This is book four in the Lady Julia Grey series, and it begins with the newly wedded couple of Julia and Brisbane on their extended honeymoon. They are enjoying their connubial bliss, away from the clutches of the March family, but this bliss is interrupted by the arrival of Julia’s sister Portia and brother Plum. Portia is on a mission to India, in a manner of speaking, to be with the woman who left her previously so that she could have a normal life and a baby. Unfortunately, the man Jane married has passed away rather suddenly, leaving her pregnant. Portia fears for Jane’s life in case whoever did away with the husband might also want his unborn child killed as well (only if it’s a boy, of course, due to inheritance and all that).
Naturally Julia is intrigued with the mystery, and promptly agrees to go along on the journey. Brisbane, on the other hand, isn’t pleased to be dragged into more March family madness and tells her he will join her later. And thus begins the back and forth between these two again that I’m beginning to get tired of. I feel that by this point, they should be a little more in tune with each other. Julia hasn’t really grown much as a character; she still barges into situations and messes things up and keeps secrets from Brisbane as to what she is doing. He is guilty of the secret keeping as well, and is maddeningly perfect no matter what he does.
Moving along, the story is set on a tea plantation in the foothills of the Himalayas and there are plenty of eccentric characters populating the area that may or may not have a reason to kill Freddie. Julia is determined to solve the mystery on her own to prove to Brisbane that she is capable of joining him in the private enquiry business, something she is adamant she could be good at. When he does arrive at the estate, the two of them continue to be at odds as they both try to figure out what happened. I admit, sometimes I lost track of what the mystery was supposed to be, and when the truth was finally revealed, it caught me off guard.
I continue to find Portia more interesting than Julia; she’s had an unconventional life with Jane, then lost her to a traditional marriage and now this drama. I would like to have more from her point of view. She’s also more pragmatic and counsels Julia to realize how her continued efforts to become a detective may set Brisbane on edge. There’s more drama for her by the end of the book, and we also get a bit of insight into Plum’s life as he helps Brisbane out in this story (much to Julia’s irritation).
Overall, the story drags in the middle and as I said, I get frustrated with Julia and Brisbane’s relationship. I appreciate that it’s not all sweetness and light after the marriage, but this goes too far the other way too often. And while I know the focus of this series is the mystery, I find myself wanting a wee bit more explicit heat between the two of them – all we get is that Brisbane applies himself to the marital bed very satisfactorily (and often). Even so, I plan to read the next and final book in the series, to see if things can move along a bit more in their relationship.