An Interview and a Giveaway with Anna Lee Huber

Happy Monday, one and all. I hope you’ve had a lovely, restful and WARM weekend. Today, I’m excited to announce that we have another guest visiting with us – Anna Lee Huber, author of the Lady Darby mystery series.

anna huberanatomist

I found out about this series in 2012 when notices about it started popping up on GoodReads.  I bought the first book, The Anatomist’s Wife, for my mother for Christmas, and once she read it, she passed it along to me.  I really enjoyed it – you know I adore a good historical mystery, and this one has a really unique premise.  This is a great series for fellow Pink fans!  Two months ago, Anna participated in a panel with Lauren (along with Tasha Alexander and Susan Elia MacNeal) at the Kerrytown Bookfest in Ann Arbor discussing the Art of Historical Romantic Suspense.  I wish I could have been there!  But as sad as I am to have missed out, I’m thrilled to have Anna here with us today to answer a few questions about herself and her writing.  Let’s get to it!

Anna, do you have any unique talents or hobbies?

How about cataloguing historical information and interesting tidbits (including ghost stories) about castles and manor houses in the UK? My husband thinks it’s bizarre that I would want to do that in my spare time, but I find it fascinating. I keep thinking someday there might be a nonfiction book to be created from all this detritus. We’ll see. I’m also slightly crazed about maps and atlases, which includes plotting the coordinates of those castles and manor houses. This all sounds so horribly nerdy, but that’s me. I chalk it up to the analytical bent of my mind.

What are five of your favorite things?

Snickerdoodles, Inception, Les Miserables (the book or the musical), Winnie the Pooh, the sound of the ocean crashing against a rocky shore

If you stopped writing books (please don’t), what would you do for a living?

Well, my bachelor’s degree is in Music, so probably something to do with that. I almost landed a job at a record company in Nashville straight out of college. I went through three rounds of interviews and wound up being the runner-up. Every once in a while I wonder how different my life would be if I had gotten that position. I also toyed with the idea of going to law school, and later graduate school to study Speech and Language Pathology. I even took the LSAT and GRE. But, honestly, now I can’t imagine doing anything else but writing.

If I took a sneak peek into your writing space, what would I find?

Lately, I write wherever I can with my 8-month-old daughter. But my office is a small bedroom painted a pale shade of jade green. One wall is covered in two large maps—one of Scotland and the other of England-Wales. I have 6 bookshelves covered in books and assorted picture frames, awards, and knick-knacks that mean something to me, as well as Precious Moments figurines because I still haven’t bought a curio cabinet to store them in. My cork board above my desk is tacked with reminder post-its (such as “affect is a verb, effect is a noun”) and more random knick-knacks. I have an abstract painting of a sunset I created hanging behind my desk. I say “abstract” because I’m not very skilled. I also have two large black-and-white photographs of trees in winter. I love pictures like that.

What was your inspiration for Kiera Darby?

This question is always difficult for me to answer because she started out as a completely conscious creation. I knew I wanted to try my hand at writing a historical mystery series with a female protagonist set sometime during the 19th century. I wanted her to have genuine skills to bring to a murder investigation, and I decided one of those would be knowledge of anatomy, which was almost completely unheard of for a woman at that time. As I delved into creating her backstory in order to provide her that education in a believable way, she began to come to life. And when I allowed her to open her mouth and start talking as I began to write, her words just seemed to pour out of me. It was almost as if she’d been there hiding in my subconscious all along.

How important are the names of the characters in your books?

Names are extremely important to me. I cannot write a character if I don’t have their name right. I will fiddle and tweak until I’m satisfied. Otherwise, they simply don’t feel real enough to me. Sometimes I choose the name because of the way it sounds or the meaning, but above all it has to feel true to the character, as odd as that might sound. I have charts and a notebook filled with names that I’ve stumbled across in all sorts of places. I always refer to this first when attempting to name a character. Sometimes it’s easy. I wrote the name Gage in my notebook years ago, knowing someday I would use it for a hero. And when Kiera’s love interest walked onto the page in The Anatomist’s Wife I instantly knew that this was Mr. Gage. But coming up with his first name was definitely harder. I can’t tell you how many different names I tried before settling on Sebastian.

What is an interesting fact or subject you’ve come across in your research that you haven’t yet included in your books?

There are a number of secret tunnels running between different castles, buildings and landmarks in Scotland, whether for escape, smuggling, or conducting midnight trysts. I would love to craft a story around one of these hidden passages sometime.

What are you working on now?

I recently finished A Study in Death, Lady Darby Book 4, which releases July 7th, 2015. Phew! It’s the first book I’ve written since my daughter was born, and it was a struggle. Now I’m finishing up a stand-alone book I’ve been working on in bits and pieces for a couple of years now. It’s more of a traditional Gothic along the lines of Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart.

If readers would like to learn more about you and your work, how would they do that?

My website: www.annaleehuber.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorAnnaLeeHuber

Twitter: @AnnaLeeHuber

I don’t know about you, but I would LOVE to read a book about those Scottish tunnels between castles that Anna describes. I also think that a book in the style of Victoria Holt and Mary Stewart is right up my alley. Because she is a lovely person, Anna has offered to give away a signed copy of the first book in her Lady Darby series, The Anatomist’s Wife, to a lucky reader of today’s interview. To enter yourself for this giveaway, just leave a comment below. You have until midnight EST on November 20 to enter. I will announce the winner on Friday.

Want to earn extra entries for this giveaway? You can enter up to three times. Here’s how:

  1. Leave a comment below.
  2. Follow the blog! If you are already a follower, just mention that in your comment. There are links in the top right corner of this page to become a follower.
  3. Post a link to this giveaway on Facebook or Twitter. Again, you can just let me know in your comment that you’ve done this. I trust you.

On Friday, I will use the Random Number Generator to pick a winner. Good luck! And thanks again, Anna, for spending some time with us today.

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Cover Reveal: A Study in Death

I am thrilled to participate today in the Cover Reveal for Anna Lee Huber’s next release in the Lady Darby mystery series. There are three books currently available in the series – check out the covers so far:

anatomist mortal art grave

 

And today, I can officially share the cover for Book IV, A Study in Death. Et voilà:

Study in Death

Spooky, no?

A Study in Death is the latest installment in the award-winning Lady Darby mystery series by national bestselling author Anna Lee Huber. It will release on July 7th, 2015 from Berkley Publishing, but is available for preorder now.  Here is what Berkley has to say about Lady Darby IV:

Scotland, 1831. After a tumultuous courtship complicated by three deadly inquiries, Lady Kiera Darby is thrilled to have found both an investigative partner and a fiancé in Sebastian Gage. But with her well-meaning—and very pregnant—sister planning on making their wedding the event of the season, Kiera could use a respite from the impending madness.

Commissioned to paint the portrait of Lady Drummond, Kiera is saddened when she recognizes the pain in the baroness’s eyes. Lord Drummond is a brute, and his brusque treatment of his wife forces Kiera to think of the torment caused by her own late husband.

Kiera isn’t sure how to help, but when she finds Lady Drummond prostrate on the floor, things take a fatal turn. The physician called to the house and Lord Drummond appear satisfied to rule her death natural, but Kiera is convinced that poison is the real culprit.

Now, armed only with her knowledge of the macabre and her convictions, Kiera intends to discover the truth behind the baroness’s death—no matter what, or who, stands in her way…

To celebrate the unveiling of the cover of A STUDY IN DEATH, Lady Darby Book 4, Anna Lee Huber is running a giveaway on her Facebook page. Entrants must comment under her post displaying the cover of A Study in Death for a chance to win a copy of the audiobooks of Lady Darby Books 1-3 (The Anatomist’s Wife, Mortal Arts, and A Grave Matter). Please see the Facebook post for Giveaway Terms and Conditions.

Pink III: Cover Art

I’m very excited to say that tomorrow, I will be participating in the Cover Reveal for Anna Lee Huber’s next release, A Study in Death, coming to a bookstore near you in July 2015. I’ve mentioned Anna’s Lady Darby series here on the blog several times before, and I’m excited to see where she’ll take the series with this next release. I’ll share the cover and some information about A Study in Death tomorrow.

On the subject of covers, I thought this would be a good day to take a look at the covers that have been used for The Deception of the Emerald Ring in its various publications. There actually aren’t that many options for Pink III! Here are the three that I could find:

 emerald ring British edition Russian edition
 American edition  British edition  Russian edition

 

Which is your favorite?

Beth will be back on Friday to share her first Pink III recap. Feel free to read at your own speed, but if you’d like to keep pace with her, she’s planning to be finished with the first eight chapters by Friday. Happy reading!

Top Five Friday: Historical Mystery Series

In the spirit of gearing up for Pink for All Seasons, I have been thinking a lot lately about my favorite historical mystery series. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you that historical mysteries were a thing – but now, they make up a surprising percentage of my reading! So for today’s Top Five Friday, here are my favorite historical mystery series. You’ll never guess which series is number one…

 

 pink carnation 1. Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series. I’ve talked endlessly about this series, so for now I won’t reiterate all the reasons why the books are great. If you haven’t tried this series yet, make sure to drop by in September, when we’ll start reading The Secret History of the Pink Carnation.
 vienna 2. Tracy Grant’s Suzanne and Malcolm Rannoch series. The series begins with Vienna Waltz, and I have to tell you, I was hooked absolutely from the first line. I tore through that book and have snapped up each installment in the series as it was published. The first book is set in Vienna in 1814, just after Napoleon’s defeat, when major players from the dominant European countries are getting together to determine the fate of the Continent. It’s a fascinating time historically, so Tracy’s first murder mystery has an excellent backdrop. Suzanne and Malcolm are really wonderful, complex characters, and Tracy just keeps making them more interesting with each book.
 silent 3. Deanna Raybourn’s Lady Julia series. How can you not love a story that begins like this: “To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband’s dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor.” The first book, Silent in the Grave, introduces us to Lady Julia Gray, a Victorian aristocrat whose eccentric family and unconventional interests make for really interesting reading.
 anatomist 4. Anna Lee Huber’s Lady Darby series. This series caught my eye because I thought the premise for the first book was really unique. Kiera Darby is a widow whose ghastly late husband forced her to use her considerable artistic talent to illustrate his cadaver dissections for an anatomy textbook. After his death, she is considered a freak (or something even more sinister) by most of society, and she gets caught up in a murder investigation when her knowledge of human anatomy comes in handy. The first book is The Anatomist’s Wife, and there are now three books in the series.
 blue death 5. Charles Finch’s Lenox series. Finch’s books are set in Victorian London (no pattern to see here, folks), and they revolve around a private detective named Charles Lenox. In the first book, A Beautiful Blue Death, Lenox investigates a maid’s death in the household of his lifelong friend Lady Jane. The maid appears to have committed suicide, but Lenox discovers that the poison that killed her was rare and expensive – not something the maid would have easy access to. As Lenox tries to uncover a motive for murder, another dead body turns up in a ballroom at the height of the Season. This series is possibly “cozier” than the others (Finch describes Lenox as “an armchair explorer who likes nothing more than to relax in his private study with a cup of tea, a roaring fire and a good book”), but it is still a great one.

 

I have to also give an honorable mention to C.S. Harris’ Sebastian St. Cyr mysteries and Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily series – I’ve read several of these as well, and they are excellent. C.S. Harris is particularly good if you’re looking for fewer ballrooms and more fistfights with Bow Street runners.

I know that this list is skewed towards female protagonists and stories set in Britain. Am I missing out on a great historical mystery series? If you’ve got a favorite that you don’t see listed, let me know!

Hapy Release Day, Anna Lee Huber!

grave matter 2

Today is release for the third book in Anna Lee Huber’s Lady Darby series, A Grave Matter. If you like mysteries or historical fiction, this series is definitely worth a try. Anna’s premise is original, and each of the books in the series is a great story.

Since I’ve already reviewed this one, we will skip straight to what Berkley has to say about A Grave Matter:

Scotland, 1830.  Following the death of her dear friend, Lady Kiera Darby is in need of a safe haven. Returning to her childhood home, Kiera hopes her beloved brother Trevor and the merriment of the Hogmanay Ball will distract her. But when a caretaker is murdered and a grave is disturbed at nearby Dryburgh Abbey, Kiera is once more thrust into the cold grasp of death.

While Kiera knows that aiding in another inquiry will only further tarnish her reputation, her knowledge of anatomy could make the difference in solving the case. But agreeing to investigate means Kiera must deal with the complicated emotions aroused in her by inquiry agent Sebastian Gage.

When Gage arrives, he reveals that the incident at the Abbey was not the first—some fiend is digging up old bones and holding them for ransom. Now Kiera and Gage must catch the grave robber and put the case to rest…before another victim winds up six feet under.

A Grave Matter

grave

In 2012, my mom and I kept seeing the same book pop up in our recommendation list on GoodReads – an upcoming release called The Anatomist’s Wife, by Anna Lee Huber. We mentioned it to each other so many times that I wound up buying a copy for her Christmas gift that year. She really enjoyed it and, naturally, loaned it to me when she was finished. I love historical mysteries, and this series has a really interesting premise – the main character, Lady Kiera Darby, is a widow whose ghastly husband forced her to illustrate his cadaver dissections for an anatomy textbook. After his death, she is considered a freak (or worse) by most of society, and she gets caught up in a murder investigation when her knowledge of human anatomy comes in handy. Different, yes?

The series continued with last year’s release of Mortal Arts, which was excellent, and the third book of the series is set to be published on July 1. Because Anna is a lovely person, I had an opportunity to read an ARC of A Grave Matter.

In A Grave Matter, Kiera is hoping for a restful holiday staying at her childhood home, Blakelaw House, in Scotland. During a ball celebrating the New Year, the traditional festivities are interrupted by the news that a local caretaker at Dryburgh Abbey has been murdered, and the deceased Earl of Buchan’s body stolen from his grave. Body snatchers and their crimes are nothing new in 1830, but this incident seems unique – the Earl has been dead for almost two years, and the robbers left his clothes and valuables undisturbed in his grave. At the request of the current Earl of Buchan, Kiera sends for inquiry agent Sebastian Gage to clear up the matter. But Gage’s arrival brings more questions than answers. This is not the first body to be stolen in this manner, and if this crime matches the others that Gage has been investigating, the Earl of Buchan can expect a ransom note outlining the conditions for the return of his uncle’s bones. Kiera and Gage must sift through conflicting bits of information that lead them to an angry antiques collector who believes a family heirloom was stolen from him, a botched elopement, and a crew of ruthless Edinburgh thieves led by Bonnie Brock. Nothing seems to add up, and Kiera and Gage know they must work quickly to catch the body snatchers before another set of bones is stolen – and before someone else is murdered.

This was a great mystery! Sometimes, I can see the end of a book coming, but this one kept me guessing. Anna keeps the suspense and the sense of menace running high. The relationship between Kiera and Gage continues to develop, and there are a handful of new characters that seem like they might become series regulars. Kiera’s big brother Trevor is great – I just wanted to hug him for the majority of the book. Also, Kiera’s new maid Bree seems like she will be good to have around when Kiera gets herself into her usual scrapes.

Sometimes there is a tendency with books in a series for the main character to become a static figure – a character that has things happen around them rather than with them. But Anna proves early in A Grave Matter that she’s not finished developing Kiera as a character. The first time Kiera assisted Gage with a murder investigation, she was extremely reluctant to get involved, and only did so to clear her own name as a suspect. The second time, she felt obligated to help Gage investigate since the prime suspect was a close childhood friend. This inquiry is different – Kiera finds herself wanting to be involved rather than feeling pressured. She is coming into her own as an investigator, realizing that she has a talent for the work and even enjoys it.

Also in previous books, Kiera finds a refuge from difficult times in her painting. After a terrible accident in the end of Mortal Arts, Kiera has lost her motivation to paint. It’s difficult for her to stand in front of a canvas and not be able to produce the kind of results that she has in the past. Kiera knows she has to work through this if she wants to maintain her talent, but it’s a struggle for her. The final big change for Kiera in this book is her dawning realization that she needs to find a place to call home. In the months following her horrible husband’s death, she has lived with her sister, Alana, and also Trevor for brief periods. While she appreciates their support, she is beginning to see that she can’t shuffle between their homes forever. She needs something more permanent, something that she can call her own. Kiera takes some big steps toward figuring out a direction for her life in this book.

I loved that Anna introduced us to some bits of Scottish culture in this book. The story opens at a Hogmanay festival, which is a Scottish New Year’s Eve party, and Anna describes the traditions like first-footing, the bonfire, and the ceilidh dance. Dryburgh Abbey, the location that plays such a big role in this book, is a real place – in a note at the end of the novel, Anna describes a bit about her research there. It’s nice to read a historical fiction book where the details of the setting don’t just feel like wallpaper that is only there to remind you, “Hey, you’re in Scotland in the 1800s!” Instead, Anna’s period detail is woven in throughout the story in a way that feels authentic.

If you haven’t read any of this series, I would definitely recommend starting at the beginning. If you have, I think you will really enjoy the direction Anna takes in A Grave Matter. I’m excited to see what she has in store for Kiera in future books!

Top Five Friday: To Be Read

Today has been crazy, and I cannot wait for the weekend. With that in mind, today’s list will be the top 5 books on my TBR pile.

 

berkeley The Berkeley Square Affair, by Tracy Grant: I’ve already shared my excitement about this new release, so I won’t go into it all again, but it’s at the very top of my TBR pile.  Must finish the book I’m currently reading so I can get at it already…
 extraordinary  The Museum of Extraordinary Things, by Alice Hoffman: “Coralie Sardie is the daughter of the sinister impresario behind The Museum of Extraordinary Things, a Coney Island boardwalk freak show that thrills the masses. An exceptional swimmer, Coralie appears as the Mermaid in her father’s museum, alongside performers like the Wolfman, the Butterfly Girl, and a one-hundred-year-old turtle.
One night Coralie stumbles upon a striking young man taking pictures of moonlit trees in the woods off the Hudson River. The dashing photographer is Eddie Cohen, a Russian immigrant who has run away from his father’s Lower East Side Orthodox community and his job as a tailor’s apprentice. When Eddie photographs the devastation on the streets of New York following the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, he becomes embroiled in the suspicious mystery behind a young woman’s disappearance and ignites the heart of Coralie.
With its colorful crowds of bootleggers, heiresses, thugs, and idealists, New York itself becomes a riveting character as Hoffman weaves her trademark magic, romance, and masterful storytelling to unite Coralie and Eddie in a sizzling, tender, and moving story of young love in tumultuous times. The Museum of Extraordinary Things is Alice Hoffman at her most spellbinding.
 mortal art  3. Mortal Arts, by Anna Lee Huber: “Lady Kiera Darby is no stranger to intrigue—in fact, it seems to follow wherever she goes. After her foray into murder investigation, Kiera must journey to Edinburgh with her family so that her pregnant sister can be close to proper medical care. But the city is full of many things Kiera isn’t quite ready to face: the society ladies keen on judging her, her fellow investigator—and romantic entanglement—Sebastian Gage, and ultimately, another deadly mystery.Kiera’s old friend Michael Dalmay is about to be married, but the arrival of his older brother—and Kiera’s childhood art tutor—William, has thrown everything into chaos. For ten years Will has been missing, committed to an insane asylum by his own father. Kiera is sympathetic to her mentor’s plight, especially when rumors swirl about a local girl gone missing. Now Kiera must once again employ her knowledge of the macabre and join forces with Gage in order to prove the innocence of a beloved family friend—and save the marriage of another…”
 The Wild Girl  4. The Wild Girl, by Kate Forsyth: “Growing up in the small German kingdom of Hessen-Cassel in early Nineteenth century, Dortchen Wild is irresistibly drawn to the boy next door, the young and handsome fairy tale scholar Wilhelm Grimm.It is a time of War, tyranny and terror. Napoleon Bonaparte wants to conquer all of Europe, and Hessen-Cassel is one of the first kingdoms to fall. Forced to live under oppressive French rule, the Grimm brothers decide to save old tales that had once been told by the firesides of houses grand and small all over the land.Dortchen knows many beautiful old stories, such as ‘Hansel and Gretel’, ‘The Frog King’ and ‘Six Swans’. As she tells them to Wilhelm, their love blossoms. Yet the Grimm family is desperately poor, and Dortchen’s father has other plans for his daughter. Marriage is an impossible dream.Dortchen can only hope that happy endings are not just the stuff of fairy tales.”
 american heiress  5. The American Heiress, by Daisy Goodwin: “Traveling abroad with her mother at the turn of the twentieth century to seek a titled husband, beautiful, vivacious Cora Cash, whose family mansion in Newport dwarfs the Vanderbilts’, suddenly finds herself Duchess of Wareham, married to Ivo, the most eligible bachelor in England. Nothing is quite as it seems, however: Ivo is withdrawn and secretive, and the English social scene is full of traps and betrayals. Money, Cora soon learns, cannot buy everything, as she must decide what is truly worth the price in her life and her marriage.

 

Have a great weekend!