After a year of marriage – and numerous adventures – Lady Julia and Brisbane hope for a quiet, intimate Christmas together – until they find themselves at her father’s ancestral estate, Bellmont Abbey, with her eccentric family and a menagerie of animals.
Silent Night starts where Dark Enquiry left off, with Julia and Brisbane planning a trip to Italy. This plan is scuttled, however, when they receive a letter from her father who reminds them that it’s the year to perform the Twelfth Night play and he wants as much of the family to come home as possible. This means they needs to pack up their belongings, their animals, and their servants to make the trek to Bellmont Abbey. By now they do have a large menagerie to take, and it was amusing to picture the scene as they wait for the train:
“Not precisely a partridge in a pear tree…”
“But we have a raven in a cage, a lurcher on a lead, a Siamese in a basket, and a dormouse in your décolletage. We are a travelling circus.”
Once they arrive, however, the spirit of Christmas seems to be less than festive. Her father is in a black mood, her aunt is not acting herself, many of the servants are either sick or scared off by sightings of a ghost in the manor and small objects start to go missing. Julia is determined to make merry, and does her best to whip things into shape, while at the same time figure out who the thief could be. It’s a much lighter tone than the other books, with some romance (again, nothing explicit) along with some of the March family madness. Rating: 3 stars
Twelfth Night picks up the tale immediately, as the family prepares to perform the play for the villagers. Brisbane is cast as St. George, but just as they begin rehearsing, an abandoned baby is found on the property. What could be more appropriate for the Christmas season than a baby in the manger? Brisbane and Julia immediately jump in to try and discover who left the child and why, with the search leading them to a house that their nieces and nephews claim is inhabited by a witch. Naturally, things aren’t what the children think and a character from a past book shows up to unravel the mystery.
For a short novella, there’s a lot going on and I’m sure you might be able to guess what will happen with the baby – someone has to take the wee one in, after all! Again, this is a lighter tale, with some sweet moments between Brisbane and Julia, though nothing explicit other than Portia barging in on them in the morning and remarking on Brisbane’s physique!
Both of these are enjoyable, but if you haven’t read any of the other books in the series, you may be a little lost as to the family dynamics. Rating: 3 stars