Back and forth, back and forth I go on what to say and how to rate “Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark”. It’s the start of a new historical romantic mystery series by Donna Lea Simpson, a writer whose works I enjoy. But I need to say up front that this is heavier on the mystery than on the romance–and that it’s set in the Georgian period of English history. So when I rate this one, I’m rating it as a mystery vice romance. Having said all that…I enjoyed this book. It kept me turning the pages (373 of them) to see what would happen next and how Lady Anne would react.
Lady Anne is the daughter of an Earl and an heiress in her own right. She’s not a beauty, but neither is she hideous. And when her fiance died fighting in the colonies, during her year of mourning she took stock of her life and realized a few things. She’d had a near miss from an unhappy marriage. She didn’t like acting vapid to ‘snare’ a husband. She didn’t care for the attitudes and morals of the ton. And she couldn’t quite see the benefits of marriage when compared to the life she could currently lead. She quite likes being a spinster, able to do mostly as she pleases. So when her recently married friend sends a letter requesting ‘urgent’ help, off Lady Anne goes. But not only is there no cart nor carriage to meet her, but while WALKING to the manor where her friend is living, she hears a wild howl, a woman’s scream, and stumbles across a dead body! It doesn’t take long for her concern for her friend and her natural curiosity to take over and soon Lady Anne is doing some nosing around of her own. And she’ll continue to do so until she’s satisfied…no matter what the handsome, arrogant, and infuriating Marquess of Darkefell says! So there.
A gothic setting, liberal doses of humor, a mystery, more action than I expected, and some very titillating sexual tension between our hero and heroine. This story was, in some ways, more than I expected…yet in others, less. Lady Anne is a no-nonsense, intrepid, and very intelligent heroine who follows her own mind and her own path while staying mindful of the boundaries society asks of an unwed woman. She’s someone I’d like to meet and talk with. And she certainly leads the Marquess a merry chase as she’s about the only woman willing to stand up to him…in spite of her attraction to him. She made me smile and laugh with her retorts and setdowns.
The pace of the book was quick, despite its length. The mystery unfolds slowly at first, then rapidly gains speed and goes full out to the end. But it was the end that bothered me a bit. First, I didn’t think this was a mystery that readers could solve themselves. There were a few clues, bits and pieces that were only available after the denouement. I wasn’t expecting that so it bugged me a bit. But I guess in a way it does make this book ‘feel’ more historical, evoking the tenor of the gothic mysteries of the past. And the other minus, for me, was the lack of resolution in the relationship. I won’t give it away, and now that I understand there are more books to come with the same characters, I see why the author ended it as she did. But when I got to the last page, I was peeved!
All in all I did enjoy the book quite a bit. Enough that I plan to pick up Donna Lea Simpson’s next installment in Lady Anne’s story, “Lady Anne & the Ghost’s Revenge” which comes out in Aug09.