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    Anna Campbell’s Review of SILENT IN THE SANCTUARY: A LADY JULIA GREY MYSTERY by Deanna Raybourn
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  • Published: Sep 25th, 2008

anna_head.jpgI seem to be on a romantic historical mystery kick at the moment. And how’s that for genre-bending?

The last books I reviewed for RNTV were the first two instalments in C.S. Harris’s wonderful St. Cyr series, WHAT ANGELS FEAR and WHEN GODS DIE. This month, I want to talk about the second in Deanna Raybourn’s Lady Julia Grey series, SILENT IN THE SANCTUARY, which is set in the late Victorian era (1887).

The first book in this series (which I haven’t read) is SILENT IN THE GRAVE. It created a nice buzz and finaled twice in the 2008 RITA Awards in the best first book category and best book with romantic elements category, which it won. Wow! Pretty impressive.

I likened the St. Cyr books to great dark chocolate. I’d say SILENT IN THE SANCTUARY is more like chocolate mousse. Delicious and light, but still with that hint of richness. Hmm, I’m getting hungry…

It’s actually interesting to compare the two series. The Harrises are centered on a tortured, complex, slightly superhuman hero and are told in close point of view third person. The Raybourn is heroine-centered and is told in first person.

raybourn_sanctuaryreveiw.jpgLady Julia Grey is the jewel of this book. She’s rich and spoilt and clever, but has hidden depths, and I really enjoyed spending 552 pages in her company. Just as an aside, that’s something that occasionally turns me off first person books – I often get sick of the narrator before I’ve finished the story. But Julia is such a sparkling narrator, that didn’t happen here. I love the way Raybourn deepened Julia’s character by showing her interactions with her family who are an eccentric and fascinating lot of characters in that dotty English aristocratic style.

The hero, Nicholas Brisbane, is darker, more complex and, partly because he’s only seen from the outside, considerably more enigmatic than the heroine. His relationship with Lady Julia is obviously going to extend over several stories so there’s no conventional happy ending for the romance. But shiver my timbers, there’s some great sexual tension and emotional turmoil when Julia arrives at Bellmont Abbey from Italy for a family Christmas and discovers Nicholas is a guest with his mysterious fiancée.

Basically the story develops as a Victorian romantic take on the English country house mystery. It’s winter, all the guests are snowed in, and of course, there’s a murder in the chapel. Our intrepid heroine joins forces with the sexy and mysterious Nicholas to solve the crime. Offering plenty of opportunity for sparks to fly. This book may not have a conventionally romantic plot but it certainly has plenty of romantic energy.

This book was such fun. It’s full of wit and mayhem and style. Did I enjoy it? Well, the moment I finished it, I went to Amazon and ordered SILENT IN THE GRAVE so I think that says it all. I’d recommend champagne as my drink of choice with this delightful confection!

22 Responses to “Anna Campbell’s Review of SILENT IN THE SANCTUARY: A LADY JULIA GREY MYSTERY by Deanna Raybourn”

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  1. Maria Lokken
    on Sep 25th, 2008
    @ 2:25 pm

    Anna – sounds like my kind of book. And it’s a series…who could ask for more. I’m totally fine with books that don’t have a conventional happy ending, if it’s part of a series, and it promises to resolve sometime in the next millennium then that’s okay.

    I too have occasional problems when a book is written in first person – often times I just yearn for another point of view about halfway through the book. When I do find a book written in the first person that totally captures my attention throughout, I’m usually cheering for the author for doing such a damn fine job.

  2. Anna Campbell
    on Sep 25th, 2008
    @ 2:48 pm

    Maria, as you can probably tell, I really enjoyed this. It had a few different things about it that I liked, the setting for one. The house is a character in its own right and it’s VERY gothic in feeling with hauntings and secret passages and all those lovely Enid Blyton touches you want in a mysterious old English manor house. And she does the late Victorian detail so well! The secondary characters are really vivid, probably more in the mystery than the romance mold, if that makes sense. As I say, definitely English country house mystery with a luscious dollop of romance thrown in (although a lot of the ECH mysteries had romantic subplots which is one of the reasons I enjoy them!). In a way, this took me back to my teenage years reading Victoria Holts – do you remember they were always in the first person? You only ever saw the hero from the outside and through the heroine’s eyes – it does add some great dramatic tension not to be in his head and know what he’s thinking. He’s not your typical hero either – he’s self-made, for a start, so there’s great tension in terms of class conflict as well.

  3. heidenkind
    on Sep 25th, 2008
    @ 3:04 pm

    Have you read any of the historical mysteries by PB Ryan (used to write historical romances as Patricia Ryan)? They are awesome! The setting is post-Civil War Boston, and the main character is an Irish governess named Nell who seems perfectly respectable, but is hiding a host of secrets. And her “Watson” is a Civil War vet/doctor/inveterate gambler/opium fiend who illegitimately fathered the child Nell looks after. lol It’s really a great series.

  4. Maria Lokken
    on Sep 25th, 2008
    @ 3:47 pm

    Anna – I think you’re right – it does add dramatic tension when told through a first person point of view. And as I say – when done really well – it’s sublime.

    Heidenkind: I have never heard of this series – but now I most definitely want to check it out. I particularly like the fact that the heroine is hiding a host of secrets. They make for delicious mysteries.

  5. Gannon
    on Sep 25th, 2008
    @ 3:54 pm

    Anna, this sounds like a delightful series. When an author “nails” the first person narrative, it’s amazing. I loved Victoria Holt books when I was younger. They were my intro to romance.

    Chocolate mousse and champagne, hmm? Sounds decadent and right up my alley! 🙂

  6. orannia
    on Sep 25th, 2008
    @ 4:28 pm

    Thank you Anna! It sounds interesting and I’ll definitely look it up (even though I have to admit I am a little hesitant – I’m not a huge first person fan). However, your lovely review has convinced me 🙂

    Heidenkind – I haven’t heard of the PB Ryan series either, but I’ll be looking that up too 🙂 And for those who like their suspense set even earlier, I am curerntly reading The Alehouse Chronicles by Maureen Ash. It’s set in medieval Lincoln. I have to be honest, it isn’t a romance, but the author has done an amazing job of bringing medieval Lincoln to life… The main character is a Knight Templar returned from the Crusades (and captivity) called Bascot. Actually, it’s a re-read….I finished The Husband Test by Bettina Krahn on Sunday and had to read something medieval 🙂

    Anna, I look forward to hearing what you think of Silent In The Grave.


  7. Anna Campbell
    on Sep 25th, 2008
    @ 4:29 pm

    Hey, Heidenkind, those books sound GREAT! Thank you. I’d never even heard of them although I loved Patricia Ryan’s medievals. Sounds like you’d really enjoy the C.S. Harrises too.

    Gannon, another gothic fan! They were hugely popular here in Australia. There was one where the hero was a German prince – Night of the Seventh Moon? – that I absolutely adored. These Deanna Raybourns aren’t as dark as the VHs or as scary, but there’s still that slight air of the old gothics about them. And the hero definitely has a touch of VH about him – you know, dark and mysterious and you’re not quite sure what he’s up to. There’s also a touch of the Bridget Jones about this book which is fun – you know, clothes and furniture and girly stuff 😉

  8. Anna Campbell
    on Sep 25th, 2008
    @ 4:34 pm

    Orannia, so glad you enjoyed the review! I got curious about these books when Nancy, one of the romance bandits was raving about Silent in the Grave. She’s pretty fussy and she really went to town in saying how great this book was. I hope Amazon gets its skates on and sends it to me soon! I’m definitely going to try the P.B. Ryans too. Love the sound of the decadent Watson 😉 And the Maureen Ashes sound great too – never heard of them either. I’ve been living in Romancelandia so much in recent years, a few things have passed me by. Actually my favorite mystery series if the Lord Peter Wimsey books by Dorothy L. Sayers. They have the most amazing romance built into them over several books and he’s one of the most charismatic heroes I’ve ever read (and as you know, I’ve read a LOT of heroes!). They were contemporaries when they were written in the 20s and 30s but they’re kinda historical to us now. I love a lot of the mysteries from the golden age, but there’s an emotional depth in the DLS books that just lifts them head and shoulders above the rest, IMHO.

  9. virgo33
    on Sep 25th, 2008
    @ 4:45 pm

    Anna, some of the girls in my book group have been recommending her books, and I’ve got them on my wishlist now. I love gothics, read Holt and all the others in my teens, and I usually like most first-person books, so that’s not a problem for me. What I like about some of the current gothics, or those with gothic overtones, is that the heroine partners with the hero to solve the mystery rather than standing aside as he does it and protects her.

  10. Anna Campbell
    on Sep 25th, 2008
    @ 4:49 pm

    Virgo, what an interesting point! You’re right. Lady Julia is definitely centerstage in this story which I like (yet she’s still very much a woman of her time – and some of that is quite heartrending, for all the humor). I like a strong heroine to stand up to a strong hero too! And of course, a lot of the fun in this story is Julia putting Nicholas in his place, as he’s inclined to be arrogant, like a lot of good gothic heroes 😉

  11. Marisa O'Neill
    on Sep 25th, 2008
    @ 5:41 pm

    Alright, I’m ordering my champagne and a few new books with authors that are new to me.

    I love first person narrative because it’s how I see and ‘hear’ the world.

    I’m afraid to admit that I’ve never read a Victoria Holt, I must get to the library and remedy that. I love a good mystery and I particularly like the Gothic setting so thanks for the recommendations Anna, Heidenkind and Orannia.

  12. Anna Campbell
    on Sep 25th, 2008
    @ 5:46 pm

    Marisa, I’d be very interested to see what you make of the VHs. They’re definitely old school! I haven’t read one for years – be interesting to see what I thought now. But I devoured them as a starry-eyed teenager. They always featured dark and mysterious heroes who could be goodies or could be baddies. And because it was all first person, you had to wait to the end to find out! I’ve just put the Ryans and the Maureen Ash on my wishlist at Amazon so I’ll definitely be trying them sometime soon.

  13. orannia
    on Sep 25th, 2008
    @ 6:48 pm

    So PB Ryan is Patricia Ryan? And Patricia Ryan writes medievals? Ohhh, I love a good medieval! I’ll have to look for books under both names – thank you for the recommendations!

    And I hope you all like the Maureen Ash books 🙂 No romance, but she sets the scene very realistically….so much so I can almost feel all the dirt 🙂

    Oh, and my library has Silent In The Grave – YAH! I *heart* my library. (It’s the only way I can feed my book monkey and yet save for a house 🙂 Hmmmm…and I haven’t read a VH book in years…time to change that I think!

  14. Anna Campbell
    on Sep 26th, 2008
    @ 12:28 am

    Orannia, Patricia R’s medievals are wonderfully emotionally complex. You should enjoy them!

  15. heidenkind
    on Sep 26th, 2008
    @ 12:48 am

    Silken Threads is one of my favorite by Ryan–that’s the one I’d recommend to start out with.

    I hope you enjoy her mystery series, Anna! The first book goes to some pretty dark places, but you like gothics, so I’m sure you’ll enjoy Nell’s journey to the underbelly of Brahmin society. 😉

  16. Anna Campbell
    on Sep 26th, 2008
    @ 12:55 am

    Hey, Heidenkind, I’m tough. I can take dark 😉 And seriously, give the C.S. Harrises a go. Sounds like they’re in a similar vein. Really they’re among the best books I’ve read in the last year. Really delicious! By the way, have you read Madeline Hunter’s medievals? They’re fantastic too. There’s By Arrangement and By Possession and By Design (can’t remember the exact order although they’re linked) and then a couple of follow-up stories which I thoroughly enjoyed.

  17. Christine Wells
    on Sep 26th, 2008
    @ 1:24 am

    Lovely review, as always, Anna. I have this book but haven’t read it yet, so I’ll tootle off to amazon too to get the first one and then scoot them both to the top of my TBR pile. Love the sound of the hero!

    And I must say, I’m liking the food recommendations along with the titles! Maybe we need to publish tasting notes as companions to romance:)

  18. Anna Campbell
    on Sep 26th, 2008
    @ 1:53 am

    Hi, Christine! Lovely to see you as ever. Thanks for popping by. It’s odd – some books really do make you think of food, don’t they? I think you’d enjoy this – it has a nice, witty touch that I think would appeal to you.

  19. Andrea
    on Sep 26th, 2008
    @ 8:06 am

    I’ve recently “discovered” first person POV and I like it. This book sounds good, Anna! Thanks for this wonderful review. 🙂

  20. Anna Campbell
    on Sep 26th, 2008
    @ 2:00 pm

    Hiya Andrea! This book is definitely worth a look. I wish, however, I’d read the first one first (hey, I’m a Virgo, what can I say?). There’s quite a lot of reference to stuff that happened in Silent in the Grave and it would have been nice to have the background before I read this one. However, having said that, I was never really in the dark about what was happening.

  21. heidenkind
    on Sep 26th, 2008
    @ 4:11 pm

    Anna–I have read Madeline Hunter’s medieval romances, or at least I’ve gotten to By Possession. It was great!

    I will try the St. Cyr series–the cover is beautiful and it sounds exactly like the type of book I’d like. I have to get through the Deanna Raybourne and Tasha Alexander books I have on my TBR pile first, though. lol So many books, so little time.

  22. Anna Campbell
    on Sep 26th, 2008
    @ 4:24 pm

    Oh, I hear you! I’ve got some beauties (including the new Laura Lee Guhrke) waiting for me. Still, it’s nice to always have a good book to look forward to, isn’t it?

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