A Fatal Illusion
Lady Darby Mystery #11
By Anna Lee Huber
Author’s website: annaleehuber.com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
New parents Lady Kiera Darby and Sebastian Gage look forward to introducing Sebastian’s father to his granddaughter, but instead find themselves investigating an attempt on his life…
Yorkshire, England. August 1832. Relations between Sebastian Gage and his father have never been easy, especially since the discovery that Lord Gage has been concealing the existence of an illegitimate son. But when Lord Gage is nearly fatally attacked on a journey to Scotland, Sebastian and Kiera race to his side. Given the tumult over the recent passage of the Reform Bill and the Anatomy Act, in which Lord Gage played a part, Sebastian wonders if the attack could be politically motivated.
But something suspicious is afoot in the sleepy village where Lord Gage is being cared for. The townspeople treat Sebastian and Kiera with hostility when it becomes clear they intend to investigate, and rumors of mysterious disappearances and highway robberies plague the area. Lord Gage’s survival is far from assured, and Sebastian and Kiera must scramble to make the pieces fit before a second attempt at murder is more successful than the first.
Some of the things I love about this novel include a remarkably complex mystery, living history presented in descriptive prose, and brilliant, engaging protagonists. The living history vibrantly demonstrates a setting of villages, gardens, and vistas, political changes, period clothing, architectural and artistic details, and foods – a feast for the senses. I looked up several things to better understand the scenes and noted the authenticity of each. The Author’s Note shares real people and other pertinent background.
Kiera, her husband Sebastian Gage, their infant, Emma, and several others were visiting her brother when Gage received a brief missive from her father-in-law’s valet. Lord Gage had been attacked and severely injured. They quickly headed to Wentbridge, in Yorkshire. Lord Gage had been going towards their home in Scotland to meet his first granddaughter when attacked by highwaymen. It took several days before they reached the home of the surgeon whose care Lord Gage was in.
Thankfully, Lord Gage was alive. The surgeon, Dr. Barker, and his wife invited them and their servants to stay as they had sufficient space to accommodate everyone. Dr. Barker insisted it would be safer than staying at an inn, since Emma was so young. Kiera was especially relieved; there had been a cholera outbreak recently.
Lord Gage had been shot in the thigh and severely beaten. His wound became infected and, had he not ingested light foods between the surgery and fever, he would not have survived. His footman, Gregory, was shot and killed in the attack.
Gage and Kiera had a barely cursory relationship with his father until late last year. He was obnoxious, overbearing, and had no kind words for his family. Last year they learned about Gage’s half-brother Henry, who Lord Gage wanted nothing to do with. It was quite a surprise that the baron wanted to meet his tiny granddaughter, especially since he hadn’t contacted them about visiting them.
The surgeon cautioned them of the risks of too much excitement or movement before they saw Lord Gage. Unable to get out of bed, the former Royal Navy officer still had a spark of fire in his eyes, especially when he met Emma. The older man’s expression softened to affection, almost reverence. Neither Kiera nor Gage had ever seen this side of him. At his request, Kiera sat on the side of the bed with Emma. Instead of barking out orders as he usually did, he asked if he could hold Emma until he tired.
After Lord Gage retired from the Royal Navy, he became a gentleman’s inquiry agent, similar to today’s private investigators. He had enough connections to help even those in highest government levels. Gage began to assist him and proved successful enough to be on his own. He and Kiera often worked together. Rather than rely on the local constable, Gage, with help from Kiera, Henry, and three of their trusted servants, would look into the murder and attempted murder.
Lord Gage claimed he didn’t know anyone who would try to kill him or why, but they know he’s hiding something. The people in the village only talk of how this is the area where Robin Hood had been rumored to steal from the rich. An imitator of Robin Hood with his Merry Men is operating again since times have been hard for most folks. Even if that were true, Robin Hood never harmed or killed anyone; the attackers had refused to take Lord Gage’s money when he offered it!
Having read several books of the series, I am acquainted with Kiera’s past, and have great respect for her. Each character is three dimensional; I do like Kiera best, then Bree, Gage, and Henry. I appreciate how each one continues to grow and change, including Anderley and Bree. Whether Lord Gage will ever change is anyone’s guess.
I enjoy the realistic conversations between characters. The mystery always has priority to the novel, challenging as it is with Lord Gage hiding inconvenient pieces of truth, especially after two attempts are made at the surgeon’s home. One local was finally willing to tell them who to look at, giving me more ideas. I had only one real suspect, but it wasn’t possible for that person to have done everything alone. I was certainly surprised at parts of the outcome of the mystery and attempts for family reconciliation, and very pleased overall. I am looking forward to their next adventure! I highly recommend this fully-engaging historical novel.