I lower my brush from the canvas and step back, tilting my head to examine today’s efforts. The portrait is beginning to take shape nicely. The intricate folds of the gown I’ve been shading and highlighting seem to almost ripple in the soft breeze blowing through the window. I nod my head in satisfaction and drop my brush in the jar of linseed oil. There is cleaning to be done, but the evening light gleaming over the Edinburgh rooftops outside catches my eye. Rubbing my paint-smeared hands against a cloth, I move closer to take a better look.
The view is still novel to me, having only lived in this town house for a few short weeks with my new husband. A smile curls my lips at the thought of Gage, who purchased this home as a wedding present, so that I would be close to my sister whenever we resided in Edinburgh. I can’t help feeling that I should pinch myself at my good fortune. So much has changed in the past twenty-one months. So much that I would never have believed possible.
Then I was the widow of a famous anatomist—a man who brutally used me, and forced me to sketch his dissections as he worked on his definitive anatomy textbook. And when he died, as word of my involvement with his anatomy work shocked and horrified a public still reeling from the infamous trial of Burke and Hare—bodysnatchers turned murderers, he left me to face the storm of the scandal of his creation. They called me the butcher’s wife, the sawbones’ siren, and worse.
Fortunately, my sister and her husband, the Earl and Countess of Cromarty, willingly took me in, and hurried me away to their castle in the Highlands, where I might lick my wounds while the worst of the rumors subsided. However, the place that started as my sanctuary, quickly turned into my hiding hole. I’m not sure I would ever have willingly left the Highlands again if not for my sister and the house party she insisted on hosting, or the murder that befell one of the guests. A murder in which I instantly became the main suspect because of my macabre past. At my brother-in-law’s urging, I reluctantly agreed to assist his friend, the dashing Sebastian Gage, gentleman inquiry agent, with the investigation. That one action irrevocably altered my life and set me on a different course. A course of healing and discovery, of daring and courage, of comradery, and yes, even love.
Gage and I have now conducted numerous inquiries together, both big and small, humorous and life-shattering, and I have grown more in the span of the past twenty-one months than in an entire lifetime. I am more capable and confident than I ever imagined, and not just at painting portraits—my particular passion. And a great deal of that has to do with those who entrusted me to find out the truth of their loved one’s murders, and the support of my investigative partner, now my loving husband.
I turn at the distinctive sound of his footsteps striding down the hall. No one moves quite like he does, with purpose and surprising grace for a man of his height. There is a gentle rap on the door before he opens it. His pale blue eyes immediately go to the spot before my canvas where I normally stand before searching the room and finding me near the window. He smiles that smile I know is only for me, and I can’t help but grin back.
In a few days’ time we shall depart on our honeymoon to the Lake District of Cumberland. Who knows what adventures will await us there and beyond. All I know is that for perhaps the first time in my life, I am excited to face them, with Gage by my side.
As Death Draws Near is the fifth book in the Lady Darby mystery series, published by Penguin Random House, July 2016.
July 1831.In the midst of their idyllic honeymoon in England’s Lake District, Kiera and Gage’s seclusion is soon interrupted by a missive from her new father-in-law. A deadly incident involving a distant relative of the Duke of Wellington has taken place at an abbey south of Dublin, Ireland, and he insists that Kiera and Gage look into the matter.
Intent on discovering what kind of monster could murder a woman of the cloth, the couple travel to Rathfarnham Abbey school. Soon a second nun is slain in broad daylight near a classroom full of young girls. With the sinful killer growing bolder, the mother superior would like to send the students home, but the growing civil unrest in Ireland would make the journey treacherous.
Before long, Kiera starts to suspect that some of the girls may be hiding a sinister secret. With the killer poised to strike yet again, Kiera and Gage must make haste and unmask the fiend, before their matrimonial bliss comes to an untimely end. . .
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Meet the author
Anna Lee Huber is the RITA and Daphne awards-nominated author of the national bestselling Lady Darby Mysteries, including A Study in Death, A Grave Matter, Mortal Arts, and The Anatomist’s Wife. She is a summa cum laude graduate of Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee, where she majored in music and minored in psychology. She currently resides in Indiana with her family and is hard at work on the next Lady Darby novel. A special Lady Darby novella titled A Pressing Engagement was released in May.
Giveaway: Leave a comment below for your chance to win a print copy of As Death Draws Near. US entries only, please. The giveaway will end July 18, 2016 at 12 AM (midnight) EST. Good luck everyone!
All comments are welcomed.