Scotland, 1830. Following the death of her husband, Lady Darby has taken refuge at her sister’s estate, finding solace in her passion for painting. But when her hosts throw a house party for the cream of London society, Kiera is unable to hide from the ire of those who believe her to be as unnatural as her husband, an anatomist who used her artistic talents to suit his own macabre purposes. Kiera wants to put her past aside, but when one of the house guests is murdered, her brother-in-law asks her to utilize her knowledge of human anatomy to aid the insufferable Sebastian Gage-a fellow guest with some experience as an inquiry agent. While Gage is clearly more competent than she first assumed, Kiera isn’t about to let her guard down as accusations and rumors swirl. When Kiera and Gage’s search leads them to even more gruesome discoveries, a series of disturbing notes urges Lady Darby to give up the inquiry. But Kiera is determined to both protect her family and prove her innocence, even as she risks becoming the next victim…
When I began writing what is now my debut historical mystery novel, The Anatomist’s Wife, I originally titled it Half Sick of Shadows. That phrase came from a line in the poem “The Lady of Shalott” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. As the poem goes, the Lady of Shalott lived in a tower and was forbidden to gaze upon the world with her own eyes. She could only observe it through the reflection of her mirror and weave the sights she saw there on her tapestry – a rather sad and lonely existence, and one she grew tired of.
But in her web she still delights
To weave the mirror’s magic sights,
For often thro’ the silent nights
A funeral, with plumes and lights
And music, went to Camelot:
Or when the moon was overhead,
Came two young lovers lately wed;
“I am half-sick of shadows,” said
The Lady of Shalott.
I felt my heroine, Kiera, Lady Darby’s life rather interestingly paralleled the Lady of Shalott’s. Following the scandal after her husband’s death, Kiera has hidden away at her sister’s Highland estate, wanting to avoid all contact with the outside world. Instead of weaving, she paints portraits of her sister’s family, and those she remembers from her former life. Having buried her emotions, she tries to convince herself she’s content, but just like for the Lady of Shalott, that’s about to change.
The Lady of Shalott sees, in the reflection of her mirror, Sir Lancelot riding through the fields below her tower, and cannot resist looking upon him with her own eyes. But once she looks, the curse is upon her, and she must die.
Kiera, on the other hand, meets Sebastian Gage. And while it’s true, that the murder she must work with Mr. Gage to solve in order to protect her family and clear her name does much to force her out of hiding, it is Gage who truly makes her step forward to look at the world again with her own eyes. It is he who actually coaxes her out of her cave, whether she realizes it or not. And though she doesn’t face a curse, she is forced to confront her own immortality.
In a similar vein, when I first heard the song “Feel Again” by the band One Republic, I was struck by how accurately it depicts Kiera’s developing relationship with Mr. Gage. Gage does indeed make her feel again, though she’s certainly not as happy to make this discovery as the gentleman in that song. Kiera is forced to confront the pain and fear of her past, and to find the courage to move forward. She also must summon the strength to deal with emotions she never thought to contend with, namely those she feels for Gage.
The Anatomist’ Wife is just the beginning of Kiera’s story. But once it’s over, and she’s stepped back into the real world, Kiera knows she can never return to her “tower”, no matter how much she might wish it, at times. Her life is to be lived, the good and the bad. And, for better or for worse, it appears Gage is along for the ride.
Anna Lee Huber was born and raised in a small town in Ohio. She is a graduate of Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN, where she majored in Music and minored in Psychology. THE ANATOMIST’S WIFE, the first book in the Lady Darby historical mystery series, has been hailed as “…a riveting debut…” and will be released by Berkley Publishing on November 6th, 2012. She currently lives in Indiana with her husband and troublemaking tabby cat. When not hard at work on her next novel, she enjoys reading, singing, travel, and spending time with her family. Visit her website at www.annaleehuber.com
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Heat Level: 0.5 (not even sure it’s that high)
Rating: 4 stars
REVIEW BY LEE ANN
The Anatomist’s Wife is a fabulous murder mystery with tons of suspense threaded throughout the entire story. It starts off with a scream and keeps you on the edge of your seat.
After having her reputation tarnished by her late husband’s actions, Lady Darby is living in a self-imposed exile at her sister and brother-in-law’s house in Scotland. During a house party, a noblewoman is murdered. Sebastian Gage is asked to look into the murder until the authorities can arrive, in four days. Lady Darby is asked to assist with the investigation.
Along the way, Lady Darby and Gage make some gruesome discoveries that are despicable. As they question the guests, they meet with more and more questions. Evidence is discovered and they close in on the guilty party.
But things are never as easy as they seem.
I was intrigued by this story from the very first sentence. Anna Lee Huber had her hooks in me and I couldn’t stop reading. I was craving more at every turn. Ms. Huber has painted a wonderful world where things are not always as they appear.
Ms. Huber does a fantastic job of demonstrating how the structures of polite society restrict what women are allowed to do. She also does a fascinating job of showing how polite society is not really all that polite! One of the worst problems is being judged by your husband’s (or late husband’s) actions, instead of your own. We even get a glimpse into the disparity between the classes and how the nobility are held to a different standard, a more lenient standard.
While I loved this story and will definitely read the next one in the series, I could only give it 4 stars. I really wanted some romance! There are a couple of glances between Gage and Lady Darby, even 2 VERY chaste kisses. However, there was no romance. No shy glances or innocent touches to feed the spark. It wasn’t until the very end until there was any mention of an attraction between Gage and Lady Darby. At that point it felt forced to me. I didn’t understand why Lady Darby would take the actions she did at the end. It was very puzzling to me.
This is not the last we’ll see of Lady Darby and Gage. I’m curious to see what happens next, so I’ll definitely be picking up the next one. I highly recommend this one to anyone looking for a good murder mystery, just don’t expect any romance.