Friday, April 29, 2016

End of Series Review: Lady Julia Grey

Lady Julia Grey
by Deanna Raybourn
Book #4: Dark Road to Darjeeling | Goodreads | Rating:  2.5 Stars
Book #5: The Dark Enquiry | Goodreads | Rating:  3.0 Stars

See Also Previous Reviews:

Overall Series Average Rating:  3.1 Stars

As much as there were a lot of things about this entire series that bugged me, a few things were quite evident to me upon finishing the last book in this series:
  • The books and the character and Lady Julia's world kind of grows on you.
    • They may all have their frustrating moments, and you might find that no matter how much you like a character he or she will also have a lot of annoying moments; but it rings true as a little family in real life, and that's kind of what I loved about Julia's world.
    • When Nicholas Brisbane wasn't being an arrogant jackass, he was actually pretty cool; specifically in the last book of this series.  The guy seems to have chilled out a bit.
  • The books are written very beautifully and have a charm to them that make you want to continue reading even though you may have reserves about the rest of the series.
    • The atmosphere of these books never ceased to set a great mood for me.
    • The descriptions were excellent.
  • Julia is an extremely charming narrator to follow throughout the five books, even if she has a penchant to act or speak before she thinks.

Dark Road to Darjeeling

After eight idyllic months in the Mediterranean, Lady Julia Grey and her detective husband are ready to put their investigative talents to work once more. At the urging of Julia's eccentric family, they hurry to India to aid an old friend, the newly widowed Jane Cavendish. Living on the Cavendish tea plantation with the remnants of her husband's family, Jane is consumed with the impending birth of her child—and with discovering the truth about her husband's death. Was he murdered for his estate? And if he was, could Jane and her unborn child be next?

Amid the lush foothills of the Himalayas, dark deeds are buried and malicious thoughts flourish. The Brisbanes uncover secrets and scandal, illicit affairs and twisted legacies. In this remote and exotic place, exploration is perilous and discovery, deadly. The danger is palpable and, if they are not careful, Julia and Nicholas will not live to celebrate their first anniversary.

I continued to contemplate whether or not to finish this series.  The romance exhausts me.  And even though the writing is beautiful and does exceptionally well to set a moody atmosphere, the story itself seemed a bit tedious and overwrought with soap opera-like drama. Anything and everything you could think of to happen in a story to bring about angst reared into the surface.

The characters exhaust me as well, and despite how much I have been loving Julia since the first book, I'm becoming consistently more frustrated with her, with her husband (whom I have yet to find a reason to like), and with their overall interaction and relationship with each other. I am becoming increasingly tired of everyone letting Brisbane's burdens and past, tragic childhood misfortunes justify his acting like an arrogant ass or keeping all of his secrets until he feels it necessary to confide in his wife--and usually not because he wants to confide in her, but because he's been found out.

On another side note, I did not think I would become so frustrated with Portia either, but she was simply becoming irritating throughout the book. And Plum had always been a bit melodramatic.

These books are readily readable and, to be honest, aside from the sudden flux of melodrama near the end, I was actually enjoying this book pretty well.  I may have said this before, but I found myself enjoying more the scenes wherein Julia is maneuvering on her own, or whenever she and Brisbane finally stop quarreling and at least try to work together.  Their banter is lovely when they're not trying to hide secrets from one another, or whenever Brisbane isn't being a complete asshat.

The Dark Enquiry

Partners now in marriage and in trade, Lady Julia and Nicholas Brisbane have finally returned from abroad to set up housekeeping in London. But merging their respective collections of gadgets, pets and servants leaves little room for the harried newlyweds themselves, let alone Brisbane's private enquiry business. Among the more unlikely clients: Julia's very proper brother, Lord Bellmont, who swears Brisbane to secrecy about his case. Not about to be left out of anything concerning her beloved--if eccentric--family, spirited Julia soon picks up the trail of the investigation.

It leads to the exclusive Spirit Club, where the alluring Madame Séraphine holds evening séances--and not a few powerful gentlemen in thrall. From this eerie enclave unfolds a lurid tangle of dark deeds, whose tendrils crush reputations and throttle trust.

Shocked to find their investigation spun into salacious newspaper headlines, bristling at the tension it causes between them, the Brisbanes find they must unite or fall. For Bellmont's sake--and more--they'll face myriad dangers born of dark secrets, the kind men kill to keep….

As I'd already mentioned, the books kind of grow on you and you eventually stop letting the little quibbles and flaws bug you.  The Dark Enquiry carried a lighter, almost more comedic tone to it than the previous books. I don't know if it has to do with the main couple being married or what, but I DID enjoy the last Julia Grey book more than the previous ones, save for the first. There were still a lot of things that didn't sit well with me, but I will happily brush it off as my being unaccustomed to reading historical fiction. 

Nicholas Brisbane chills his intensity a lot in this last book and I find him much more agreeable than I have in any of the other books.  Unfortunately, with a more relaxed Brisbane, we somehow managed to acquire a much more reckless Lady Julia.

After all, I've come to like Lady Julia a lot even if Nicholas Brisbane still kind of rubs me the wrong way, so it disappoints that she hasn't quite learned to stop being so rash and ignorant.  And to be honest, it hadn't really been until this last book that I actually started to understand the extent of Julia's recklessness when certain things happened to happen.  But that's a spoiler I'm not willing to divulge.

Also, even without going into detail or even "showing" much in descriptive narrative, there is a quite a bit of... blush-worthy?... stuff being talked about in this book. And a lot of sex--fade-to-black sex, but lots of sex nonetheless.

Anyway... As I was saying...

This last book was a rather more interesting and enjoyable one than the previous, which makes for a good ending note for the concluding book in the series... even if the series still kind of continues in the form of some short novellas following this book.  But that's another post for another time.

On a side note, a little tidbit from the beginning of The Dark Enquiry:

Not that I'm discounting Mademoiselle Hortense de Bellefleur's advice or wisdom, but I'm unnaturally jaded for reasons and her exclamation that "love conquers all" seems a bit too idealistic.  Nonetheless, her little rant to Julia made a lot of sense pertaining to Julia and Brisbane... while at the same time, it kind of provokes some thoughts of mild disagreement:

"Love is the only thing that lasts, Julia, the only thing that matters.  And both of you are trying to throw it away with both hands because you are proud and stubborn.  For all your differences, you are too much alike, the pair of you.  But you are lucky, so lucky and you are too blind to see it!  This man, this magnificent man, offers you love and you take it and say, 'Give me more, give me respect!'  And he does the same to you, saying to this beautiful woman, 'Your love is not enough, I want your obedience, as well!'  Why cannot love be enough for the both of you?  It is more than some of us have or will ever have again," she finished on a sob [...]

Take what you will from this quote, but there are certain parts of it that don't really settle well with me--a certain amount of double standard inequality that I can't quite pinpoint.  Of course, I might just be overly sensitive.  However, as I'd already stated, I can kind of see what the mademoiselle is trying to get at even if I don't a hundred percent agree.

Also, this kind of speech probably wouldn't fly very well in modern relationships--not that I'd know, being inexperienced and all, but I'm just sayin'.

Series Overall Thoughts:

I've probably already said all that I need to say about this series.  And I'm actually kind of surprised I still had anything to say at all.  After all, the structure of all five Lady Julia Grey books are almost exactly alike and almost felt tedious and dragged out at times.

It's just fortunate that the writing and Julia's charm kept me interested.

I almost didn't want to write another review, but I had some thoughts that I felt the need to share.

But as I'd stated before, and my reading BFF buddy concurs:  I've run out of things to say about the series.


2016 Reading Challenges:
• Goodreads Reading Challenge
• BookLikes Reading Challenge
• Bookish Resolutions Challenge

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