Both these books passed under my radar when they were first released and I wonder if it’s the same for you. There’s so much out there, sometimes it’s hard to keep track. Elizabeth Rolls, a writing friend of mine, said as a passing comment that they would be right up my alley. Well, she was spot on– they’re among the best books I’ve read in the last year. Fantastic to find more great Regency noir for me to sink my teeth into.
C.S. Harris wrote a number of excellent historical romances under the name Candice Proctor. They were notable for their intensity, their historical accuracy and their strong characterization and she’s carried all of those qualities through to her new mystery series. Nor has she forgotten how to create an emotional romance—the love story in these two books is heart-wrenching and passionate.
These books feature a wonderful, tortured hero, Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin. Newly returned from the Peninsular War with more emotional baggage than your average jumbo jet can carry. As you know, I love a hero who is caught between darkness and light, and St. Cyr is one of the best. He’s also slightly unearthly which gives him a vaguely ‘superhero’ status. He’s just that bit larger than life, a man of unfailing honor and principle and strength. His sight and hearing are preternaturally acute and he’s amazingly clever. Just what you want in your romantic hero detective!
The first book in the series, WHAT ANGELS FEAR, sets up St. Cyr, his forbidden, overwhelming love for actress Kat Boleyn, his difficult relationship with his family, and the suspicion society treats him with, even if society is desperate to call on his skills to solve scandalous crimes. There’s a great mystery plot featuring skulduggery and murder, and low doings in high places. The second book, WHEN GODS DIE, spends less time on the romance but the love story is still a powerful element. It’s fascinating to see the threads established in the first book becoming more and more tangled as St. Cyr juggles the opposing demands of his desire and his duty.
There’s a richness about these stories that’s difficult to convey in a short review. The historical background is vital to the plot so the characters act in a convincing, detailed world that breathes Regency atmosphere. There’s humor and suspense and deep feeling. And the characters have real, substantial conflicts that can’t be solved easily or quickly. It’s not just St. Cyr, sexy and wonderful and charismatic as he is. Every character is drawn with vivid detail, from Tom, the street urchin who works for Sebastian, to Paul Gibson, his ‘forensic’ expert and pathologist (without stretching the bounds of fact for the time), to Sir Henry Lovejoy, the magistrate who’s a bit like Watson to St. Cyr’s Holmes.
So if you like a read that’s rich and dark like the best chocolate or strong espresso coffee, rush out and get these books. You won’t be disappointed. I’ve already got my order in for the third in the series WHY MERMAIDS SING. Can’t wait for another dose of St. Cyr – sincerely!