Romance author Candice Proctor carried her interest in historicals over to her career in mystery novels. As C.S. Harris, she’s now written six books about Regency period gentleman detective Sebastian St. Cyr, beginning with What Angels Fear in November 2005 and continuing to book seven, When Maidens Mourn, out in 2012. She and her husband Stephen Harris, as C.S. Graham, have also written several contemporary thrillers, so possibly there will be even more mysteries from her to come.
Sebastian St. Cyr is uniquely qualified as an investigator. He has experience in the field, gained as an Intelligence officer during the Peninsular Wars. He is a viscount, heir to the Earl of Devlin, so he has an entre to the higher levels of society. (However, his relationship with his father is fraught; they disagree on nearly everything, and the Earl appears to hate Sebastian for surviving when his older brother did not. This advantage thus also becomes a disadvantage when his father interferes in Sebastian’s life.) Lastly, Sebastian has some unusual physical abilities, including extra-acute senses, which prove to be very useful to him.
As with most series, there is also a cast of recurring secondary characters. Aside from Sebastian’s father, there’s his police contact Sir Henry Lovejoy, his mistress Kat Boleyn who is much more than she seems, his army friend Dr. Paul Gibson who also serves as forensics expert, and his enemy Lord Jarvis. Lord Jarvis’ intelligent, idealistic daughter, Hero, gradually gains a larger role, particularly in the fourth novel, Where Serpents Sleep, and becomes a romantic interest.
Lord Jarvis’ political plotting carries through the novels, giving overarching plot and tying in some of the history of the period; it’s intriguing to see how his political views are contrasted with those of his daughter, Hero. Another ongoing mystery is Sebastian’s mother, who was accidentally drowned when Sebastian was young . . . perhaps. Questions about Sebastian’s true parentage arise from various clues to the reader.
Finally, there’s the deliciously tortured romantic arc to the series that at times is just as important as the mystery plots. Sebastian loves Kat, but she is an actress of unknown background, and she is very conscious of his station in life and how that limits their relationship. Sebastian’s father, the Earl of Hendon who holds a high government position, cannot countenance him marrying a mere mistress, a woman of dubious past, instead of a girl of good family. With each succeeding novel, more and more is revealed about Kat and her past; eventually, Sebastian’s father intervenes in their romance with some shocking information that has devastating consequences for both of them. Overlapping when Sebastian’s unwilling separation from Kat, he begins to become more entangled with Hero Jarvis, who as mentioned earlier, is the daughter of his father’s greatest political rival. Normally, I don’t really enjoy “love triangles” in series books, but this one is tangled and fraught enough that it’s holding my interest!
I am looking forward to reading the newest novel in the series, When Maidens Mourn, just to see how the detective’s personal life is faring. If you enjoy historical mysteries and convoluted arcs and haven’t started reading the series yet, well, you have until March 2012 to catch up!
Victoria Janssen is the author of three erotic novels and numerous short stories. Her latest novel is The Duke and The Pirate Queen from Harlequin Spice. Follow her on Twitter: @victoriajanssen or find out more at victoriajanssen.com.