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I adored this book, but it is difficult to review for several reasons. First, it is the third volume of the Alex Halsey Mystery series, and the first two books contain a lot of highly relevant backstory. Unlike some series, this one really needs to be read in order. Moreover, there are so many twists, turns, and surprises throughout the story that it is virtually impossible to write a thorough review without spoilers. (The publisher's blurb simply sets up what we learn in the first few chapters.) And finally, this book, and indeed the entire series, is so wonderful that I want you to read for yourself without any hints that I might throw out in my review.
One of the things that I have come to admire about Lucinda Brant's writing is how intricately layered her plots are. She reveals things throughout the story, which keeps the reader from becoming frustrated, but also holds back enough that the ending always is a surprise. She has the ability to deftly combine mystery and romance into one big delightful package that will please fans of both genres.
So – rather than writing a typical review, I'm going to tell you a bit about the series and what I loved about this book, starting with the primary cast of characters who populate all three books.
Alec Halsey – the younger son of the Earl of Devlin, Alec Halsey chose to make his living as a diplomat. He is a truly swoon-worthy romantic hero: handsome, intelligent, somewhat enigmatic, intensely honorable, and decidedly his own man. After the death of Alec's odious elder brother, Alec became the earl but he soon was elevated to a marquessate by the King in recognition of his services to the Crown.
Emily St. Neots – a beautiful, spirited young lady whom Alec had once thought to marry, although he was not deeply in love with her.
Selina Jameson-Lewis – the woman with whom Alec fell deeply in love at a young age. Her family thwarted their romance and forced her into a marriage with an older, cruelly abusive man. Selina is now a widow, but she an Alec have had to deal with some difficulties while rekindling the love that both of them still feel for one another.
The Duchess of Romney-St. Neots – a redoubtable old lady who is Alec's godmother and also Emily's grandmother. Nothing and nobody intimidates her.
Plantagenet Halsey – Alec's uncle and an outspoken member of the House of Commons, who despite his noble connections is something of a republican happy to offer his opinions freely. He is more of a father to Alec than Alec's actual father ever was (and there is a story behind that). He and the Duchess of Romney-St. Neots have a tetchy relationship (and there may be a story behind that too).
Sir Cosmo Mahan – Alec's closest friend, Sir Cosmo is rotund, jovial, and loyal to those he loves. He is a cousin to both Emily St. Neots and Selena Jameson-Lewis.
As the book opens, Alec is emotionally reeling after Selena rejected his proposal of marriage. Then he learns that Emily and Sir Cosmo, who are touring Europe, have been detained and imprisoned by the new Margrave of Midanich, Prince Ernst. Ten years before the events in this book, Alec was a junior official in Midanich, a small principality in the Holy Roman Empire. For reasons that I cannot divulge, he was thrown in the ruler's reputedly escape-proof dungeon, from which he did in fact escape. Now, the Margrave demands that Alec return to Midanich to negotiate for the release of his friends. Although Alec fears that his life could be in danger, his honor and his affection for his friends demand that he go.
Midanich is in the midst of a civil war, following the death of the old Margrave, with Prince Ernst under attack by his younger half-brother Prince Viktor. Ernst is a weak, unstable man, known to be under the influence of his mysterious, insane twin sister Princess Joanna. In the opening chapter, it appears that Joanna hastens the old Margrave's death by placing a pillow over his face. Castle Herzfeld, Prince Ernst's impregnable fortress, is a hotbed of intrigue; courtiers await developments, but nobody can truly trust anyone, and the prince's desires are often irrational and unpredictable. The plight of the people of Midanich is dire; this civil war follows years of occupation by foreign troops in connection with the Seven Years' War. As winter approaches, they face shortages of food and fuel, and Prince Ernst's army maintains control with draconian ruthlessness.
Alec's trip is fraught with peril, and his plans for a discreet arrival in Midanich are thwarted when both the Duchess of Romney-St. Neots and Selena Jameson-Lewis, as well as Alec's Uncle Plantagenet, finagle their way into his party. As a further complication, the Foreign Minister is sending Sir Gilbert Parsons as an official emissary to accompany Alec. Parsons was Alec's superior when they were posted to Midanich ten years earlier, and when Alec was imprisoned Parsons was expelled from the country. Parsons returned to London in disgrace and still blames Alec for ruining his career. Thus, although Alec is now an experienced diplomat and a marquess to boot, Parsons insists upon treating Alec as his subordinate in all things.
When this ill-assorted party arrives in Midanich, the adventures begin, and the first astounding event occurs shortly after they get off of the boat. To reveal more would deprive the reader of enjoying the myriad twists and turns that follow. As a long-time fan of the mystery genre, I must say that the plotting is impeccable. Midanich is full of intrigue; there were so many developments that I simply did not anticipate, yet none of them was the least bit implausible. There is a touch of romance here, as well, as Alec and Selena begin to find their way back to one another in a most surprising manner.
Novels that convey a strong sense of place have long been a favorite of mine, and in this regard the author's impeccable research impresses beyond description. The bleak winter landscape, along with the accompanying sights and sounds, utterly transport the reader to another time and place. Not everything is left to the imagination, however, and I commend the reader to Ms. Brant's delightful Pinterest page full of images displaying things mentioned in the book – including castles, clothing, furniture, horses, and various accoutrements of late 18th century life.
Although Lucinda Brant has been publishing books for several years, my first encounter with her work was a mere five months ago, and I have now read all nine of her full-length books. Every one of them is worthy of five stars, but I think that Deadly Peril is possibly the best yet. It is, quite simply, a perfect combination of mystery, romance, and history.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful
What did you love best about Deadly Peril?
To say "every little thing" is too cliche for such a great listen, but that would be my overall answer. I love the characters, I love the settings and the generous descriptions of the environment our protagonists are in. The setting is more gothic, without for the most part beautiful gardens, picnics, balls and the like - it's more sinister, underlining the ever growing peril they are all in. I have to say when I first heard/read who was traveling with Lord Halsey on his latest adventure, I wondered idly how that was going to work - were they just along for the ride? - would they have no part to play. How foolish was I for even thinking that. (So sorry Lucinda! should have known better!). As the story unfolds there is beautiful story play that brings the characters together and their roles, small and large, lift the story/adventure. The richness of the intertwining relationships and how each of them react and behave is a testament to the mastery that Lucinda demonstrates every time she lets these characters out to play. What I did like more than ever is how with each book I learn something new about Lord Halsey (and entourage, new and old), he is never boring, never obvious in his actions and I love the story. "Deadly Peril" had me racing for the end "just" because I had to know - the ending (these are not the spoilers you're looking for!) surprised and blindsided me - and I LOVE that in a book.
Who was your favorite character and why?
Alec Halsey hands down and not for the obvious romance reasons of tall dark and handsome. Through Lucinda's rich writing Alec is such a complicated, ever developing character that grows with each book/adventure.
Which scene was your favorite?
There are many and I would typically say the hero/heroine type rescue, the final crescendo when good wins out over evil, but this time I'm torn between two, so I've decided I will tell you it's a draw. I LOVE the scene where Alec draws his sword on the Commander at the docks on arrival... spoiler alert, if you haven't read this then stop reading this bit now...
When Lord Halsey arrives in Midanich, entourage in-tow there is a beautifully satisfying stand-off between Lord Halsey and the Military that is pure chocolate to listen to (a couple of times *cough* ). Lord Halsey has the command presence of Jean Luc Picard in Star Trek, the only other person I'd put in that class.
There is an additional favourite though difficult part to listen to only because of the topic and it's all too real implications in the modern world - it's when Alec enlightens Selena as to what really happened the last time he was the guest of the Margravate of Midanich.
Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
Laugh - at times... Cry - no, not cry - but definitely I experienced trepidation for the characters and their situation.
Any additional comments?
You didn't have any questions on the Narrator? - oh how could you not ask me about Alex Wyndham. Could there be any better? - I think not. So sorry to all the other Narrators, for I am forever taken - Alex Wyndham is beyond perfect and adds richness and depth to the work of Lucinda Brant like no other.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
How can an already fantastic 5* read be improved? By adding the performance of Alex Wyndham of course. This Georgian mystery, rich in historical detail, is set in the fictitious Germanic country of Midanich, torn apart by civil war. Lucinda Brant's clever penmanship actually has the reader/listener believing that this country actually exists.
Alec Halsey arrives to save his friends imprisoned by the regime of Midanich, an act perpetrated to lure Alec back to a place he had sworn never to set foot in ever again. A diplomatic posting 10 years previously had gone disastrously wrong for Alec and he had made a daring escape. He knows that this is a daring and dangerous mission but being the honourable man he is he must save Emily and Cosmo.
Alex Wyndhsm is a superb narrator and Lucinda Brant chose him to narrate her books wisely because he performs rather than narrates and it is difficult to believe that he alone is portraying the vast cast of characters, male and female with their many and varied accents, Dutch, German, Irish, English etc. And for me he will forever be the velvet toned and utterly gorgeous Alec Halsey. This audio book is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED as are the first two in this series and also Lucinda Brant's Roxton series. Long may this fantastic partnership continue.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
Would you consider the audio edition of Deadly Peril to be better than the print version?
Without the print edition of the book, there would be no Audio Edition, and a narrator can only be as good as the story he is reading. The story is remarkable, and it's narration equally so.
What did you like best about this story?
I enjoyed everything in this story, but the very best part has to be the twist that I just did not see coming. I had not even the slightest suspicion what was about to be unveiled, which to me is a real art when it comes to writing a book. Alex Wyndham's narration as always was superlative, he brings the characters to life in such a way that you feel as if you are right there, in the story with them.
Which scene did you most enjoy?
I can never answer this question sufficiently because to tell of a favourite scene is to give spoilers. As I am a lover of romance though, I will just say that all the romantic scenes between Selena and Alec are always a delight to both read, and to listen to. Alex Wyndham's low husky voice when he speaks as Alec to Selena during intimate moments, well you can't help but get goosebumps.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
I would love to have listened to this book in one sitting, but sadly it was too long to make that an option. I did however listen to it over 2 nights, so nearly one sitting. I had to know how things ended as soon as I could.
Any additional comments?
I thoroughly enjoyed this story and it's narration, Alex and Lucinda are the perfect author/narrator team, and I hope the partnership continues on with every new book that Lucinda writes. I have listened to many audio books narrated by different people, but I believe that Alex Wyndham's performance is both faultless and unrivaled.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful