Have you discovered her? She's a Victorian lady of the royal sort whose husband dies rather suddenly. A year later, she decides to hire an inquiry agent(detective) to determine if hubby died as a result of foul play. The inquiry agent is a very handsome, very mysterious man named Nicholas Brisbane.
Deanna Raybourn is the American author of this rather offbeat mystery series. She uses British spellings for words like colour which put me off at first. It was hard for me to deal w/a contemporary AMERICAN author writing in Victorian English. However, once I realized the language fit w/the life and times of her books' setting, the spelling and quaint words like draughty just add to the books' charm.
Raybourn's very first novel is SILENT IN THE GRAVE followed by SILENT IN THE SANCTUARY. Lady Julia is a member of the very large March family whose family crest includes a hare as in they're all crazy as a March hare! Each family member is eccentric and barely accepted in English society because of the family reputation for being wild and crazy. Lady Julia really tries to live a "conventional" life but as she turns 30 and decides to investigate her husband's death, she ventures where no proper British lady would dare to go. She surprises even herself when she dresses as a man and visits a gypsy camp as well as samples Brisbane's hookah. She just gets caught up in all sorts of improper adventures!
There's nothing ho hum about the plots in these books. They are page turners w/plenty of plot twists and always a surprise ending. Brisbane makes his appearance in each book in his role as the inquiry agent and Julia's potential lover. He always disappears before the books end and before their love affair gets very far along. The author is very good at leaving the reader wondering if the love affair will ever get beyond the kissing stage. After all, it is the Victorian age!
This series reminds me of Dorothy Sayers' very entertaining Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries written in the 1930's. Peter Wimsey is a very proper English lord who just happens to be very good at detecting in his spare time. He meets the Lady Jane, also a rather unconventional member of British society, and they end up detecting their way through many mysteries. Sayers also keeps you wondering if Jane and Peter's relationship will ever blossom beyond detection. Aside from the gripping drama, Sayers and Raybourn give you an entertaining picture of British society in a funny, literate and thoroughly satisfactory way.