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REVIEW: Dark Road to Darjeeling by Deanna Raybourn

Dear Ms. Raybourn,

After my less than happy experience with your stand alone Gothic book, I was very pleased to see that there would be another Lady Julia Grey – or should we rename it now – book. And what an evocative title it has – “Dark Road to Darjeeling.” It conjures up all kinds of exotic ways to die while the scent of tea perfumes the air. And by the time the book finished, I was beginning to wonder if anyone would survive.

Dark Road to Darjeeling (Lady Julia #4) by Deanna RaybournEight months of honeymooning are quite beyond most of us these days but not for Lady Julia Brisbane and her husband Nicholas. Unfortunately family duty calls in the persons of Portia, Lady Bettiscombe and Plum of the tremendous waistcoats who catch up with the not-quite-so-newlyweds in Egypt with the news that they must all travel to India.

Word has reached Portia from Jane Cavendish that she is expecting and is also now a widow. Portia thinks she’s read correctly between the lines and that Something Untoward Has Happened to Freddie Cavendish which Julia and Brisbane must help to uncover. Soon these two are up to their armpits in suspects, all of whom might have done the deed because, as Julia has discovered during her past attempts at “helping” her husband in his detecting activities, with the proper motivation … anyone can kill.

I laughed at the obvious tip of the hat to the enterprising Englishwomen of the 19th century.

Portia blanched a little at the odour, but stiffened her resolve. “Julia, we are Englishwomen. We are not cowed by a little authentic local flavour.”

Luckily Julia isn’t sickened by her subsequent dunking in Rangeet though her lovely sounding hat will never be the same. The descriptions of the valley in which Jane has come to live after her separation from Portia and subsequent marriage sound heavenly even if it is soon obvious that the place is packed with potential murderers. And I love the name of the estate, the Peacocks, though I’d pass on actually having the resident bird or his rare white peahen.

Since there are big, honking spoilers for the outcome of “Silent in the Sanctuary,” I will say that I hope readers have either read that book or don’t care to know the identity of the killer. Books one and three are still shrouded in mystery, should they remain unread by followers of the series which, may I say, is a feat I’m still very much in awe of.

The mysteries of this book are unraveled slowly as we meet the varied characters living in the valley and learn who they are and how their lives all intertwine. The bombshell revelations of the family ties were dropped precisely but it’s the last one which rocked me the most. It does much, however, to show Julia a great deal about how little she knows and how much she needs to look beyond facades.

The unveiling of the killer is done with slow, dawning horror – not only who it is and why it was done but also who metes out justice – if that is what it could be called. Julia learns first hand that “there was not any best that *was* possible.” You seem to delight in writing about murderers who are the last ones I would suspect and yet who make total sense as the clues are added together. It also makes me feel for Brisbane who has doubtless seen it occur for years as he has had to deal with the dark side of human nature far longer than Julia.

I do want to say that I am delighted that marriage hasn’t turned Julia and Brisbane into simpering love birds. Their spirit of competitive investigating is still very much alive and kicking though I hope that Julia will take to heart the wisdom Portia bashes over her head. These two may love each other deeply but their marital road in this book is not an easy one. Yet, their actions and feelings are in keeping with their personalities of the previous three books so brava for that.

From the way this book ends, I will hope that there are several more mysteries in store for Nicholas and Julia – and one other. As Julia has shown, she does have a talent for certain aspects of sleuthing and with Nicholas ruthlessly instructing her – and that should be fun to read about – she looks like she’ll be a great help once they are returned to England. I’m looking forward to what the March family will get themselves involved with next, and how Julia and Brisbane will get them back out of it – again. B+

~Jayne

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Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

17 Comments

  1. orannia
    Sep 28, 2010 @ 15:59:06

    Thank you Jayne! I can’t wait to read this book – Silent in the Grave still holds the honour of the book with the best first line IMHO. And fingers crossed for more books in the series – do we know if there will be a fifth one?

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  2. Kim
    Sep 28, 2010 @ 17:51:08

    I bought this yesterday and I can’t wait to start it. The author does a wonderful job in changing the settings and plot with each successive book. From gritty London, to a country manor, to the English moors and now India – the reader can actually see and feel the different locales. Plus, Nicholas and Julia are such a great couple.

    I’m so glad the reviews have been positive. With a series, sometimes the quality can decline. Fortunately that hasn’t happened with these books.

    ReplyReply

  3. molly O'Keefe
    Sep 28, 2010 @ 18:56:12

    I can’t wait for this book – I’m working through Dead travel Fast and I have to say her covers are amazing. They’ve just nailed the feel of this series to me.

    ReplyReply

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    Sep 28, 2010 @ 19:11:40

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  5. Lynn S.
    Sep 28, 2010 @ 19:29:35

    So glad she decided to write more in this series. If you’re quick Kobo Books has a promo code (15percent) available through today and you can get the ebook version for $7.30. I’m headed that way to warm up my charge card right now.

    ReplyReply

  6. ShellBell
    Sep 29, 2010 @ 01:08:04

    Good review Jayne – I can’t wait to read this book. I wasn’t overly enthused about The Dead Travel Fast and have been looking forward to this release.

    ReplyReply

  7. Jayne
    Sep 29, 2010 @ 03:05:40

    @orannia: From what Julia says at the end of this book, I’m pretty sure a 5th one is at least planned. The March family is at it again.

    ReplyReply

  8. Jayne
    Sep 29, 2010 @ 03:07:56

    @ShellBell: I wasn’t overwhelmed – to be honest I was barely whelmed – with “Dead Travel Fast.” I hope Raybourn doesn’t completely limit herself to the Julia Grey series but I need something better than a ‘paint by numbers’ gothic entry from her.

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  9. Jayne
    Sep 29, 2010 @ 03:09:14

    @molly O’Keefe: I love the covers too. Both the original and the newly redone older books in the series. When I got my copy of this one, I just sat and happily ogled it for a while.

    ReplyReply

  10. Jayne
    Sep 29, 2010 @ 03:12:49

    @Kim: I didn’t notice any decline in the quality of this book from the previous ones. There is one death which I think will rock people though.

    ReplyReply

  11. Kim in Hawaii
    Sep 29, 2010 @ 13:05:34

    Mahalo for the review! I received Deanna’s stand-alone book, The Dead Travel Fast, at the RWA National Convention. I was curious to learn more about her, so I invited Deanna to be a guest at my blog. I posted her interview yesterday:

    http://sosaloha.blogspot.com/2010/09/deanna-raybourn-and-dark-road-to.html

    In the interview, she said, “I am just wrapping up the fifth (book in the series)–due out in July of next year.”

    I look forward to reading this series!

    ReplyReply

  12. Keziah Hill
    Sep 29, 2010 @ 17:20:38

    I have great ambivalence about the Julia Grey series. I love her writing and virtually all her characterization except for Brisbane. I’ve only read the first two in the series and about to read the third (my ambivalence hasn’t stopped me wanting to read her). I know these are not romances in the traditional sense, but I’d still like for more of Brisbane on the page. I can’t see the attraction between the two of them because they spend a lot of time bickering. But everyone tells me the third in the series will satisfy me. I hope so.

    ReplyReply

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  14. Silvia
    Oct 05, 2010 @ 21:07:24

    I absolutely adored the first 3 books of the series but I fear reading this one because I liked the unusual inclusion of the Jane/Julia relationship in the series and fear that this book will drive a stake through it. (as a lady who likes ladies, I don’t get much positive representation in romance novels) If things end horrifically for them, I’d rather not know and just not read the book and assume that everyone eventually finds their happy ending after ‘Moor’.

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  15. Jayne
    Oct 06, 2010 @ 08:08:36

    @Silvia: Do you mean the Jane/Portia relationship? If so…..

    S

    P

    O

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    L

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    …then I suggest you don’t read it.

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