Where Falcons Fall by CS Harris

Each year I buy myself books as a birthday present. My financial situation at the time dictates whether I stroll out of the bookshop with a couple of novels nestled in my handbag or if I traverse carefully, knees bent, back braced, trying not to topple over under the weight of soon-to-be dusty volumes. In recent years it has been the former, but however many stories I manage to gift myself there is always a certain series included. For my birthday I always buy myself the latest Sebastian St Cyr novel.

falcons-fall-225-shadowThis blog is not devoid of Sebastian reviews. The series is one of my very favourite things to read – a thoroughly enjoyable experience I look forward to with giddy excitement. The books also rank in my mum’s favourites and even though we currently live very far apart (England and Australia) I still pop each finished ‘Sebastian’ in a bag and mail it across the seas for her to read. I know it would probably cost about the same to order her a copy, but the act of specially posting it is one that makes us feel connected; somehow the reading experience is more shared.

In Where Falcons Fall, Sebastian and Hero are outside London for once, and it gives the story a refreshing air. While staying in a small Shropshire village to try to discover more information about the man Sebastian believes could be his half-brother, and thus perhaps learn who is their shared mother, the Viscount and his wife become entangled in a rare local, and also particularly mysterious, murder. What at first appeared to be a quiet, harmless hamlet soon reveals itself to be a place hiding dark deeds and people with dark agendas.

I will have said it before, but I can’t recommend the Sebastian St Cyr series enough. They are well-written, well-plotted, romantic and exciting –  the perfect novels to give yourself for your birthday. Or  for Christmas. Or just because.



Q is for Questions

At the end of the year we start asking ourselves questions. Did I do all I planned for the year? Am I satisfied with my life? How did I spend my Christmas bonus so quickly?

Q is for Questions. And who asks lots and lots of questions? Well, small children. Usually in the middle of an important over in the cricket or while you’re telling their mother an inappropriate story. But also detectives; and don’t I just have a tonne of detective novels stored up in the pile. And what a great excuse in these festive and ‘light-reading’ times to get back into some Regency murder.  That’s correct my cravat-wearing, cobblestone-strolling aristocrats, it’s time for another Sebastian St Cyr mystery.

There’s something about a southern hemisphere Christmas which makes me look forward to lolling about on a verandah with a reading indulgence or a favourite friend. And a Viscount Devlin mystery fits both these criteria. In the latest novel by CS Harris, What Remains of Heaven, Sebastian is asked to investigate the murder of the Bishop of London in a recently opened crypt and that of the 30-year-old corpse the bishop’s somewhat fresher body was found lying next to. At the same time, Sebastian’s relatives continue to attempt to marry him off, an old army colleague is trying to murder him, and he and Hero Jarvis (daughter of the evil and powerful Charles, Lord Jarvis) keep sidestepping a rather important conversation.

I am yet to find a St Cyr novel which disappoints, though perhaps this one is a little tamer than the others. Mind you, there is still a crime to be solved; action and attacks, intrigue and interest, close calls and clues—both to the murder and to Sebastian’s past. Perhaps I’m just impatient that I didn’t discover some of the information about Sebastian’s parentage that I wanted to, nor get to see a couple of plot developments I’m waiting on (and am now assuming will be revealed in the next instalment). Perhaps I was just disappointed that our hero didn’t spend any time in the bath in this novel…

One day, CS Harris’ mysteries/romances will be made into a TV series and the lucky man performing as our Lord Devlin will become a heart-throb the likes of who we haven’t seen since that time some bloke called Colin Firth played Mr Darcy. In the meantime, while the tube-watching masses are ignorant of the existence of Sebastian St Cyr, we the book-reading (and sometimes tube-watching) population can pour ourselves a refreshing cocktail, settle into a comfy chair on the balcony, put our feet up on the rail and indulge in these well-written, elegantly entertaining and fun-to-read novels.*

* In previous posts discussing these novels I have stated that they also suit stay-in-bed winter weather. I think we can thus conclude that Sebastian St Cyr mysteries can be read at all times, in all seasons.

Ah, Sebastian!

I read when I go away for my holidays (as you all know from past dispatches), but when mooching around the house on the Christmas break, reading seems like a bit too lengthy a commitment to make when you only have 10 days to get as much sun, sleep, sea, dvd-watching, ham-eating and mince-pie-scoffing as possible completed before putting your game face back on and trundling on in to the office. Though of course there’s always at least one book on the go and what better book to indulge in while reaching for another Gaytime (that’s an ice-cream for you global readers) than the next book in the Sebastian St Cyr series – Where Serpents Sleep. Oh yes, our heartbroken hero returns, scouring the streets of Mad George’s London in his buckskin breeches for all sorts of filthy murderers, this time with an unexpected (or was it so unexpected?) ally.  Our wonderful viscount still spends many a paragraph reflecting in his hip bath or having very legitimate reasons for getting shirtless and all manly and brave, and we love it, love it, love it.

See a post on the previous title here (and note that Pile o’ Books worked on the first two Sebastian St Cyr mysteries in their Australian form). Oh and if you haven’t worked it out, this is one of the brand new mini-posts. We start with the letter A next!

Book 14: Why Mermaids Sing by CS Harris*

mermaidsThe Sebastian St Cyr novels are Regency-era murder mysteries with a healthy dollop of romance and fabulous attention to things like costume, atmosphere and contemporary societal gossip which make them not only thrilling, entertaining and so much fun but slightly addictive. They are the perfect Sunday-morning-no-I’m-not-getting-out-of-bed readers. Fluff your pillows, fill the teapot, adorn the plate with mint slices and away you go.

The author describes her murder-solving viscount as ‘Mr Darcy with a James Bond edge’ and it’s kinda perfect. Sebastian (the right kind of name for someone to be obsessed with, don’t you think?) is a handsome, wealthy aristocrat with a strong sense of right, an attention to dress and wild cat-like eyes, who can fire a pistol and ride a horse while hunting down a maniacal killer through the outskirts of mad King George’s London… truly, what else does a girl need? Why don’t we throw in that he’s a returned soldier from the Napoleonic wars who is still haunted by his experiences, that he is keenly respectful of women, has virtually adopted a street urchin (who sometimes helps him in his investigations by scouting out the seedier sides of the great metropole) and drives the ‘ton’ bonkers by his refusal to conform to their prejudiced elitist ways. And he spends a reasonable amount of time lazing around his lover’s bedroom in the nude (or at least shirt off) pre- or post- love-making. Anyone breathing a tad heavier yet…?

It’s funny, because I’d never think of myself as a ‘romance’ reader but when it pops up in a novel as a sub-plot I’m all for it and in fact occasionally wish for more of it. Not that the St Cyr novels are romance novels – solving the murders is the key – I  guess I just find them so indulgent and enjoyable that perhaps for me, they are my Mills n Boon. And I don’t mean this in any disrespectful way!

The author, CS Harris, is an accomplished writer of a few genres and one of them is romances (check out her great blog here) so there’s definitely an undertone of passion and its accoutrements in these novels. 

In this third adventure – Why Mermaids Sing (which never fails to remind me of one of Val McDermid’s Tony Hill novels – who would have thought mermaids had so much to do with sinister murdering?) – the endearing magistrate Sir Henry Lovejoy asks Sebastian to help him solve the murders of a growing number of young men with no seeming connection apart from being found horrifyingly mutilated and in public places. What links these poor fellows? Is it simply random? Or could it be something to do with their fathers and a devastating voyage from the subcontinent? Could in fact one of society’s taboos have been broken for the sake of survival? Or could one of Sebastian’s former military colleagues be indulging his bloodthirsty urges back in the Motherland?

I just love these books and am fighting the urge to order the fourth one while it is still in hardback (in these GFC times one should try to limit one’s discretionary spending).  They are fun, thrilling, interesting and entertaining reading. They would be absolutely perfect for a BBC mini-series … though I’m yet to work out who should play our hero. I’ve passed on the fever to my mother and have recently thrust them in the hands of a dear friend, and now I want to reach out of this little screen and pop them in your lap. It’s winter here in the southern hemisphere, after all, so plump up that pillow, butter a crumpet, slip on your bed socks and hunker down for a fine time.

*  Disclosure: Pile o’ Books worked on the first and second Sebastian St Cyr novels.