7 Rated Books Book Reviews

Book Review: Silent in the Sanctuary by Deanna Raybourn

Title: Silent in the Sanctuary

Author: Deanna Raybourn

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Romance-ish

Publication Date: January 2008
Paperback: 560 pages

Stand alone or series: Book 2 in the ongoing Lady Julia Grey series.

Why did I read this book: I read and loved Silent in the Grave, book 1 of this series. I had a bitch of a time locating a copy of book 2, but finally (after a publisher change and reprint), I finally got my hands on this book!

Summary: (from amazon.com)
Fresh from a six-month sojourn in Italy, Lady Julia returns home to Sussex to find her father’s estate crowded with family and friends. Much to her surprise, the one man she had hoped to forget—the enigmatic and compelling Nicholas Brisbane—is among her father’s houseguests…and he is not alone. Not to be outdone, Julia shows him that two can play at flirtation and promptly introduces him to her devoted, younger, titled Italian count.

But the homecoming celebrations quickly take a ghastly turn when one of the guests is found brutally murdered in the chapel. Lady Julia resumes her unlikely and deliciously intriguing partnership with Nicholas Brisbane, setting out to unravel a tangle of deceit before the killer can strike again.


Silent in the Sanctuary opens months after the end of Silent in the Grave, with Lady Julia rested and in much better spirits than she was in when she left England. Under strict orders from their father, Lord March, Julia, her two brothers (including one brother’s new Italian wife, to the supposed ire of Lord March) and an enamored young Italian count return to Bellmont Abbey, the March ancestral home, for the holidays. Reunited with her eccentric father and older sister, Julia is happy to return to England…until she discovers her father’s meddlesome ulterior motives for calling her and her brothers home. To her surprise, she finds an unexpected guest at Bellmont Abbey for the winter – Nicholas Brisbane himself. And, his fiance, the beautiful, widowed Charlotte King. In Lady Julia’s own words:

She was a Fragonard milkmaid, a Botticelli nymph. I hated her instantly.

The volatile environment, fueled by a charming but Gypsy-fearing vicar, the eccentric March family, besotted Italians, and Lady Julia’s own confused emotions of course results in ghostly appearances, an untimely death, and a robbery. It is up to the indomitable team of Julia and Brisbane to once again solve the case, nab the thief, and save the day, all the while wrestling with their own very powerful attraction.

Just as with Silent in the Grave, Deanna Raybourn has written another winning Victorian mystery novel with smatterings of romance and intrigue. While I can’t help but prefer Silent in the Grave, Ms. Raybourn manages to avoid the sophomore slump with this wholly engaging, delectable novel. For one thing, Julia has changed and grown so much from her first appearance in book 1, determined to become her own, independent woman – and this is reflected in her narrative and her bold assertiveness in this installment. Much more in tune with her feelings, Julia is not afraid to use her charms, as is seen with the young Alessandro and her own demands towards Brisbane. Though this book isn’t as defining as the first novel was for Julia as she emerges from her shackled cocooned sham of a marriage, she certainly comes into her own here, taking the initiative and responsibility for her missteps.

Silent in the Sanctuary also reacquaints readers with other characters – most notably Nicholas Brisbane himself, and the eccentric March clan. Brisbane is as mysterious and darkly attractive as always, and the complications introduced with the sickeningly sweet Charlotte King are a delight to see unfold. As always, the Marches add a beautiful layer of vivacity to the story – from Lysander’s marital drama to their own fittingly bizarre, haunted ancestral home. While the overall mystery is enjoyable, it’s not particularly groundbreaking and somewhat predictable – but that’s not really what the story is about.

As with Silent in the Grave, Ms. Raybourn’s strength is in these characters and her witty dialogue, both external and internal. That, and the burgeoning romance – or romantic tension, rather – between Julia and Brisbane. This book feels much more romance-y than its predecessor, which leaves me with mixed emotions. I absolutely adored Silent in the Grave for Julia’s liberation as a character, with the secondary thrill of the mystery and sort of forbidden attraction between Julia and Brisbane. That thrilling tension is missing in this book, the sparkle somewhat diminished because the unattainable romance is becoming more conventional. I wonder if this has something to do with the publisher, trying to gradually shift the focus to a more romance-reading audience? While I still love Julia and Brisbane, I wasn’t really won over in this one by their romance, and I kinda fear that it’s heading toward even more conventionally bland territory. Furthermore, Brisbane seems to have lost his edge; whatever happened to all the supernatural elements, the Gypsy drama and Brisbane’s particular talents? They are mentioned here but not nearly to the depth of the first book – and as Brisbane’s condition was such a huge part of Silent in the Grave, I was disappointed to see these storylines almost completely dropped (or hastily overlooked) in this installment.

Despite these misgivings, I still very much enjoyed this novel and am eager to give Silent on the Moor a read.

Notable Quotes/Parts: An excerpt from chapter 1:

“Well, I suppose that settles it. Either we all go home to England for Christmas or we hurl ourselves into Lake Como to atone for our sins.”

I threw my elder brother a repressive look. “Do not be so morose, Plum. Fathers only really angry with Lysander,” I pointed out, brandishing the letter from England with my fingertips. The paper fairly scorched my skin. Fathers temper was a force of nature. Unable to rant at Lysander directly, he had applied himself to written chastisement with great vigour.

“The rest of us can go home easily enough,” I said. “Just think of it—Christmas in England! Plum pudding and snapdragon, mistletoe and wassail—”

“Chilblains and damp beds, fogs so thick you cannot set foot out of doors,” Plum put in, his expression sour. “Someone sobbing in the linen cupboard, Father locking himself in the study after threatening to drown the lot of us in the moat.”

“I know,” I said, my excitement rising. “Won’t it be wonderful?”

Plum’s face cracked into a thin, wistful smile. “It will, actually. I have rather missed the old pile—and the family, as well. But I shall be sorry to leave Italy. It has been an adventure I shall not soon forget.”

On that point we were in complete agreement. Italy had been a balm to me, soothing and stimulating at once. I had joined two of my brothers, Lysander and Eglamour—Plum to the family—after suffering the loss of my husband and later my home, and very nearly my own life. I had arrived in Italy with my health almost broken and my spirit in a sorrier state. Four months in a warm, sunny clime with the company of my brothers had restored me. And though the weather had lately grown chill and the seasons were turning inward, I had no wish to leave Italy yet. Still, the lure of family and home, particularly at Christmas, was strong.

“Well, who is to say we must return permanently? Italy shall always be here. We can go to England for Christmas and still be back in Venice in time for Carnevale.”

Plum’s smile deepened. “That is terribly cunning of you, Julia. I think living among Italians has developed a latent talent in you for intrigue.”

It was a jest, but the barb struck too close to home, and I lowered my head over my needlework. I had engaged in an intrigue in England although I had never discussed it with my brothers. There had been an investigation into my husbands death, a private investigation conducted by an inquiry agent. I had assisted him and unmasked the killer myself. It had been dangerous, nasty work, and I told myself I was happy to be done with it.

But even as I plunged my needle into the canvas, trailing a train of luscious scarlet silk behind it, I felt a pang of regret—regret that my days were occupied with nothing more purposeful than those of any other lady of society. I had had a glimpse of what it meant to be useful, and it stung now to be merely decorative. I longed for something more important than the embroidering of cushions or the pouring of tea to sustain me.

Of my other regrets, I would not let myself think. I yanked at the needle, snarling the thread.

You can check out the full excerpt HERE.

Additional Thoughts: On the covers, I’m not a fan of these new releases. Let’s compare:

Don’t these new covers (lower) look too…contemporary for the time period? I’m not a fan. I really liked the originals (top).

Verdict: A solid read and highly enjoyable continuation to the adventures of Lady Julia Grey. Although I still prefer Silent in the Grave, I recommend Silent in the Sanctuary, and look forward to reading Silent on the Moor.

Rating: 7 Very Good

Reading Next: Starfinder by John Marco

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  • Meghan
    May 6, 2009 at 1:47 am

    I would agree in large part. I love these books and Deanna Raybourn’s writing, but they definitely move more towards romance. I preferred the older covers, too. I think they fit the books better, but there isn’t much we can do about that unfortunately.

  • Gerd Duerner
    May 6, 2009 at 5:37 am

    Historical novels are not my usual reading fare but the excerpts sound enticing.

    I do agree about the covers, although I couldn’t date them, the older ones give them a, what’s the word?, a subtler, more refined look.
    I like that more general fiction look, the older ones have, the newer ones look like aimed at a chiefly romance reading market.

  • Maya M.
    May 6, 2009 at 10:09 am

    I’m with you on the covers. The originals are much more atmospheric, and I love that sleuth-looking cloak she’s wearing. The newer covers are more bland, and the second one, especially, just looks like the anonymous man is trying to cop a quick feel.

  • jitterbug
    May 6, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    Both books are still in my TBR pile, so I can’t comment on your review, but I want to add my voice on the covers: why did they change them? IMO the old ones are beautiful, they remind me somewhat of Turner’s paintings, and the new ones are… bleah. I’ve never been a fan of historical romances’ covers because… I don’t know, if you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all, and these are exactly like them. Why, if Silent in the Grave and Silent in the Sanctuary are not romances? Maybe you’re right and the publisher is trying to change target, focusing on the romance readers.

  • Mishel
    May 7, 2009 at 9:46 am

    Excellent review Thea. I have Silent in the Grave waiting to be read in my room and this review really bumps it up!

    And although I don’t really dislike the newer covers I totally adore the older ones. Especially the older blue version of Silent in the Sanctuary. I find them much more beautiful =D

  • Li
    May 7, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    I found “Silent on the Moor” very Gothic, very atmospheric. Grave is still probably my favourite in this series, though, just because of how it sets up the whole series and the character growth throughout the book.

    Covers – the new ones have a very contemporary feel to them, which is interesting. I am probably in the minority, in the sense I wouldn’t really have looked at the original set of covers in the bookstore, whereas the newer ones would have caught my attention. I adore the cloaked woman in the original Sanctuary cover, though.

    LOL @ Maya M’s “… anonymous man is trying to cop a quick feel.”

  • orannia
    May 7, 2009 at 8:12 pm

    Ohhh, I’m glad you like it Thea. I read Silent on the Moor earlier this year and while I really enjoyed it, Silent on the Grave is still my favourite! And I agree with everyone on the covers. The new covers are pretty but have a more romance-like feel – obviously the publisher is trying to engage a bigger audience, but is actually detracts IMO.

    I’ve been closely watching the timeline….in the latest book it is 1888. Anyone else besides me think in the next book there might be a Jack the Ripper snippet?

  • Marg
    May 9, 2009 at 2:37 am

    Definitely agree on the covers that you have shown, but I infinitely prefer the new covers, to the horrible cartoonish cover that I had on my copy. Truly horrible!

    I am looking forward to finally reading Silent on the Moor.

  • Angie
    May 11, 2009 at 9:37 am

    I felt bad about the covers. When they were first released she got a ton of backlash over them and, as she has no control, I’m sure it was hard to hear. At the same time, I really dislike the new covers and LOVE the old ones. So it’s hard to see it happen and not protest.

    I did love this one, I think because I love the mad Marches so much. Plum and Lysander are delightful and I enjoyed the way Julia took charge to a certain degree, took responsibility for what she wants. A couple scenes were perfect. SILENT IN THE GRAVE may always be my favorite, but I’m pretty attached to these characters and will read about them as long as she wants to write about them.

    Nice review, Thea!

  • Review: Silent In The Sanctuary by Deanna Rayborne | Good Books And Good Wine
    October 23, 2010 at 10:49 am

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