Title: Silent in the Sanctuary
Author: Deanna Raybourn
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Romance-ish
Publication Date: January 2008
Paperback: 560 pages
Stand alone or series: Book 2 in the ongoing Lady Julia Grey series.
Why did I read this book: I read and loved Silent in the Grave, book 1 of this series. I had a bitch of a time locating a copy of book 2, but finally (after a publisher change and reprint), I finally got my hands on this book!
Summary: (from amazon.com)
Fresh from a six-month sojourn in Italy, Lady Julia returns home to Sussex to find her father’s estate crowded with family and friends. Much to her surprise, the one man she had hoped to forget—the enigmatic and compelling Nicholas Brisbane—is among her father’s houseguests…and he is not alone. Not to be outdone, Julia shows him that two can play at flirtation and promptly introduces him to her devoted, younger, titled Italian count.
But the homecoming celebrations quickly take a ghastly turn when one of the guests is found brutally murdered in the chapel. Lady Julia resumes her unlikely and deliciously intriguing partnership with Nicholas Brisbane, setting out to unravel a tangle of deceit before the killer can strike again.
Silent in the Sanctuary opens months after the end of Silent in the Grave, with Lady Julia rested and in much better spirits than she was in when she left England. Under strict orders from their father, Lord March, Julia, her two brothers (including one brother’s new Italian wife, to the supposed ire of Lord March) and an enamored young Italian count return to Bellmont Abbey, the March ancestral home, for the holidays. Reunited with her eccentric father and older sister, Julia is happy to return to England…until she discovers her father’s meddlesome ulterior motives for calling her and her brothers home. To her surprise, she finds an unexpected guest at Bellmont Abbey for the winter – Nicholas Brisbane himself. And, his fiance, the beautiful, widowed Charlotte King. In Lady Julia’s own words:
She was a Fragonard milkmaid, a Botticelli nymph. I hated her instantly.
The volatile environment, fueled by a charming but Gypsy-fearing vicar, the eccentric March family, besotted Italians, and Lady Julia’s own confused emotions of course results in ghostly appearances, an untimely death, and a robbery. It is up to the indomitable team of Julia and Brisbane to once again solve the case, nab the thief, and save the day, all the while wrestling with their own very powerful attraction.
Just as with Silent in the Grave, Deanna Raybourn has written another winning Victorian mystery novel with smatterings of romance and intrigue. While I can’t help but prefer Silent in the Grave, Ms. Raybourn manages to avoid the sophomore slump with this wholly engaging, delectable novel. For one thing, Julia has changed and grown so much from her first appearance in book 1, determined to become her own, independent woman – and this is reflected in her narrative and her bold assertiveness in this installment. Much more in tune with her feelings, Julia is not afraid to use her charms, as is seen with the young Alessandro and her own demands towards Brisbane. Though this book isn’t as defining as the first novel was for Julia as she emerges from her shackled cocooned sham of a marriage, she certainly comes into her own here, taking the initiative and responsibility for her missteps.
Silent in the Sanctuary also reacquaints readers with other characters – most notably Nicholas Brisbane himself, and the eccentric March clan. Brisbane is as mysterious and darkly attractive as always, and the complications introduced with the sickeningly sweet Charlotte King are a delight to see unfold. As always, the Marches add a beautiful layer of vivacity to the story – from Lysander’s marital drama to their own fittingly bizarre, haunted ancestral home. While the overall mystery is enjoyable, it’s not particularly groundbreaking and somewhat predictable – but that’s not really what the story is about.
As with Silent in the Grave, Ms. Raybourn’s strength is in these characters and her witty dialogue, both external and internal. That, and the burgeoning romance – or romantic tension, rather – between Julia and Brisbane. This book feels much more romance-y than its predecessor, which leaves me with mixed emotions. I absolutely adored Silent in the Grave for Julia’s liberation as a character, with the secondary thrill of the mystery and sort of forbidden attraction between Julia and Brisbane. That thrilling tension is missing in this book, the sparkle somewhat diminished because the unattainable romance is becoming more conventional. I wonder if this has something to do with the publisher, trying to gradually shift the focus to a more romance-reading audience? While I still love Julia and Brisbane, I wasn’t really won over in this one by their romance, and I kinda fear that it’s heading toward even more conventionally bland territory. Furthermore, Brisbane seems to have lost his edge; whatever happened to all the supernatural elements, the Gypsy drama and Brisbane’s particular talents? They are mentioned here but not nearly to the depth of the first book – and as Brisbane’s condition was such a huge part of Silent in the Grave, I was disappointed to see these storylines almost completely dropped (or hastily overlooked) in this installment.
Despite these misgivings, I still very much enjoyed this novel and am eager to give Silent on the Moor a read.
Notable Quotes/Parts: An excerpt from chapter 1:
“Well, I suppose that settles it. Either we all go home to England for Christmas or we hurl ourselves into Lake Como to atone for our sins.”
I threw my elder brother a repressive look. “Do not be so morose, Plum. Fathers only really angry with Lysander,” I pointed out, brandishing the letter from England with my fingertips. The paper fairly scorched my skin. Fathers temper was a force of nature. Unable to rant at Lysander directly, he had applied himself to written chastisement with great vigour.
“The rest of us can go home easily enough,” I said. “Just think of it—Christmas in England! Plum pudding and snapdragon, mistletoe and wassail—”
“Chilblains and damp beds, fogs so thick you cannot set foot out of doors,” Plum put in, his expression sour. “Someone sobbing in the linen cupboard, Father locking himself in the study after threatening to drown the lot of us in the moat.”
“I know,” I said, my excitement rising. “Won’t it be wonderful?”
Plum’s face cracked into a thin, wistful smile. “It will, actually. I have rather missed the old pile—and the family, as well. But I shall be sorry to leave Italy. It has been an adventure I shall not soon forget.”
On that point we were in complete agreement. Italy had been a balm to me, soothing and stimulating at once. I had joined two of my brothers, Lysander and Eglamour—Plum to the family—after suffering the loss of my husband and later my home, and very nearly my own life. I had arrived in Italy with my health almost broken and my spirit in a sorrier state. Four months in a warm, sunny clime with the company of my brothers had restored me. And though the weather had lately grown chill and the seasons were turning inward, I had no wish to leave Italy yet. Still, the lure of family and home, particularly at Christmas, was strong.
“Well, who is to say we must return permanently? Italy shall always be here. We can go to England for Christmas and still be back in Venice in time for Carnevale.”
Plum’s smile deepened. “That is terribly cunning of you, Julia. I think living among Italians has developed a latent talent in you for intrigue.”
It was a jest, but the barb struck too close to home, and I lowered my head over my needlework. I had engaged in an intrigue in England although I had never discussed it with my brothers. There had been an investigation into my husbands death, a private investigation conducted by an inquiry agent. I had assisted him and unmasked the killer myself. It had been dangerous, nasty work, and I told myself I was happy to be done with it.
But even as I plunged my needle into the canvas, trailing a train of luscious scarlet silk behind it, I felt a pang of regret—regret that my days were occupied with nothing more purposeful than those of any other lady of society. I had had a glimpse of what it meant to be useful, and it stung now to be merely decorative. I longed for something more important than the embroidering of cushions or the pouring of tea to sustain me.
Of my other regrets, I would not let myself think. I yanked at the needle, snarling the thread.
You can check out the full excerpt HERE.
Additional Thoughts: On the covers, I’m not a fan of these new releases. Let’s compare:
Don’t these new covers (lower) look too…contemporary for the time period? I’m not a fan. I really liked the originals (top).
Verdict: A solid read and highly enjoyable continuation to the adventures of Lady Julia Grey. Although I still prefer Silent in the Grave, I recommend Silent in the Sanctuary, and look forward to reading Silent on the Moor.
Rating: 7 Very Good
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