secrets that may threaten both herself and her helpless friend…

Thrown together in a time of crisis, with a murderer on the loose, the marquess picks an absolutely dreadful moment and the worst possible way to declare his intentions…


I've found myself leaning more and more towards historical mysteries these days, and this latest is termed a "cozy mystery." G-rated, this story takes place in Georgian England, though for most of the book I had the odd feeling it took place in Victorian times. There is a decidedly Gothic feel to this novel, set in Yorkshire. The story revels in werewolves, castles, murdered young women and the ubiquitous darkly brooding marquess (his name is even Darkefell!) Lady Anne Addison, a spinsterish young lady who conveniently is independently wealthy, is visiting her vaporish friend, Lydia, who is newly married into an unfriendly family. She beseeches Anne to come visit her and solve the disturbing mystery of the werewolf that plagues the area. Howls in the night abound. Just as Lady Anne arrives, she literally trips over the dead body of Lydia's maidservant who appears to have been attacked by some wild animal. Could it have been a werewolf?

Lady Anne is a devotee of common sense and does not believe in werewolves or any other kind of paranormal activity that has the Yorkshire countryside of Darkefell in an uproar. She believes there must be a rational explanation for the death of the poor young girl and she takes it upon herself to investigate and solve the murder mystery. I can't say I liked Lady Anne at first. She was much too domineering and curious to my liking, though over the course of the book she grew on me. Or, I just got used to her butting in where she isn't wanted. She meets and offends most of her dear friend Lydia's in-laws - including the handsome marquess of Darkefell who lives in the nearby castle alone, but deigns to eat his meals with the rest of his family in the dower house where Lady Anne is residing as a guest.

The marquess is oddly attracted to Anne's indomitable spirit, although she is no beauty. He is struck by her forthrightness and sensibilities and he reluctantly makes a play for her, albeit, he's not the most romantic sort and clumsily kisses her from time to time. Anne is even more reluctant to fall for his so-called charms and rebuffs his kisses with some well placed slaps across the face. She doesn't fool him though, he sees through her maidenly sense of decorum and continues to seek her out. As a matter of course, they both appreciate each other's fine minds and work together to solve the mystery of the dead girl. The marquess also uses their time together to ultimately make his intentions clear to Lady Anne. He likes her, he wants to kiss her, he wants to marry her. Lady Anne will have none of it, although she finds him handsome and his kisses create a feeling in her that she has a hard time ignoring. But, being a woman of independent means, she will not be a slave to her libido and once the mystery is solved, she hightails it out of Darkefell on the next coach to Cornwall. Silly, silly woman. Of course, the marquess plans to follow her and the hunt is on, thus leading to another book in the works which continues their reluctant courtship in Cornwall, though a publication date is uncertain.

There are plenty of suspects in this novel, a former African slave that the Marquess has rescued, the Marquess' brother, John, who is Lydia's husband, the ornery neighbor who has a distinct dislike of the Marquess, and a handful of various servants and townspeople who have an axe to grind or some sort of vendetta as well.

Can Lady Anne solve the mystery and still remain aloof to the lord of the castle's charms? Will we learn what is Lydia's problem and if her husband has been unfaithful? Why does the marchioness dislike her daughter-in-law so much, what is she hiding? Is there really a werewolf roaming the countryside terrorizing poor defenseless young women? All is revealed by the end of the book, with a major cliffhanger regarding Lady Anne and the marquess.

Although I was not bowled over by this historical mystery, I am curious to know what happens between Lady Anne and Darkefell. If you like cozy mysteries, this is worth a look, but I found the writing at first hard to follow and stilted and no where did I get the sense this was taking place in the 18th century! Even the cover gives the impression of a later time period! Lady Anne seemed much too independent a woman and would have fit in much better in the late eighteenth century. The mystery itself wasn't bad, though I did guess who the murderer was at one point, but there were a few red herrings that threw me off the scent. The plotline was decent and kept me interested, but I've read better.

3/5

8 comments:

Joanne said...

I was curious to see what you thought of this one...I think I'll stick with Deanna Raybourn and Colleen Gleason for now.

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Joanne, that's probably a wise decision, though I am eager to read Tasha Alexander and Elizabeth Peters.

Patti said...

Sounds interesting...maybe a rainy day read.

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Patti, I can't wholeheartedly recommend it, but yes, for a rainy day, it wouldn't be bad.

Joanne said...

Julie - Tasha Alexander has a very elegant writing style that I admire; Elizabeth Peters is a hoot--very light reading. Interestingly, I was watching a youtube interview today with Sharon Kay Penman and the woman who owns The Poisoned Pen bookstore (where Diana Gabaldon shops ;)....anyway, Sharon Kay Penman said she thought Elizabeth Peters was hilarious and reads all her books!

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Joanne, I'm glad to hear that about TA, for I'll be starting one of her books soon. I've also got EP on my list as well! You've gotten me hooked on these historical mysteries!

Lana said...

Julie -
I enjoyed Lady Anne a great deal. I personally didn't find her unlikable, though I can see how she might come off that way. I found her determination (and her tendency to stick her nose where she wasn't wanted) rather endearing, and quite characteristic of a Gothic story.

I can't find where I heard this - but I think the next Lady Anne is supposed to come out this fall (October?).

Enjoyed your review, and I hope you like the next Lady Anne a bit better! I've linked to you
here

Julie at Outlandish Dreaming said...

Lana, thanks for commenting! I enjoyed your review too! Lady Anne was just too forward for me, I would have preferred in later in time, I just found her grating in Georgian times. I am eager for the next book, though it looks like it's on hold (according to Sourcebooks). Have you read the books by Deanna Raybourn and Tasha Alexander. I'm afraid I've been spoiled by Deanna Raybourn's female sleuth, so Lady Anne (for me) was not as endearing.

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