Genres: Historical Romance, Mystery Romance
Published by Berkley
Released on July 1, 2014
Ringing in the New Year at her aunt and uncle’s Hogmanay Ball, Keira is as startled as the rest of the guests when the revelry is interrupted by the announcement that there has been a murder and a grave has been desecrated at the nearby Dryburgh Abbey. Keira’s dark reputation gains her some rumor-mongering, but her more recent reputation as an amateur detective has her uncle asking her to join in the investigation. This is a series that is fast becoming addicting and I waited with baited breath to see if Keira and Gage would solve the mystery, but also come to an understanding.
A Grave Matter is the third Lady Darby Mystery and, while the mysteries are standalone, the character and relationship development is carried through the books of the series so it works best in order.
If there is one thing Keira knows, it is bodies thanks to her late anatomist husband who forced her to use her great artistic skill by illustrating the bodies he worked on. The discovery of her part after his death has shredded her character and had many attribute dark deeds to her. It also left her with knowledge that can assist in a murder inquiry. But, for the life of her, Keira can’t figure out why grave robbers would steal the old earl’s skeleton that can’t be used in medical research and neither do they take the effects to sell for money. Her uncle, Lord Rutherford, is the magistrate and he and Lord Buchan, the abbey’s owner, decide to call in Sebastian Gage as the closest professional inquiry agent to take the case. Having parted paths after the last emotionally brutal case, agreeing they both need some space, Keira is uneasy about seeing Gage again, but is also longing to see him.
Gage brings with him news that this is not the first of this sort of grave desiccation and the other resulted in a ransom to regain the body. The ransom note does come and the clock starts ticking on Keira and Gage hunting down the robbers who have now committed murder of the groundskeeper when he interrupted their body snatching.
Meanwhile, she struggles with her tangled feelings and confusion about Gage. She worries about bestowing her heart after her previous disastrous marriage and worries about the secrets she senses in him. Then she gets the revelation of one of those secrets and it may just break her heart even as Gage is willing to go to great risk to capture their quarry.
Each book has been building Keira and Gage’s romance like a pressure cooker. She could barely stand him in the beginning and then doesn’t feel she could ever trust another man again when it came to a relationship and now she is disconcerted about the great need and depth of feeling she has toward a man who has secrets and has a reputation, but is so charming and showed her a side to him that few others know exist. But, she reciprocated by opening her hidden self including her painful past and her art with him already and he respected her rather than turned away in disgust.
The romance is the focus of this story even as they work hard on their case interviewing witnesses and suspects and drawing closer to the truth. There were hints about what was going on with Gage and I confess that I wanted to reach through the pages to shake him and insist he just tell her already, but naturally he didn’t and she found out part of what he was hiding in the worst possible way. She was already questioning his feelings for her since she can’t believe he would truly be interested in someone with her tarnished reputation and status that is beneath his own. But, there was also point that I was just about done with Keira who was letting her fears from the past override even good sense and she was punishing Gage for what her late husband did to her. Her brother even called her on it because she tends to bottle everything up, overthink things, and jump to the worst conclusions about Gage in particular. Fortunately, the angst didn’t last long because they are a formidable pair and electric when in harmony and working together.
The mystery was layered and had some good twists along with danger moments. There were spooky grave visits which are familiar elements now, dangerous characters, and people with secrets. I did have the distraction part of the mystery figured out right away and even worked out the overall mystery not long after that so I mostly had to wait for Keira and Gage to get there. I’ve liked the previous mysteries better, but this wasn’t a bad case. To be honest, I was more interested in the romance element in this book so I didn’t mind.
As a side-note, I loved all the focus on Scottish holidays and celebrations with Hogmanay, First Foot tradition, Burns Night Party, Auld Lang Syne, and Handsel Day. It was fun to see these customs added to the author’s careful attention to historical setting and culture in the Scottish Border of 1830’s.
I was well pleased where this left things off and am eager to press forward with more from the series. If you enjoy a gritty historical mystery along with a smoldering slow burn romance between a brooding heroine and a sexy, charming hero, give this book/series a go.
Mt. TBR #21
Literary Pickers #35 Travel Bucket List (Scotland)
Historical Fiction #20
Series That Never Ends #2
Reading Assignment #7 Prof Author Luv