Silent in the Grave—Deanna Raybourn
I laid aside my muff and removed my gloves.
He watched as I stripped off the kidskin, and I felt as bare as if I had removed my gown. (76)
First up in my Vaginal Fantasy Rewind: Silent in the Grave. Merely because I happened to have already purchased a Kindle version after reading another Deanna Raybourn, A Spear of Summer Grass, coincidentally also for Vaginal Fantasy. Silent in the Grave was the second book that VF ever read, when there was still only one book a month, before there was even the idea of a "main" and an "alternate."
This is also the first in a series called the Lady Julia Mysteries. As of now there are five primary novels out, as well as several novellas that take place amidst all the action in the full-length stories. In Silent in the Grave, we are introduced to Lady Julia Grey, nee March, part of an eccentric family comprised of five sons and five daughters, of whom she is the youngest daughter and the second youngest child. Julia is mourning the death of her husband Edward, who has suffered with a lifelong affliction, so it is not a great surprise when he dies. When a mysterious man, surly detective Nicolas Brisbane, shows up and tells Lady Julia that her husband had been receiving threatening letters, she is startled that Edward was keeping the letters secret from her, but convinced there is no way that they could have really led to Edward being murdered. But as she uncovers more secrets, and spends more time investigating with Brisbane, Julia comes to realize that maybe she didn't know her husband as well as she thought.
Although I anticipated most of the elements of the mystery well before Julia herself did, there were a few reveals that I did not see coming. The romance is entirely secondary to the plot, especially in this first installment, which I actually appreciate. Julia is mourning the death of her husband and even more than that mourning the death of who she thought he was. Brisbane is surly and gruff and I didn't always enjoy his treatment of Julia, but I think ultimately they are well matched. There are mild supernatural elements, with the belief that Brisbane has "the Sight" as a result of his Romani roots, but nothing that was incongruous with the time period.
Julia is often quite ignorant, but this also made sense considering her family status; practical skills are not exactly top of the list for children of nobility. But she is genuinely keen to learn and help Brisbane discover what has happened. Does it seem as though sometimes Julia and her family are a bit anachronistically accepting of social situations that were taboo for polite society during the later Victorian era? Sure. For instance, Julia's sister Portia is in a long-term relationship with a woman, Jane, who was also the cousin of Portia's deceased husband. Basically all of Julia's family is cool with it, although the rest of society is not necessarily on board. But I felt like this anachronism was explained adequately with the rather unconventional nature of Julia's family.
The quote above reminded me of a quote I remembered seeing on Pinterest from Keira Knightley in reference to Pride and Prejudice. She said, "They don't really touch. Women don't shake hands with men. So the first time Darcy touches Elizabeth is when he helps her into the carriage. Which is a really beautiful moment. Because it's the first skin-on-skin touch. I think today, we don't think twice about that at all. I shake people's hands, I give them a kiss, whatever. It's interesting to think, if you don't have that tactile nature, how important one touch can be." Although there would have been several decades between when P & P was set and when the Lady Julia mysteries take place, the same sensibility is present. It makes something as simple as somebody watching you remove gloves an incredibly loaded moment.
If you liked this book, and you haven't already, you should check out North & South on Netflix. It's another romance period drama set around the same time and is regular watching for me. I'm admittedly a sucker for English period pieces.
I liked Silent in the Grave so much that I immediately got the next three in the series from the library and read them within three days. Thoughts on the next Lady Julia books coming soon! And more Vaginal Fantasy books!
To find out more about my VF Rewind, read my post about it here.
One down, thirty five to go!
Watch the Vaginal Fantasy Hangout on Silent in the Grave.
It's interesting and nostalgic to go back and re-watch these old videos. The audio quality has greatly improved. I'm pretty sure all the ladies have professional level microphones at this point; but lo, in the beginning, things were much more simple. The conversations were more meandering too, as everyone was figuring out exactly what Vaginal Fantasy was going to be.
Have you read any of the Lady Julia mysteries? What did you think of them?