Mortal Arts (Lady Darby, book 2) by Anna Lee Huber
Berkley Trade, September 3, 2013 (Historical Mystery)
Rating: I’d go there again! (And I will be! Book 3 is out in July!)
Mortal Arts was one of my most anticipated reads for this fall and I was FINALLY able to get my hands on a copy. I had read The Anatomist’s Wife the previous year and couldn’t believe that I had such a long wait ahead of me. But, the sequel finally arrived! I devoured this book just like the first installment and I can’t say enough good things about Lady Darby, amateur sleuth.
Mortal Arts takes place soon after the events of book one. Kiera is somewhat recovered from her ordeal, but what’s thrown her for a loop is investigator, Sebastian Gage. Kiera seemed resigned to her life and was content, but after meeting Gage, she seems to understand that there’s something lacking in her life. But Gage left for Edinburgh, and Kiera’s left to deal with these new found emotions on her own. Luckily, Kiera and Gage’s paths are about to cross once more.
While traveling with her sister and brother-in-law, Alana and Phillip, Kiera ends up at the home of an old family friend, Michael, who is about to marry Phillip’s cousin. It seems that Michael’s long lost brother has been found alive rather than dead, as expected. Michael’s elder brother, Will, was locked away in an asylum by their father after Will returned from the war a changed man. Kiera has a friendship with Will, who was an artistic mentor to her when she was a girl and because of that history she refuses to believe the accusations that are being thrown at Will and she insists on helping Gage determine the truth of the matter.
I had a lovely time returning to Lady Darby and I have to say that it is a delight to see how her character is evolving. In the first book, Kiera is a fairly closed off person, she’s been dealt a terrible hand with her first husband and she’s looking to be left alone with her painting. However, her experience with Gage and investigations have brought something back to life in her. In book two, Kiera seems to have made so much more progress, I liked this new found awareness that Kiera has about herself. She looks at her sister and brother-in-law and see’s their happiness and starts to feel jealousy. I think this is something new for her and I like the fact that she’s not entirely sure what to do about it. On one hand, she’s aware that she does want something more from Gage, but on the other hand, she’s not really at the point where she can reach for it. I love the growth to Kiera’s character and I can’t wait to see how she continues to evolve in book 3.
While Mortal Arts is definitely a historical mystery, I’m not going to focus on that in my review. I’m personally reading the series for the character development (and the romance) so the mystery wasn’t all that important to me. However, if you are a mystery buff, I may not recommend this one. I can honestly say that I called the “villain” fairly early on in the book. I didn’t find the mystery element to be all that complicated. What drove the novel was the complexity and the secrets between the “series regulars” and the characters that the mystery involves. Will is clearly suffering from PTSD. However, since this is not the modern day, there is no acknowledgement or treatment for this. It’s heartbreaking to think that Will’s own father stuck him in an asylum that experimented on him all because he didn’t understand what had happened to his son after years of battle experience. These themes and character developments were what really stood out for me in Mortal Arts and what will keep me coming back.
For those of you who, like me, are mostly interested in the romance element, I can guarantee that Mortal Arts has more romance than book one. Kiera and Gage have established a working relationship now, and it’s good to see them working together, but the romantic tension here takes the cake. Kiera and Gage both acknowledge that there’s something more between them, but neither seems ready to act upon it. And I have to wonder about the secrets Gage is keeping, and can only hope that more of his story is revealed in book 3.