Sebastian Gage returns home to battle the ghosts of his past and prevent them from destroying his future with Kiera in the latest exciting installment in this national bestselling series.
July 1831. It's been fifteen years since Sebastian Gage has set foot in Langstone Manor. Though he has shared little with his wife, Lady Kiera Darby, about his past, she knows that he planned never to return to the place of so many unhappy childhood memories. But when an urgent letter from his grandfather reaches them in Dublin, Ireland, and begs Gage to visit, Kiera convinces him to go.
All is not well at Langstone Manor. Gage's grandfather, the Viscount Tavistock, is gravely ill, and Gage's cousin Alfred has suddenly vanished. He wandered out into the moors and never returned. The Viscount is convinced someone or something other than the natural hazards of the moors is to blame for Alfred's disappearance. And when Alfred's brother Rory goes missing, Kiera and Gage must concede he may be right. Now, they must face the ghosts of Gage's past, discover the truth behind the local superstitions, and see beyond the tricks being played by their very own eyes to expose what has happened to Gage's family before the moors claim yet another victim...
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The devil's boots don't creak.
The first time I laid eyes on Langstone Manor, I could not blame my husband for having stayed away for over fifteen years. I'm sure it didn't help that the weather was far from hospitable. Heavy gray clouds filled the sky, releasing sheets of rain that obscured the horizon, all but concealing my view of the infamous moors rising to the east. But even on a bright, sunlit day, I struggled to imagine the house being more inviting. In truth, it appeared downright foreboding, even without the painful memories that plagued Gage.
Memories I could see weighing on him now. They were written in the tautness of his brow and the deep pools of his eyes as he stared up at the stone manor through our hired carriage's window. Sebastian Gage had conducted dozens of precarious inquiries, had faced down Turkish warriors in the Greek War of Independence, and had most recently been winged by a bullet fired by a temperamental Irish housemaid during our last inquiry only a week before, but this place somehow still troubled him.
Perhaps I shouldn't have been surprised. After all, if I were about to enter my first husband, Sir Anthony Darby's, London town house-that place of so many unhappy remembrances-I wouldn't have been so sanguine. It's never easy to confront the demons of our past. But to see my normally unflappable husband so apprehensive unsettled me.
I reached out to touch Gage's hand where it gripped his leg, hoping to offer him a bit of reassurance. I wanted to do more than that, but with our maid and valet seated across from us, that would have been highly inappropriate. As loyal and trustworthy as Bree and Anderley might be, and privy to more intimacies than most, having assisted us with numerous murderous inquiries, there were still some things that should remain private between husband and wife.
Gage turned his hand over to squeeze my fingers and offered me a fleeting smile before turning back to the view outside his window. I followed suit, curious about this place where he had spent so much of his childhood.
He'd told me little about his time here with his mother while his father had been away at sea, fighting Napoleon and manning the blockade. However, what he had revealed had spoken volumes, and I'd been able to infer even more than he probably realized from the things he hadn't said. Whatever else he felt about this place, it was clear he'd not been happy.
I stared upward at the manor's edifice of coarse stone and tall mullioned windows, their glass dark and oily in the gloom. Two symmetrical wings projected from the main block, their exteriors echoing that of the one before us, but for the long narrow windows which I suspected had once been arrow slits, now fitted with glass. The roof was covered in small slate shingles only a shade lighter than the clouds. The tall chimneys and sprocket eaves with their gabled ends added angles and dimension to the bland faade, but they failed to lighten the overall melancholy feel of the setting in any way.
The manor didn't look much different than I anticipated the granite-shattered outcroppings of the tors would look. I wondered if that had been the builder's intention. If so, he'd succeeded, but at what cost? As beautiful as the landscape of Dartmoor was purported to be, it was also treacherous, and this home had taken on many of the same characteristics.
The garden which had sprung up in the courtyard before the manor also did nothing to help matters. Hedged in by an imposing metal gate and stone walls, thick beds of green plants and a few straggling pale flowers had taken root at the edges of the gravel lane. Trees ringed the edge of the property, their twisted trunks seeming to sprout from the very walls themselves as if they would not be denied access, or allowed to escape. The garden was clearly well kept, its verges rigidly maintained, but some more colorful flowers and a bit of judicious pruning would have done much to lighten the space. But perhaps those plants did not grow in this climate and the dense foliage refused to be stunted.
"Do you think they realize we've arrived?" I asked, beginning to question whether we should send Anderley to knock on the door.
In the failing light, it was impossible to see much of anything beneath the pale stone archway through which I presumed one accessed the main door, but a footman hurried forth from its recess, allaying my uncertainty. However, any question as to whether our arrival had been anticipated was swiftly answered by the widening of the young man's eyes as he scrutinized our trunks strapped to the roof of the carriage.
"Good evening, sir," he murmured upon opening the chaise's door. "Were you expected?"
Gage's mouth tightened in what looked like annoyance, but that I knew to be an emotion far more complicated. "Yes," he announced before stepping down into the loose gravel without offering the servant any further explanation. Taking the umbrella from the startled footman's hand, he reached back to assist me.
I wrapped my shawl tighter around me against the wind, and opened my mouth to remind him it wasn't the servant's fault he'd been caught unprepared. But one look at Gage's face made me fall silent. He already knew this, and his tight-lipped displeasure was not directed at the footman, but at his grandfather, the Viscount Tavistock.
Regardless of our delayed arrival, the viscount should have made his staff aware of the prospect of our coming. After all, he'd been the one to write to Gage, begging him to visit-a move which Gage assured me was entirely out of character for the proud, taciturn man. His urgent missive had originally been sent to London and had to be forwarded on to us in Ireland, where we had just wrapped up our latest murderous inquiry, causing a delay of more than a week. In our rush to reach Langstone Manor, we'd not paused to send a message ahead of us to confirm our plans, knowing it wouldn't have arrived much before we would.
Given that postponement, it was possible that the matter for which we'd been summoned had already been resolved. Or perhaps Lord Tavistock had simply given up on us. Whatever the reason, the household was not prepared for our visit.
Gage hurried us forward, pausing once we'd stepped through the arch into the covered porch, where he turned to address the footman who trailed behind us. "The coachman has driven us all the way from Plymouth, and I've promised him lodging for the night for himself and his horses. Please see to it, as well as our servants and luggage."
The flustered expression on the footman's face would have been comical had I not also felt some empathy for him. He was young and inexperienced, and so could not be blamed for his failure to recognize Gage after his long absence, or perhaps for even being cognizant of his existence. The footman glanced back and forth between us and the carriage, uncertain whether he should insist he announce us or do as Gage had instructed.
Fortunately, an older man came to his rescue. "Timothy, do as he asks," said a slight man standing in the shadows next to the door before shifting his gaze to meet my husband's. "I'll show Mr. Gage inside."
It took a moment for my eyes to adjust to the dim light underneath the porch, but Gage already recognized the speaker.
"Hammett, I'm surprised to see you're still with us."
I stiffened, surprised by the rudeness of my husband's comment, but the other man didn't seem the least insulted if the grin that cracked his thin mouth was any indication.
"Aye. Yer cousins haven't rent me from this mortal coil yet. Nor your grandfather neither."
A flicker of a smile crossed Gage's face.
The elderly man, who I now recognized must be the butler, ushered us out of the damp into a small vestibule. He tilted his head to inspect Gage and then me, dislodging the few stray gray hairs still clinging to the top of his head. "This'll be yer bride, then?" Though he was merely a servant, I felt I had been assessed and judged, and apparently found acceptable, for his creaky voice warmed. "Welcome to Langstone Manor."
"Thank you," I replied.
Then his eyes narrowed on Gage. "You've been gone a long while."
Gage was not fazed nor chagrined by the old retainer's censure. "If I wasn't already conscious of that, the sight of your wrinkled face would certainly remind me. But what are you still doing here? I thought you would have retired to one of the estate's cottages or shuffled off to the seaside long ago."
"And leave his lordship to fend off these leeches alone?" His scraggly brow lowered. "Not that it'll matter much longer."
The remainder of Gage's levity fled at this comment. "How is he?"
"You'll see for yerselves," Hammett replied gruffly, turning at the sound of footsteps.
I followed his gaze toward the gleaming wooden staircase on the opposite side of the long stone entry hall, where a tall woman dressed in a midnight blue gown had paused a few feet from the base of the steps. I could not immediately discern who she was in relation to Gage, but it was evident from the manner in which his eyes hardened and his nostrils flared that she was not someone he was fond of. And the feeling was mutual.
I was accustomed to everyone liking my husband. Those who weren't already won over by his good looks were quickly persuaded by his charm and easy nature. Even his father, who was derisive and sometimes unforgivably hard on him, still cared for him in his own contrary way. However, this woman took few pains to conceal the loathing shimmering in her eyes. Where this naked animosity came from, I didn't know, but it took me aback.
Maintaining a faade of polite composure, Gage stepped forward to greet her, but halted when a dark-haired man came bustling into the hall through a doorway on the left.
"Mother, did you know a carriage has arrived? Do you think it could be . . ." His words faltered as he followed her gaze toward where we stood. His eyes widened.
Given my reputation, it was not the most awkward welcome I'd ever received, but considering the fact that I suspected these people were related to Gage in some way, it was certainly the most disconcerting. Indignation began to build inside me, not on my behalf, but on Gage's.
I was used to people thinking the worst of me. The scandal over my involvement with the work of my first husband, the great anatomist Sir Anthony Darby-specifically my sketching his dissections for an anatomical textbook he was writing-had blackened my name and made me a figure of fear and revulsion in many circles. Few cared to note that my participation had been forced, or that in spite of it, my drawings had been beautiful and flawless. For them it was proof enough of my unnaturalness that as a gentlewoman I had not only survived such a gruesome ordeal, but also gone on to use that reluctantly accrued knowledge to help solve murders and other crimes.
Gage, on the other hand, was a different story. As a gentleman inquiry agent of some renown, he did not suffer the same slights to his character. In fact, the work he undertook as a diversion-for he had no need to earn his living-only enhanced his reputation. Combined with the fact that he was perhaps the most charismatic and attractive young gentleman in all of England, he was practically guaranteed an eager invitation from every hostess in the country. I had feared that our marriage would harm his standing, but thus far our unlikely match had only raised his prominence to almost mythical proportions.
But apparently this partiality did not extend to his late mother's family. Watching the trio eye one another, their expressions ranging from wariness to outright enmity, I now better understood my husband's initial reluctance to come here. Even though it had been quickly overridden, by his own inclination and my admittedly uninformed opinion, it said a great deal about his relationship with the maternal relatives he'd spent much of his childhood with that he wouldn't immediately wish to come to their aid.
The dark-haired man was the first to speak. He took a few hesitant steps toward us before resuming a more assured stride. "Gage, is that you?" His mouth curled into an uncertain grin. "By Jove, it is!" He reached out to shake his hand. "Dashed it's been a long time."
"It's good to see you, Rory," Gage replied. Much of the hostility he'd directed at the woman had faded from his eyes as he greeted the other man, but there was still a guardedness to his demeanor.
"And this must be your wife," Rory guessed. "Grandfather told us you'd wed." His expression couldn't help but hold rabid interest, though he did at least try, rather unsuccessfully, to mask it.
"Yes." Gage gazed down at me with a glint of protective pride. "Kiera, allow me to introduce my cousin, the Honorable Roland Trevelyan."
I offered him my hand, which he clasped respectfully. "I'm pleased to meet you, Mr. Trevelyan."
"Likewise, Mrs. Gage." His pale blue eyes, just a few shades darker than Gage's wintry hue-obviously a Trevelyan trait-softened with regard. "Is this your first time visiting the West Country?"
"Yes," I replied. "Before today, I'm afraid I'd never set foot on English soil farther west than Oxford." I paused to consider. "Unless you count Cumberland. I suppose that's farther west than Oxfordshire."
Rory's expression turned self-deprecating. "I wouldn't know. I'm afraid I never was very good at geography." His eyes flicked to Gage. "Got my knuckles rapped more than a few times for not being able to point out Devonshire on the map."
I smiled at his attempt at levity even as his jest failed to amuse the others. Though I didn't yet know what his relationship with Gage had been like in the past, I couldn't help warming to the man before me. There was something about his lack of pretension and his almost bumbling charm that made him quite agreeable. He wasn't as handsome or alluring as Gage, but in this instance I think such slick assurance would have worked against him, making me question his sincerity.
The click of footsteps crossing the granite floor recalled us to the presence of the other woman in the room, who had observed her son's greetings with cool detachment. Rory glanced over his shoulder. "Mother, come meet Mrs. Gage."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
With a big staff, some very private family members, and a possible murdered in their mist this book does not disappoint. Thank you to bookishfirst for an e-arc in exchange for my honest review. “There is a darkness that hovers over that house. A shadow that seems to touch every life that falls within its reach.” While this is the 6th book in the series and I haven't read any of the other ones. I can still say that it was easy to follow along with what had happened in the past for the most part. A Brush with Shadow follows Sebastian Gage and Kiera Darby a newly married couple who also solve investigations together. This one happens to be very personal for Sebastian as it is his Cousin that is missing. With some bad blood between family members from fifteen years ago and them than keeping secrets from the couple, it's a bit of a bumpy ride at first. In fact, the first half of the book is slow because of how little information the couple has and them just getting re-acclimated with the house and what's happening in it now. The second half though is so good, and I wish the first half had been more like it. Kiera and Sebastian start getting the staff's support. The family stops treating them like an intrusion, and Kiera meets some of the locals who end up providing some much-needed information. "I think sometimes I become so determined to find the truth that I become blinded to the affect that truth might have on others." It was also interesting to see some of the local's superstitions about the moors. Between Pixie's and the rumor that a witch lives on the moors, it was an interesting ride. Needless to say like always they turned out to be nothing. "It was always difficult to tell a person you genuinely liked, whom you wanted to believe, that you didn’t entirely trust them. " Overall I did like this book for the most part. Keira and Sebastian are not your typical 1800's match. They choose each other, and married for love instead of convenience. Sebastien seems to not only respect Kiera, but also values her opinion on things. Kiera doesn't take anything from anyone, even when it does make people not very happy with her. The mystery of why the cousin had left and if it was some big family 'curse' was fascinating to me and I could never figure out what was going on or who was causing what to happen. I'm interested to see what the other mysteries were like now and I can't wait to see what Kiera and Sebastian get up to next. "I’ve learned sometimes those who care the most also exhibit the gruffest demeanors. They simply don’t know how to express it.”
Dollycas’s Thoughts I have been anxiously awaiting this book after the little teaser the author left us with at the end of As Death Draws Near, but it was definitely worth the wait. Gage takes Kiera to his home, Langstone Manor. A place he hasn’t been since his mother’s death 15 years ago. His grandfather has summoned him to get there as fast as possible but the trip from Ireland took a little time. They arrive to find the Viscount Tavistock, deathly ill and his heir, Gage’s cousin, Alfred missing. Not sure if has been injured or killed out on the moors, or if he has been kidnapped, or just took off all on his own, his grandfather demands Gage find him. Then Alfred’s brother Rory disappears too. Gage and Kiera step up their investigation to find both men. Could their disappearance have something to do with the past? It is said, Langstone Manor is cursed. Gage vows to find the men and the truth. Another fantastic story from Anna Lee Huber. The cover of this book is breathtaking too. Ms. Huber returns with Kiera and Gage and the servants Bree and Anderley in a story so well written filled with vivid imagery. It is so easy to imagine being in the dark and dim castle or out on the moors or on horseback through the countryside. Gage himself has been a mystery so I truly enjoyed learning about his past and what shaped him into the man he is now. All of Ms. Huber’s stories are very character driven and to peel away some of Gage’s layers was delightful. Kiera is a little nervous to meet Gage’s relatives, but over the years she has learned to cope with those who judge her by her past. She quickly takes every opportunity to spend time with the Viscount. Even sitting at his bedside with her sketchbook while he slumbers to give the servants a break. Gage and Kiera are a wonderful couple, they love and trust each other and are equals, something very strange for this time period. Searching for the missing cousins takes our lead characters visiting neighbors and Bree and Anderley trying to get information from the staff. The author draws readers into the mystery quickly. Searching the vastness of the moors seems impossible, so it was important to look for other clues. Clues at first that were confusing to me as much as Gage and Keira. The twist that revealed what was really happening absolutely shocked me. Wow! I didn’t see that coming at all. Anna Lee Huber is an amazing storyteller. She paints pictures with her words that allow readers to escape fully into her stories. She continues to surpass my expectations. The plotlines are tight, the dialogue is stellar, and her characters leap off the pages. Each story stands on its own, but the Lady Darby mysteries are best enjoyed from the beginning to witness the character development and world building. This book received my Paradise Rating because it deserves more than 5 stars. The is a book not to be missed.
A Brush with Shadows is the sixth book in the Lady Darby series. In this installment, Kiera and Gage travel to Dartmoor to investigate the disappearance of Gage's cousin, Alfred. Kiera and the readers get to meet many new characters, Sebastian's maternal relatives, including his grandfather and see the place where Gage spent most of his childhood. The book started a little slow and it took me a while to get into the story but once it picked up I was absorbed in the mystery and really enjoyed it. I loved the atmospheric setting and enjoyed learning about Sebastian's relationship with his grandfather and cousins. I am looking forward to the next book which will take place in London
Loved the story. Rushed right through the book. My only complaint? Now I once again have to wait until the next book is ready to read. Love these books!!!!
Thank you once more for sharing your gift with all of us. I'm never disappointed with your work looking forward to your next installment.
A Brush with Shadows, give us a bit of background on Sebastian Gage’s family. Gage had vowed to stay away from his mother’s family after her death. When he learns his grandfather is ill and his cousin is missing, he decides to answer the summons of his grandfather and see if he can find his cousin. Gage and Keira head back to the home he grew up in, and the adventure begins! I love Ms. Huber’s writing. The amount of research she puts into her books is evident in the extensive background regarding the time in history she is writing about. She knows how to tease just enough as the book goes along, leading you down many paths, then turning the plot back on itself to a smashing conclusion! This is the 6th book in the Lady Darby series. I hope there are many more!
Love lady darby series. this one was especially good and i could not put it down. However the ending seemed contrived and the reveal was really dicey. Seemed as if the author wanted to end it and cast about for a quick solution to finish. still gave it a five star because 95% was fabulous
If you like this series you'll love this book. As good as the previous ones.
I just love this series. Very well written. Please keep writing this series Ms. Huber. Can't wait for the next one!
Anna Lee Huber writes a tight, compelling mystery with Gothic overtones. The dark, brooding, landscape sets the tone for a grim Manor and a clutch of forbidding relatives. It has been fifteen years since the last visit. Gage's Grandfather has sent for him to investigate the disappearance of his cousin. But the visit has an eerie turn that night, when a mysterious figure, watches from the foot of the bed. The next morning- the windows were open... when they had been closed... and a rope has been attached to the building allowing access. Alfred, the missing Cousin, went for a walk on the Tors and never returned. His Mother and Brother are both determined nothing has happened, yet, there is a definite mystery here. Why is someone determined to hinder the investigation with missing trunks and footwear laces that have been cut? Then his Grandfather is acting strange. The Villagers have no idea Alfred is missing, threatening letters have been sent and there is a supposed witch. Add all this, to the brooding landscape, and the places a man may get lost on the moor, and believe me you will start and finish this Book in one night. I found the scenery, with its beauty and deadliness, added to the story line. The characters intensified the dramatic undertones and fast pace. I will definitely be picking up the books I have not read yet. Huber has a winner with this Series. I gave it five stars. My thanks to Netgalley and Berkley
I love the lady Darby series.
Gage and his new bride, Kiera, are called to the moors of England where Gage grew up. His grandfather has sent him an urgent request to come. Gage has been absent for 15 years and is most reluctant to return but family is important. Upon arrival the Gages face familial coldness and hostility, nasty tricks, and dark family secrets. They are expected to find Gage's missing cousin but are hampered in their efforts. Kiera learns more about her husband's childhood and vows to make things right for him. Her husband is silent about details from his past and discourages her looking into the family "curse." A Brush With Shadows is an atmospheric tale of intrigue. I especially enjoyed learning more of Gage's back story.
"The first time I laid eyes on Langstone Manor I could not blame my husband for staying away for over fifteen years." So begins Anna Lee Huber's 6th Lady Darby Mystery. I discovered her Lady Darby series a little over a year ago with the very first, The Anatomist's Wife, and was captivated by the beauty of her writing. I was able to read the first few one right after the other. There is also a novella. Sebastian Gage reluctantly goes back to his childhood home in Dartmoor at the urgent request of his very ill grandfather, the Viscount Tavistock. It seems his cousin Albert is missing and his help as an inquiry agent is needed, as is his wife's, Lady Kiera Darby, Mrs. Gage. Returning to this place is extremely unsettling to Gage as it holds many unhappy memories and also the place of his dear mother's death. He must battle all these ghosts of his past if he hopes to have a happy future. Kiera suspects there is much that Gage has not told her and hopes that he can achieve some sort of peace from this visit. Strange things are afoot in Langstone Manor. Nothing, it would seem, is as it appears at first. Gage and Kiera must watch out constantly for danger as they inquire into Albert's disappearance, who wandered out on the moors and completely disappeared. The moors are a terrible place to be, warns nearly everyone they come in contact with, yet here they must search if they are to have a hope of finding Albert. The Viscount is certain that something other than a natural hazard is to blame for Albert's disappearance. Then Albert's brother, Rory, also goes missing. Gage and Kiera must battle local superstition, which runs rampant, to expose the reason behind these disappearances before someone else goes missing and the moors take yet another victim. I love Anna Lee Huber's writing. She is extremely skillful at drawing her readers in from the very first sentence. Seriously. Told in the first person from Kiera, Lady Darby's viewpoint, they are completely mesmerizing. Huber goes into great detail in every scene, letting readers actually see inside Lady Darby's mind. The reader misses nothing in the books, always looking out into the world of the time from her eyes. As Huber describes the moors, I felt as if I were there, riding along with the characters on horseback, trying to solve the mysteries. And she does a mystery very well indeed, I might add. So well that the reader feels sure they have guessed the culprit, then finding themselves completely surprised at the ending. I love these mysteries of hers and the moment I finish one, I am anticipating the very next one. Especially since Huber includes a very delightful surprise at the end. No spoilers. You'll have to read it for yourself. I enjoyed every moment. *My thanks to the publisher for a complimentary copy of this book via Net Galley. The opinions stated here are entirely my own and honest.
Huber delivers another masterpiece in her Lady Darby series. I was immediately drawn into the story from the very first sentence. She pens a great mystery, her pacing is impeccable. But it is her descriptive prose of Langstone Manor and the surrounding moors that immerses the reader in the story. This story is filled with wonderful hints of old folk legends of pixies and witches, old manor houses with secret passages, old family curses and secrets. As Kiera and Gage seek to discover the answer to his cousin's disappearance, they find that the relationship with many family members are still filled with anger and mistrust. I love the chemistry between this newly married couple. Their struggle to share insecurities and vulnerabilities with each other unites rather than divides them, as they face the ghosts of Gage's past. Devoted fans of the Lady Darby series will be happy to know that there are hints of stories to come. I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author/publisher. I was not required to write a review. All opinions expressed are my own.