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    Anna Campbell’s Review of WHAT ANGELS FEAR and WHEN GODS DIE by C.S. Harris
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  • Published: Aug 29th, 2008

Anna_head What a treat! Fantastic historical mysteries with a great romantic subplot!

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 wereHarris_angelsreview 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, Harris_godsreview 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!

32 Responses to “Anna Campbell’s Review of WHAT ANGELS FEAR and WHEN GODS DIE by C.S. Harris”

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  1. Vanessa
    on Aug 29th, 2008
    @ 3:33 am

    “Rich and dark like the best chocolate”? Sounds like these books are for me! Thanks for the recommendations, Anna.

  2. Anna Campbell
    on Aug 29th, 2008
    @ 4:40 am

    Hey, Vanessa! My chocaholic friend. Nice to see you here. They’re great books – really dark and different. A bit like orange Lindt!

  3. Buffie
    on Aug 29th, 2008
    @ 5:09 am

    Great reviews, as always, Anna!! I have to be honest and say that I have never read C.S. Harris before. There are so many great books out there and I just can’t get a grip on all of them. Book of these books sound fabulous.

    PS — I finally started UNTOUCHED last night. And already I’m blown away!

  4. Maria Lokken
    on Aug 29th, 2008
    @ 6:56 am

    Hey Anna – Thanks for bringing these books to my attention. I really enjoy books that bring the ‘unearthly qualities’ into their characters. I think it’s because I feel we all have them. I mean, haven’t you ever been thinking about a person and suddenly the phone rings and it’s them, or you run into them on the street? So, when an author gives characters ‘abilities’ it’s right up my alley. I think that’s why I’m attracted to paranormal and fantasy.

  5. MaryKate
    on Aug 29th, 2008
    @ 8:14 am

    Ah, Anna! Another review that sings. It’s like you’re a professional writer or something! 😉

    I have GOT to finish one last review this weekend and then, I’m gonna read, read, read!! Woo hoo!

    What’s everyone planning to read this weekend??

  6. Maria Lokken
    on Aug 29th, 2008
    @ 8:57 am

    It’s a long weekend here in the States – Yahoo!!! Off to visit our folks… good company, good food, and boating…

  7. PJ
    on Aug 29th, 2008
    @ 9:44 am

    How can I possibly not want to read books that are likened to orange Lindt? Love your review, Anna. I’ll definitely have to look into these books.

  8. Anna Campbell
    on Aug 29th, 2008
    @ 12:39 pm

    Hey, Buffie, how cool you’re reading the green monster. I must admit I had quite a crush on that hero 😉 I agree with you about so many books and it being hard to keep track of them all. Perhaps because they were marketed as mysteries rather than romances, these passed me by – took a friend recommending them to get them to register with me. And even then it took me a while to read the first one. But wow, they’re fantastic.

    Maria, I love that this guy has ‘super’ powers but she explains it medically. And he’s still human and vulnerable and the stories are still absolutely anchored to the real Regency world which makes them so interesting to me. I also love that she takes a lot of the mystery stereotypes like the nerdy forensics expert and the slightly slower than the detective sidekick and the winsome urchin and then puts this utterly individual Regency noir spin on them. Seriously, give these books a go – I’d love to know what you think!

  9. Anna Campbell
    on Aug 29th, 2008
    @ 12:44 pm

    MK, what a lovely compliment. Thank you! I have such fun with these reviews – I love sharing books I’ve enjoyed with my friends. I’m actually reading Georgette Heyer’s Regency World by Judith Kloester at the moment and thoroughly enjoying it. I love the way she links the GH books back to the historical background. JK was a guest at our conference in Melbourne last week and I thought she was marvellous. She did a talk on GH and the Regency which was mainly about GH and you could have heard a pin drop in the room. Everyone who writes Regency owes GH a debt – she invented the genre after all and that wrote books so good that the world wanted more of the same. Do you know she still sells 500,000 copies of her books every year nearly 30 years after her death? Isn’t that an amazing achievement? And idiots still persist in calling them light froth and just ‘women’s’ fiction. Grrrr!

    Hey, enjoy your long weekend, everyone! I’m hunkered down finishing a manuscript which is due in a month. Then I’m seriously thinking of going away somewhere with a lump of my TBR pile. There’s so much good stuff waiting for me on the bedside table and I can’t trust myself to pick up good fiction right now – I’m terrible, if I’ve got a good book, I just won’t put it down! Looking forward particularly to the new Anne Gracie.

    Hey, have you guys noticed that the Aussies have taken over the asylum here?

  10. Anna Campbell
    on Aug 29th, 2008
    @ 12:45 pm

    PJ, did these books pass under your radar too? They’re definitely worth a look. Really beautifully written and such compelling characters. And something a little bit different too!

  11. Maria Lokken
    on Aug 29th, 2008
    @ 1:15 pm

    Anna-Just my kind of asylum.

    You have me salivating that you are almost finished with your manuscript! How exciting.

  12. Anna Campbell
    on Aug 29th, 2008
    @ 1:19 pm

    Maria, I’m glad I’ve got you drooling. Hmm, the asylum thing is getting a bit too vivid, isn’t it? 😉 Hey, did you guys see that my new cover and the excerpt of the January one, TEMPT THE DEVIL, is up on the website? And yeah, that was some shameless promo hoing!

  13. Anna Campbell
    on Aug 29th, 2008
    @ 1:26 pm

    Ooh, my last answer doesn’t seem to have come up. Perhaps it’s because blogger knew I was shamelessly promo hoing and it didn’t like the link I included. Maria, love the idea of you drooling at the next manuscript! Well, not ON the next manuscript. What I did say last time was that if you go to my anna campbell website and click on books and then on TEMPT THE DEVIL, you can see the new cover and an excerpt for my January release. Let’s see if blogger likes this post!

  14. AndreaW
    on Aug 29th, 2008
    @ 2:01 pm

    Anna, your reviews always make me want to run out and get the books NOW! These passed under my radar, too, but I’ll definitely check them out the next time I visit B&N.

    Oh, and as for the excerpt of TEMPT THE DEVIL– you’re such a tease! 😈 Seriously, can’t wait for this one! It’s been too long since we got our Anna Campbell fix.

  15. Anna Campbell
    on Aug 29th, 2008
    @ 2:18 pm

    Andrea, that’s great about the reviews! It’s nice to talk about a few things that might have missed out on the attention they deserved. I like the way C.S.H. combined the mystery and the romance – often I find the emotional intensity is lacking when a mystery is the focus, but there’s emotional intensity in spades in this story. And the hero is seriously to die for! Hey, thanks for checking out the excerpt! I’ve got a very soft spot for this hero too – although he’s very different from Matthew. Who am I kidding? I love all my heroes! 😉

  16. Annie West
    on Aug 29th, 2008
    @ 2:23 pm

    Anna, you keep adding books to my tbr list! These sound seriously tempting. I’m wondering who C.S. Harris’ influences were as, from your description, they’re out of the ordinary and I’m thinking back over mystery and romance heroes I’ve loved in the past. Definitely books for me to seek out.

  17. Anna Campbell
    on Aug 29th, 2008
    @ 2:33 pm

    Annie, thanks for popping by. Actually her writing reminds me a bit of Dorothy Dunnett, who as you know is my all-time writing heroine. There’s definitely traces of Francis Crawford in St. Cyr – the way he’s displaced in his society, the darkness, the tormented hero, the preternatural cleverness and physical dexterity. I’ve also noticed she writes action scenes a bit like DD – you know, she takes that slightly off-center perspective and it puts the reader on slightly shaky ground and the niggle of uncertainty makes you keep reading to find out what’s going to happen. Does that make sense? The complicated relationships certainly remind me of Dunnett too and the fact that she’s painting some of her characters into corners I’m not sure they’re going to get out of. That’s one of the things I love about DD – she doesn’t pull her punches when it comes to consequences. It really ups the emotional stakes. Hmm, that was a little rave, wasn’t it? I bet you’re sorry you asked now.

  18. Pam
    on Aug 29th, 2008
    @ 2:35 pm

    Great review, Anna, definitely sounds like a series I’d love–historical suspense and preternatural abilities -going on my wishlist right now. I really liked her books as Proctor and didn’t realize this was her.

  19. Anna Campbell
    on Aug 29th, 2008
    @ 2:54 pm

    Pam, I really liked the Proctor books too. I’d always wondered what happened to her – hate it when good writers drop off the scene. There was a wonderful medieval (something about a Knight in the title?) that had such meaty conflict, I still remember how intense it was. And to continue the Aussie theme, CP lived in Australia for a while and set a few books here and one book about the Pacific Islands had an Aussie hero. It was nice to see the world from a different perspective away from Regency England 😉 Not that I don’t ADORE Regency England! I never met her when she was here – it was before I’d got some sense and joined the local romance writers – but I do wish I had. A lot of the girls here still speak of her very fondly.

  20. Buffie
    on Aug 29th, 2008
    @ 3:00 pm

    Wow, Anna, I am really lovin’ that cover and the set back!! I think I would love to try to tempt that devil ;

    From reading the excerpt, this certainly sounds like a very hot sexy read. Do you think this is your sexiest book yet?

    Congrats on being an Avon Romance Super Leader!!!

  21. Anna Campbell
    on Aug 29th, 2008
    @ 3:06 pm

    He is a sexy devil, isn’t he, Buffie? 😉 A definite glint in his eye! Thanks for checking it out and thanks for the congrats. Avon went for the new look when I got the promotion (which is also why it’s taken more than a year for my next book to hit the shelves – there was a major rescheduling when the news came through!). And yes, I DO think this is my sexiest book yet! I blush to admit it!

  22. Marisa
    on Aug 29th, 2008
    @ 3:08 pm

    Hi Anna – as always, you make it hard for me NOT to add to by TBR pile. I’ve been reading an extraordinary amount of contemporaries and paranormals and hardly any historicals – I know shame on me. So I need to start catching up on that area of my reading list.

    And I while I’m sorry you’re on deadline, I’m oh so happy to see small glimpses of the next release Tempt the Devil! Your always write out side of the box which makes you a must read for me. Scandal, Courtesan, Secrets…. I’m really looking forward to this one. BTW, have I ever told you your website is fabulous?

  23. Helen
    on Aug 29th, 2008
    @ 3:10 pm

    Thanks for the review Anna more books to go and get I love it

    Have Fun

  24. Christine Wells
    on Aug 29th, 2008
    @ 3:10 pm

    Hi Anna, I’m so looking forward to these books! Wow, I have such a quality TBR pile waiting for me when I emerge from the deadline cave:) THanks for another wonderful review.

  25. Christine Wells
    on Aug 29th, 2008
    @ 3:13 pm

    Oh, and here’s my chance to gloat–I’ve read Anna Campbell’s TEMPT THE DEVIL in manuscript and it’s my favourite Anna Campbell romance yet! These two are sophisticated and witty (much like Anna herself!) I love their verbal jousting as much as their, physical, er… Hmm, why am I using this jousting analogy again? Can’t wait for it to be released so I can read it again!

  26. Anna Campbell
    on Aug 29th, 2008
    @ 3:18 pm

    Hey, Marisa, thanks for saying that about the website. I LOVE it. Paula Roe, who writes for Desire, does it for me and I adore the look she put together. It’s elegant and gothic and sexy all at the same time, which is pretty hard to achieve! I’ll be interested to see what you think of this book – for a start, NOBODY gets kidnapped 😉 I call it a Regency noir Affair to Remember when I talk to people about it although I suspect I’m the only person who will get the connection. The book I’m finishing now is the one AFTER Tempt the Devil – you get this strange sense of dislocation when you’re writing. The book you’re talking about is rarely the book you’re spending most of your time thinking about! Give the C.S. Harrises a go – if you like something a little different and outside the box, they should really appeal to you. And that is one SEXY hero! I love a smart man at the center of a story – yeah, he’s handsome and all the rest, but his brain is the biggest draw for me (well, mostly!).

    Helen, I know how many books you go through! I’ve got my work cut out to keep up with you. That’s why I did TWO books this month 😉

    Christine, these CSH books are right up your alley. I suspect you’ll just devour them. Thanks for popping by and saying hello!!! By the way, great visit to RNTV earlier in the week. Clearly there’s an Aussie invasion going on!

  27. Anna Campbell
    on Aug 29th, 2008
    @ 3:19 pm

    Christine, you naughty thing! Jousting!!! I’m snickering over my morning cup of tea. There’s plenty of, uh, JOUSTING in this story, isn’t there? You have no idea how I glow when you say TTD is your favorite! Thank you!

  28. Buffie
    on Aug 29th, 2008
    @ 3:47 pm

    Christine, it is really no fair that you are gloating over reading TTD!!!! I’m glad to hear that some of Anna’s wit has made it into the book. She keeps me smiling all the time. Can’t wait to meet the darling some day!

    Anna, there’s no need to blush. Saying it’s your sexiest book yet just give me another reason to read it. ‘Cause you know how much I like a hot book 😉

  29. Anna Campbell
    on Aug 29th, 2008
    @ 4:02 pm

    Buffie, I had to laugh. It’s still quite early over here and I read that as “You know how much I like a hot B*ONK!” Christine’s jousting comment has clearly thrown my mind into the gutter! And I can’t wait to meet you one day too – I think we’re going to giggle like a couple of loons and have a great time together! It was fun to include a bit of humor in a story at last – CTC and Untouched have quite a bit of grim and ironic humor but not much banter! Both Olivia and Erith in TTD use humor to keep the world at a distance – which is one of the things I got from An Affair to Remember – so there’s quite a lot of back and forth between them.

  30. Pam
    on Aug 30th, 2008
    @ 1:41 am

    I just went over to your site, Anna, love that setback, too. Sure does sound like it’s going to be your sexiest one yet. Not nice of others to gloat who’ve read it already – lol. Have a great holiday weekend ladies.

  31. Anna Campbell
    on Aug 30th, 2008
    @ 1:19 pm

    Yes, gloating is NEVER a good look, Pam – except when you and I do it, of course 😉 Thanks for checking out the site – the stepback is pretty hawt too, isn’t it? It’s funny how different stories require different levels of sensuality – this one just really screamed for LOTS of bedroom scenes. There was no ousting the jousting, as my friend Christine would say! Sometimes a story just needs lots of sexual tension to keep it bubbling along.

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    @ 10:05 am

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