Book Review | “Mortal Arts” (#LadyDarby, No.2) by Anna Lee Huber

Posted Wednesday, 6 July, 2016 by jorielov , , , , 3 Comments

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Borrowed Book By: My local library has always been quite keenly astute on forthcoming releases by authors whose books wink at me from the card catalogue, whenever I am seeking a new read within a genre I happen to have a penchant attachment. Cosy mysteries have always been knitted into my heart, and although I honestly cannot remember exactly if the library purchased the Lady Darby book series off a request of mine OR if they were requested by another patron, all I can simply say is that I felt immeasurably blessed that the first two novels of the Lady Darby mysteries were at my library! I did make enquiries on behalf of this series to be continued to be added to the library as forthcoming titles release henceforth forward!

As this series is a part of a personal quest to read Serial Fiction Library Finds, I was not compensated for this review nor was I obliged to share my thoughts on behalf of this novel or the Lady Darby Mysteries.

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On how we left Lady Darby in The Anatomist’s Wife:

Aside from being betwixt and between knowing if her instincts were fuelling her mind into the right direction to explore in regards of which suspect was truly the one who could have acted with such a sinisterly blackened heart – it was the truth she uncovered about his mental state & the lengths in which he would resort to elicit a future that no longer mattered if lives were the cost. Lady Darby had trouble finding a way to reconcile what she learnt but it’s how she survived the ordeal outright that left me hanging onto my seat until the very last page was turnt!

Huber writes us such an intensively compelling story, it’s hard to forsake stepping outside the series even for rudimentary necessities like sleep or a nosh to fill an appetite! How I lasted as long as I did from a respite of entrance is unknown! The ending was so dearly emotional – not only at the fervently dire pitch to live past the madman’s last efforts to cover his tracks, but because of the realisations both Lady Darby & Mr Gage come to understand about themselves. At the heart of this series is a very humanistic threading of a heart-pulse for the living; wherein we see how hard-won living a life of your own making can become when scrutiny overrides your freedoms.

You can only smirk when you first realise Lady Darby’s error in regards to Mr Gage’s proclivities! This is where I felt there was a marked change in her attitude towards him as well as a levelling of their angst for each other. It took them each a long time to sort each other out, as each of them was highly guarded for different reasons. Being able to have a ‘fly on the wall’ presence as they talk out their differences whilst owning to their own pride is part of the joy in reading the story; whilst giving you a clue about how the series might shift forward in successive installments. Lady Darby shines when she has a bit of challenge next to her in regards to a potential partner who is both her equal and is a bit in awe of her level of intelligence outside his own interests. They exchange the roles often between who is the teacher and who is the student, depending on the situation at hand.

-quoted from my review of The Anatomist’s Wife

I daresay, I was full of wicked anticipation of what would come next within the chapters of #MortalArts! Especially as I dearly wanted to read more exchanges between Lady Darby & Mr Gage!

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As I was settling into collecting my thoughts as read this next installment of the series, I had a bit of a go selecting which tweets to respond to threading on the #LadyDarby tag – whereupon, I learnt a joyous spoiler via this tweet! The rest of which I have added to the bottom of this review, as a further record of how happy I am to find readers of the series & the joy I am having tweeting about it as well! The spoiler did not affect me – if anything, it confirmed what I sneakily forethought to occur after having concluded The Anatomist’s Wife as truly was it not writ as a meant in the stars conclusion!?

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Book Review | “Mortal Arts” (#LadyDarby, No.2) by Anna Lee HuberMortal Arts
Subtitle: A Lady Darby Mystery
by Anna Lee Huber
Source: Borrowed from local library

Scotland, 1830. Lady Kiera Darby is no stranger to intrigue-in fact, it seems to follow wherever she goes. After her foray into murder investigation, Kiera must journey to Edinburgh with her family so that her pregnant sister can be close to proper medical care. But the city is full of many things Kiera isn't quite ready to face: the society ladies keen on judging her, her fellow investigator-and romantic entanglement-Sebastian Gage, and ultimately, another deadly mystery.

Kiera's old friend Michael Dalmay is about to be married, but the arrival of his older brother-and Kiera's childhood art tutor-William, has thrown everything into chaos. For ten years Will has been missing, committed to an insane asylum by his own father. Kiera is sympathetic to her mentor's plight, especially when rumors swirl about a local girl gone missing. Now Kiera must once again employ her knowledge of the macabre and join forces with Gage in order to prove the innocence of a beloved family friend-and save the marriage of another...

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 9780425253786

Also by this author: The Anatomist's Wife, A Grave Matter, A Study in Death, As Death Draws Near Book Blast (Series Notes), This Side of Murder

Series: Lady Darby Mysteries


Also in this series: The Anatomist's Wife, A Grave Matter, A Study in Death


Genres: Cosy Mystery, Crime Fiction, Historical Fiction, Suspense


Published by Berkley Prime Crime

on 3rd September, 2013

Format: Trade Paperback

Pages: 374

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The Lady Darby Mysteries:

The Anatomist’s Wife | No.1 | (see Review)

Mortal Arts | No.2

A Grave Matter | No.3 | Synopsis

A Study in Death | No.4 | Synopsis

A Pressing Engagement | No.4.5 (e-novella) | Synopsis

As Death Draws Near | No.5 | Synopsis | Happy #PubDay 5th of July, 2016

Published By: Berkley Prime Crime (@BerkleyMystery)

imprint of Berkley Publishing (@BerkleyPub)

via Penguin Random House (@penguinrandom)

About Anna Lee Huber

Anna Lee Huber

Anna Lee Huber is the Award-Winning and National Bestselling Author of the Lady Darby Mystery Series. She was born and raised in a small town in Ohio. From a young age, her imagination was boundless. She spent her summers with her brothers and sister playing Star Wars, wearing snow boots and her mother's old nightgowns while swinging plastic bats as light-sabers, and The A-Team hanging off the riding lawn mower (what else were they supposed to use for the van?). In the fourth grade, she penned her first story, and she’s been writing ever since.

Anna attended college in Music City USA-Nashville, Tennessee, where she met her husband while acting in a school production of Our Town. They married just before she graduated summa cum laude from Lipscomb University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music and a minor in Psychology. She now pens the award-winning Lady Darby historical mystery series for Berkley Publishing. Her debut novel, The Anatomist’s Wife, has won and been nominated for numerous awards, including a Daphne du Maurier Award and two 2013 RITA® Awards.

Anna is a member of Mystery Writers of America, the Historical Novel Society, International Thriller Writers, and Romance Writers of America. She currently lives in Indiana with her family, and when not hard at work on her next novel, she enjoys reading, singing, travel, and spending time with her family.

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I loved the dedication to veterans who’ve sacrificed & served their country whilst returning home with PTSD. It was such a heart-warming way to begin reading ‘Mortal Arts’ as it’s something that has weighed on my own mind & heart; especially as I continue to read war dramas.

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My Review of Mortal Arts:

Between Gairloch Castle & Edinburgh, Scotland
October 1830, 19th Century

Phillip, Earl of Cromarty {brother-in-law to Lady Darby}
Alana, Phillip’s husband, Kiera’s sister

On the road to Edinburgh, we become privy to the dangerous state of reunion in seeing Alana wrecked by pains of bearing a child of whom was putting duress on her person. Kiera herself was concerned but not overly so, as she knew her sister still had a bit of fight within her before any shadow of death could dare cross into her sister’s soul. It was merely the difficulty of the approach to the city and the distances from medical aide that stressed Lady Darby the most; hence why her & Philip made haste to Edinburgh in the first place! My heart constricted a bit, as the last thing I wanted to do was watch Alana suffer through complications out of childbirth or lose the child outright. She had gone through such a trying time when a murderer had been loose on her estate grounds; I had thought the added stress of fearing for the lives of her children (in addition to the one she was carrying) might push her past the edge of what she could handle as an expecting Mum! Such emotional anguish is never healthy but it is tenfold worse when you have your children to consider of whom might be in danger in a way you cannot see unfolding.

Rather curiously, one thread of dialogue is knitting together a new vein of insight into some of the house-guests who were in attendance during the first Lady Darby Mystery. I appreciated learning more about Philip’s family, especially how Alana and Kiera sided with each other over one Aunt in particular (a Lady Hollingsworth) who was amongst Lady Darby’s fervently close-minded critics. I am uncertain when the public prejudices will remit themselves into history but for the foreseeable future, I nodded in agreement with Lady Darby to ‘tread lightly’ and to not become overly wanton in convincing proper society of having a place within it’s folds.

Lady Darby isn’t full of felicity or light of spirit in this chapter, she’s torn between resuming her life and remaining hugged close to her family. The hard bit for her to wager is what is she in most need of right now? And, how does this differ from her needs of even a few months ago?! What has caused the change in her spirit to long for things that she never felt she would ever need much less ache to see resume? You can feel her distraught and an almost imperceptible self-ribbing as if she should not have such thoughts at all weighing on her conscience. One vice Kiera has held is self-recrimination to a buckling effect as she doesn’t oft let herself ‘off the hook’ for affairs not of her making; limiting the potential she views for herself as being most probable in the future.

Dalmay House, outside of Edinburgh, Scotland

(enter) Aunt Jane (Hollingsworth) to Philip
Engaged couple: Caroline & Michael (a secret besmirks their joy)

Arriving at a family friend’s estate took more steam out of Kiera simply by the appearance of the place, but it was also a silent reminder that somethings are hard to turn round in others’ opinions; as displayed by a criticial assessment by a butler. Sometimes I think there is too much empathsis placed on subtle issues rather than a better focus on what is more important, such as a person’s actions, strength of mind and the conversations which point a stem towards a person’s personality or countenance. I can see why Lady Darby grows bored by her peerage; they are permanently content to feather out all superficialities that have no bearing on real-life.

Dalmay House might stand proud and robust against the sea, but it’s starkly landscaped exterior was a bit in need of softening if it’s intent was not to extract such an alarmed surprise by it’s guests. Further strange was the mood of Michael, the person in question of whom was writ about in a letter to Philip and thus of whom was why their course towards Edinburgh had a furlough attached to it now. When it comes to protocols amongst the aristocracy, one can only speculate at what would stand against a marriage; titles & decrees of honour were utmost of importance, but so were bounties of wealth and a living wage. I could see why Philip was struck curious by his Aunt’s insistence that he come by for a visit, but I was more interested in how Kiera might piece the unspoken bits together first, as less than an hour at Dalmay House she already observed a proper sense of unease.

Ironically, or not so ironic I cannot help but smirk into a smile each time I denote another instance where I see a mirror image of myself in that of Lady Darby! It’s hard not too see the similarities; not just for the reasons I outlined previously but even now, where her hair flew out of it’s design or her appearance was altered by the wear of travel; sometimes you get caught up in living your life to where your not always in a position to amend an error of etiquette until you arrive at your destination! Of course, on the other hand – certain climatic weather conditions make it near-impossible (if not highly improbable!) to maintain any sense of propriety at all! Laughs with mirth. Oh, Lady Darby – I feel your vexations!

Gentleman Sleuth: Mr Sebastian Gage – son of a gentlemen inquiry agent
19th Century Medical Examiner’s Sketch Artist turnt Detective {Lady (Kiera) Darby}

I daresay I was smiling the entire time Mr Gage re-entered Lady Darby’s life at Dalmay House! He draws out such a fiery reaction inside her heart – she quite nearly doesn’t know how to handle the emotions that he stirs within her, but at the same time, she’s so fiercely independent due to the circumstances she’s been subjected too, it’s almost as if she’s nearly unwilling to relent that a person can fall for someone they were never opting to meet. Her heart closed to love after her husband’s death and for good reason, yet that doesn’t mean that time wouldn’t find a way to heal her heart in such a way as to surprise her reasoning mind against the logic of such a discovery! He continues to challenge her whilst he vexes her conscience; she is never quite sure how she feels about him except to say, she doesn’t want to become ensnared by his gallantry. I think the greater truth is that she’s trying to resolve how and why she let her heart become smitten when she was truly considering walking into the life of an old maid. She has this will about her that she doesn’t deserve happiness and yet, at the same time, demands to find a way to breathe out a better life than the one where she’s hiding behind family. To say she’s conflicted is to put it mildly!

Lady Darby is not one to be left in the dark about matters dear to her nor of persons she truly beloved in the past; such as a childhood friend once thought deceased is very much alive! The booming dagger of truth fell during an auspiciously inconvenient display of hushed secrets on the verge of spillage; when the words came pouring forth in great mirth, no one was quite prepared for how they would resonate. To fall back on memories where lies swelled together with half-truths, Lady Darby found herself quite more than a little bereft the subterfuge. This coming to her after finding that her artwork was drawing a further acquaintance with her peers as a true talent that needed to be promoted. Never one to glow in pride, I am unsure what startled her more this eve, the prospect of respected work or the realisation that the man she saw returnt back to war to aide her in her artistic pursuits has been suffering through PTSD all these years without her knowledge. It was too unkind to think on and yet, she struggled to come to terms with what this truly meant on his behalf.

Huber approaches Will’s bouts with PTSD with compassion & understanding for what triggers his unrelenting nightmares of memories that are simply too much for him to filter through on a daily basis. His condition was sparked by his years of service during times of war; an affliction that still affects so many servicemen and women today. Art therapy has been known to improve the restlessness a person with PTSD feels and it was not surprising that it is art that is helping William come out of his shadowed self-imposed prison where no light can penetrate except through trying to purge his memories to paper. This is how Kiera was able to break through his internal barrier – she knew him before he was taken away from his home, back when art was a solace to his warring soul. Being natural bourne artists, the two had an unspoken commonality that united them even without the words necessary in regular exchanges; art can speak volumes in of itself.

Gage can be so very exhausting at times! His concern for Lady Darby is admirable yet he has the tendency of her brother-in-law to overstep himself in regards to letting her have own her mind & the freedom to make choices she to effectively aide those in need. He does champion her stealth of wills, especially when she puts herself into situations where most ladies of her generation would swoon themselves into a dead faint, but at the same time, he holds back from letting his love of her not supersede her need to live independent of a man’s insistence to control her interests. Even Philip has this hiccup in his approach to guiding her as although both men in her life mean well, they truly do not understand how pertinent it is for Kiera to be the one who chooses how her stars should align. I do claim Gage is wholly in love with Kiera – it might not yet be disclosed outright, but only a bloke in love would allow himself to be vulnerable and reproached by a woman he loves to such an extent as he is consistently!

As the growing interest surrounding the well-being of a newly found lost friend (William Dalmay) takes Lady Darby and Gage back into an investigative partnership, so too, does Huber begin to needle out further threads of their individual pasts; herein we are privy to a closer inspection on behalf of how she was treated by her late husband; especially in regards to his methods of manipulation whereas Gage is proven to have reasons to be obtuse and secretive due to his past history. I couldn’t stop myself from smiling when Kiera was starting to be advised that Gage liked her, as this seemed to sit wrong with her somehow and if I would be so bold, it’s because she was still conflicted internally on how her own heart drew in contemplation about him!

Oh, dear my! I must say,…

The closer Kiera finds herself willing to give Gage the benefit of the doubt, she continues to learn the harder lesson in recognising that love might be unconditional but trusting a person who keeps secrets in order to best accomplish to his job is something she’d have to make peace with if she could ever hope to move past all of Gage’s omissions. Whether or not Gage even realised the heartache he was inflicting on her or not, is not as important as when he fully understood why if he wasn’t careful, he’d soon cross a line that would divide them apart once and for all. For all the background in this installment, it’s a finely wrought heartache of a love story emerging between two lead characters who never felt they could find a partner who would understand them. They each in turn had their quirks, their faults and such fiery determined grit to be ‘right moreso than wrong’ that it’s a wonderment they could draw out a relationship with a buoyancy of mutual respect but this is what fascinates you to read the winding path Lady Darby and Gage are taking towards becoming a couple! Their path is fraught with obstacles – except it’s how they re-convene and re-establish their connection each time they leave each other in haste that draws out the potential for a long-standing union.

Why I love reading the Lady Darby series:

For starters, no matter how much of an absence you take from this series, you can fully resume your readings as if no time had elapsed! I loved being able to have such a cardinal close viewing of events that were not entirely pushed forward to such a degree you lost sight of where you were previously; when it comes to serial fiction, I do have the mind to appreciate a tightly conceived time-line where past and future events are either separated by a season or mere days, if your lucky! When series jump forward too quickly, I feel muddled; not so with Lady Darby! Huber has blessed us with only a handful of months passing between the horrific death of Lady Godwin and the soon-to-be revealled ’emergency’ of Philip’s Aunt Jane!

Huber truly uses her words & her eloquent expressions to root us in place where the passion for Gothic settings and atmospherically enriched stories become centre-focus whilst deepened by the urgency of the intriguing causes for concern that are a mainstay of the series. I love allowing myself to simply take a pause of breath to envision what Huber has laid before my eyes; it’s lush and alluring – evocative of it’s setting with reminiscences of how you would hope to feel in a Romantic Gothic tale! Part of me feels inclined to continue to point out the cross-appealing nature of this series; as it’s not that Huber is a chameleon of a writer, it’s simply that each time you cross into her world, you start to see more of the layers she’s knitted into it’s heart.

In this particular installment, she has written one of the best clinical explorations of PTSD; it’s a topic of interest most seen in war dramas (of which I read quite regularly with bits of hiatuses in-between) or in Contemporary Romances which draw together an awareness of how hard it is for veterans to dip back inside their civilian lives as they bring back the difficulties of letting go of what they saw & experienced whilst deployed. It’s a stirring account of how so little is understood and how what is known is hard to approach from a medical stand-point as each person who is afflicted with PTSD has different needs and therefore, has a different resolution in the end. I applauded Huber’s insight into PTSD as much as how she had her characters discuss what it is – what causes it – and how best to approach a period of healing and recovery. Her writings are always very keenly researched but when she finds a topic such as this one that can be difficult to postulate into a story-line, I would say she’s mastered the art!

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This review is part of a six-post series about #LadyDarby:

#JorieReads the #LadyDarby series banner created by Jorie via Canva. Book Photography Credit: Jorie of jorielovesastory.com.

As I complete my readings of each #LadyDarby Mystery and assemble my collective thoughts on behalf of each of them in turn, I shall be releasing my reviews of the series in sequence of their publication with the one exception of A Pressing Engagement (as I do not read e-books) throughout the week. Leading up to my serial overview and reflections whilst hosting the Book Blast Celebration on behalf of the 5th release of As Death Draws Near. I received a special edition of the fifth release from the publisher in conjunction with the celebration and I can happily say Lady Darby came ‘home’ for the first time since I ‘met her via my local library’! In total, there will be six posts featured on Jorie Loves A Story – where I have the extreme pleasure of blogging my reactions to the series as it unfolded before my eyes!

I hope this second review will inspire your returned visits throughout the week, seeing what impressed me next and how Lady Darby kept captivating me as I read her further investigative adventures!

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Previously I disclosed my admiration on behalf of the series debut release:

The Anatomist’s Wife (see Review)

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Reader Interactive Question:

What draws your eye into a Cosy Historical Mystery with elements of Cosy Horror threading throughout the investigative bits with a fiercely strong female lead character!?

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I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary! Especially if you read the novel or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst bloggers who picked up the same novel to read.

Plot continues to thicken between #LadyDarby & Mr Gage! In #HistFic #mystery series Click To Tweet

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{SOURCES: Author photograph of Anna Lee Huber, Book Covers of “The Anatomist’s Wife”, “Mortal Arts”, “A Grave Matter” and “A Study in Death”, the Book Synopsis for “Mortal Arts”, and the Author Biography were provided by the author Anna Lee Huber and used by permission. Post dividers badge by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets were embedded due to codes provided by Twitter.

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I’m a social reader | I love to tweet my reading life

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In celebration of #PubDay cheers for As Death Draws Near:

Fun Stuff for Your Blog via pureimaginationblog.comFound a bit of Inspiration Board Type Lovelies on Twitter:

Mind you, these are not all exactly accurate per the story but felt close enough to me!

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Serial Fiction Library Finds (Personal)

About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Wednesday, 6 July, 2016 by jorielov in 19th Century, Amateur Detective, Bits & Bobbles of Jorie, Blog Tour Host, Book Cover | Notation on Design, Book Review (non-blog tour), Castles & Estates, Cosy Historical Mystery, Cosy Horror, Cosy Mystery, Crime Fiction, Flashbacks & Recollective Memories, Historical Fiction, Historical Mystery, Historical Thriller Suspense, Lady Detective Fiction, Library Catalogues & Databases, Library Find, Library Love, Local Libraries | Research Libraries, Mental Health, Mental Illness, Psychiatric Facilities, Psychological Suspense, PTSD, Realistic Fiction, Scotland, Siblings, Sisters & the Bond Between Them, the Victorian era, Trauma | Abuse & Recovery




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3 responses to “Book Review | “Mortal Arts” (#LadyDarby, No.2) by Anna Lee Huber

    • *waves!* Hallo, Vesper!

      I am so thrilled you’ve caught sight of this review! Bless you for sharing it with your followers on Twitter, too! Yes, I have become so charmed by Regency & Victorian era mysteries, I feel as if it’s a special treat I hadn’t realised I could give myself!

      You’ve made me curious – I wonder, which Regency mysteries have inspired you to read more!? I was wondering if you knew of an author I’ve not yet learnt of myself!?

      I do hope you’ll fall in love with reading about Lady Darby & Mr Gage! They are such a strong literary team!! :)

      • I came across a free kindle – The Hanover Square Affair (Captain Lacey, #1) by Ashley Gardner and loved the characters and the idea of solving mysteries without much of a police force and I was hooked into the period. Being a history buff helped.

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