The last book left me in tears and shock in the end, but also a stronger need for more from this ongoing story of Sebastian St. Cyr and his wife, Hero. The promise of a strong clue into his mysterious and unknown father was the end of that book and is what sends Sebastian and Hero into the adventure and mystery of this latest book.
While each book supplies a new mystery for Sebastian to solve with Hero’s help, this is a series that works best read in order as the story of Sebastian’s past and his relationship with Hero and others builds on the books before it.
The book opens with Sebastian and Hero journeyed to a small Shropshire village to fulfill the last request of a man closely connected to Sebastian and at the same time the quest will hopefully give Sebastian the answers he has been seeking about the mysterious necklace connected to his mother along with the identity of his birth father.
But before Sebastian and Hero are barely settled in at the inn, Sebastian is approached to help the young, new squire and magistrate solve the killing of a young widow, Emma Chance, who is also a visitor to the area. Many want Sebastian to leave it be and assure the young squire that the young woman took her own life. But Sebastian’s need to champion justice for the dead will not allow him to stop look and sifting through the village’s past.
Sebastian is convinced that in the dark, disturbing past is where the answers lay even as he must consider the presence of Napoleon’s brother and his family in the area might very well be the motive behind Emma’s death. As always, Hero is there to support Sebastian and help him with the case even while he encourages her in her new study of how The Enclosure Acts affect the poor people.
But someone is disturbed by Sebastian’s investigation and more death follows. Sebastian worries now that nobody is safe including his wife and child. He has to decide whether to go on or to leave things alone.
Again, I can only spout high praise over a book in this series. From the beginning, I’ve loved the blend of accurate historical Regency/Napoleonic Period setting and topics, cunning mysteries, well-drawn characters that engage the reader, and of course a bit of hard-fought romance makes it even better. Each book not only presents a good mystery to keep the reader guessing, but also addresses the social norms of the day giving the reader more to ponder.
With this one, the setting is new and far from the usual London and near environs and takes it into the English country village. Both Sebastian and Hero are amazed at what bubbles beneath the surface in a place that looks so placid and bucolic on first glance. The author addresses so many elements of the past- religion, politics, disabilities, born out of wedlock, suicide, and so much more. It is blended into the story so it’s not just dry information, but shows motive and thought for her characters. I enjoy how with each encounter Sebastian and Hero become more a partnership both in solving the murders, but also as a married pair and grow more settled in their own right particular Sebastian. He still desperately wants to discover the truth of his past, but it doesn’t eat away at him like in earlier books.
The mystery was particularly challenging because there are several motives and several suspects. Just when I thought I had teased out the right thread then there was a new twist that had me starting over. It wasn’t until Sebastian knew that I had to give up. It says something for the stories that the author writes her suspects so that I feel many things and not just hate. Sometimes I actually like them and am sad or feel pity to find out who and why at the end. But there are a few where I cheer Sebastian on when he triumphs over them and settles the score. This book provided both types of villains.
So, I am sad to see another Sebastian St. Cyr book done and now I must wait again. If one enjoys complex mysteries, deep characters, authentic historical settings, and a romantic sleuthing pair, I can most definitely recommend this series.
I received this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.
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