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Monday, May 24, 2010

Heaven Is a New C.S. Harris!

by Anna Campbell

Oh, I do love a good tortured hero!

Yeah, I know, BIG surprise in that announcement.

One of the best tortured heroes around is C.S. Harris's gorgeous, difficult, brilliant, compelling, passionate (uh-oh, adjective overload approaching.... must.......stop......) Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, who stars in a series of mysteries set in Regency England.

In 1812, Sebastian has returned from soldiering against Napoleon in the Iberian Peninsula and now occupies his time accepting commissions to solve murders that threaten scandal for those in power. He's a vivid mixture of the man of action and the man of intellect. Not only that, but he's gifted with preternaturally good hearing and sight, especially in the dark so there's a slightly other-worldly quality to him.

And as you've probably gathered, he's tortured. Man, how he's tortured.

This is the fifth book in the series (I'd strongly advise reading the books in order - C.S. Harris does a marvelous job of timing her revelations for maximum impact). Through the first four books, WHAT ANGELS FEAR, WHEN GODS DIE, WHY MERMAIDS SING and WHERE SERPENTS SLEEP (which I think might be my favorite so far although they're all wonderful), we've watched Sebastian battle with the dark legacies of war, requited but forbidden love for Irish actress Kat Boleyn, a prickly relationship with his father, the mysterious disappearance of his mother, a growing but difficult association with bluestocking Hero Jarvis, daughter of the man Sebastian considers an enemy. And there's more! This is a man who got in first in the line that said 'trouble'!

With every book, complications build on past difficulties until you just want to offer poor old Sebastian a cup of tea and a nice lie-down. But of course, he's a heroic type so he never DOES lie down. He just keeps fighting for justice, often against the most powerful elements in a society with very little concern for people like fallen women or lower-class orphans. Sebastian's immediate, clear-eyed empathy with people from all walks of life is among his most attractive qualities. Actually he's a man overflowing with attractive qualities. I love to read about a hero who is almost super-humanly intelligent but I also love his bravery and his stoicism and his dogged determination to see right done, no matter what it costs him. He's complex, he's principled, he's daring, he's passionate, he's unorthodox. Not only that, he possesses a dry wit that enlivens the stories and adds a glimmer of light to what is sometimes a very dark landscape indeed.

The books are rich in beautifully drawn secondary characters. Among my favorites are Tom, the orphaned, smart-mouthed guttersnipe who Sebastian employs as his tiger and Paul Gibson, the one-legged war veteran who can discern a dead body's secrets with his arcane medical knowledge. Readers have strong allegiances to the two women in Sebastian's life too - you're either in Team Hero or Team Kat.

I know I've spent an age raving about Sebastian (mostly because I have a big crush on him, LOL!). Partly that's because if you haven't read the earlier books, I don't want to spoil the surprises in this story - and believe me, it's as rife with revelations and switches and betrayals and suspense and mysteries as all the other books. When the Bishop of London, a man touted as the next Archbishop of Canterbury, is discovered murdered in a crypt and next to him is another body, murdered a generation before, the current archbishop calls Sebastian in to investigate. This strange event sets off a chain of violent, dramatic and dangerous events that culminate in a breathtaking climax. I sat up all night reading this book. I suspect you will too!

If you've read the other St. Cyr books, you've probably already got this one so I'm preaching to the converted. If you haven't, I'd recommend reading WHAT ANGELS FEAR, the first one, and then I bet you devour the rest of the series. This book ends on a cliffhanger in Sebastian's private life - I can't wait to get my hot little hands on the next installment!

39 comments:

  1. I just picked up WHAT ANGELS FEAR. I've read a few of this author's work written under Candice Proctor and really enjoyed her lush writing. I was hoping that her St. Cyr series would be equally as good. Sounds like it is!

    "He's complex, he's principled, he's daring, he's passionate, he's unorthodox."...I'm sold!

    Thanks for the recommend :)

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  2. Scorpio, I love her Candice Proctor books too (do you know she lived in Australia for a while? I love that!). For me, though, these are EVEN better because I think the larger canvas gives her space to really work her magic. I'd love to know what you think of WAF. Oh, and glad you didn't get an adjective headache after that review - I was having a bit of a fan rave, as you've probably gathered!

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  3. Hi Anna, no, I didn't know that Proctor/Harris lived in Australia before, actually didn't a few of her historical roms deal with the Aussie penal system? That makes sense now.

    I'll definitely try to let you know once I finish WAF. And no worries, I love fan reviews, especially when it's about a series. Thank you!

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  4. Yeah, she did. And there's a wonderful one set in the South Pacific with, I think, an Aussie hero! He's really sexy! She lived in Adelaide where I've just been teaching Romancing the Novel and so many people there speak really fondly of her. I laugh - the factotum in Devlin's house is Morey and I always wonder if he's named after our well known Aussie romance writer Trish Morey who I know was a friend of Candice's.

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  5. Anna,
    I'm like you and adore Sebastian and have just finished his fifth book. Trouble is, C.S.Harris leaves us with so many questions that I'm already panting for the next book in the series. Hope we get it soon.
    And I didn't know Trish Morey was a friend of hers. Maybe she can put a word in for a lot more books coming very soon,
    Thanks for a great review, Anna,
    Suzi

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  6. These sound fabulous! I'm going to go check them out now...and I'm keeping my fingers crossed the library has them shelved!

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  7. Anna, I'm sure it's no surprise to you that I am a C. S. Harris fan too. Actually, I'm a fan of historical mysteries generally, especially those with a strong romantic element. I trace my fondness for such books back to Joan Aiken's books. Carola Dunn, Deanna Raybourn, and Tasha Alexander are also particular favorites.

    Like you, I'm poised on ready for the next Sebastian St.Cyr book.

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  8. More books to add to my tbr mountain range!

    C.S. Harris is an author I haven't read yet, Anna but I see I'm going to have to do something about that. Thanks for another terrific Second Helping column and for introducing me to yet another new author!

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  9. Is there a name for those of us who require a tortured hero? This fellow seems to suit admirably. Thanks for the head's up, Anna! I haven't read these before, but you know I'm going to now.

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  10. Anna, this isn't the first time you've raved about C.S. Harris, so I'm definitely going to have to get started! You know I love a tortured hero, too. *g*

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  11. I am a huge fan of the series and can't wait for the next book. I love Sebastian and am clearly in the 'team Hero' column. I also love tortured heroes and look forward to your next one!

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  12. Hi Suzi! Man, you get around, my friend! Lovely to see you. That fifth book was a doozey, wasn't it? I meant to ask Trish when I was down in SA if Candice had stolen her name for the majordomo. I bet she did!

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  13. JWZ, definitely see if you can get them! They're a series I've recommended to a lot of people and nobody's ever complained!

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  14. Hey, Janga, thanks for the recommendations. The only ones there I've read are the Deanna Raybourns. Yeah, I kinda knew you'd like C.S. Harris - I've got your number, friend, snort!

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  15. Hey, PJ, you haven't read her? I think she'd appeal to you - the characters are so intriguing.

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  16. Julia, absolutely, grab these books and seriously, if you can read them in order, do. She really does time the revelations to perfection! I think you'd like them - as you say, we all have a fondness for a tortured hero. A group name for people who love a tortured hero? Now, there's a challenge!

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  17. Gannon, I know, I know, I rave about her everywhere. I think partly because these are books that really appeal to romance readers but because they're classified as mysteries, I think a lot of romance readers have missed them. Let me not rave in vain.... Snort!

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  18. Hey, Connie, thank you! I actually get a giggle out of Team Kat and Team Hero - although most of the people I know are in Team Hero which says a lot for their good taste, IMHO! Snort. And excellent you're looking forward to MY RECKLESS SURRENDER hitting the stands. Tomorrow in the U.S. - wow!

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  19. I'm all for a good tortured hero ;-)

    Anna, I think I have told you before, but I have never read a C.S. Harris book. I know, don't hit me! Thanks for sharing a new to me author, and one that has a great back list!!!

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  20. Buffie, I won't hit you. I'll just shake my head and smile sadly ;-) I love it when I get a new author with a big backlist! Happened to me with the wonderful Liz Carlyle!

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  21. Hey, Anna, great review. I've never heard of C.S. Harris, so will check this series out.

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  22. I've read all of Candice Proctor's books and her new St. Cyr series as well. These are definitely very good books.

    Since I'm on Team Kat, I'm a bit worried about the direction the series is taking. I can't quite warm up to Hero. I think Hero has more in common with the good doctor, so we shall see what happens next.

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  23. Deb, I think it's a pity she seems to have slipped by a lot of romance readers' notice, I think because of the mystery element. You'll love them!

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  24. Penfield, you wonder how it's all going to work out, don't you? Someone told me the next one is the last in the series (OH, NOOOOO!)and there's a lot to wrap up in the space of a book. I think we're all waiting with bated breath!

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  25. Anna...you like tortured heroes? I never woulda thunk it. *g*

    But seriously -- Great, great review, Anna. I know how much you love this series and it shows. I really need to pick these up. Sebastian sounds yummy!

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  26. Andrea, it's TROOOOOOOO! I do like tortured heroes! Snort! Actually it was quite a hard review to do because there are so many things that could be spoilers and I know when I read the books, I don't WANT to know the big surprises waiting for me. Although I definitely know there will be surprises!

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  27. I am covered in shock, YOU? Tortured heroes, I am gobsmacked. *snort*

    But, seriously, I thank you, once again, for bringing another author to my attention. Sounds right up my alley, thanks again, Anna~

    ~Drew

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  28. Actually, Drew, I've got a feeling you'll take to C.S. Harris like a duck to water!

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  29. You hooked me at "tortured hero" and had me at "dry wit." Adjective overload was not a problem. Those are all great traits and make the book all that more attractive. I am not familiar with this series, but it seems I must become so. This sounds like a wonderfully complex and well written series. I am now putting C. S. Harris on the top of my To Buy List.
    Thank you so much for the review of this book and the information on the series.

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  30. Pat, how fantastic I've coaxed you into giving the series a go. I just love them! As you say, chuck tortured into a mix with dry wit, and we're there! And she writes absolutely beautifully - you can nearly touch Regency London in her descriptions, they're so vivid!

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  31. *spoilers alert spoilers alert*

    3

    2

    1

    Whenever this series is mentioned, various readers' interpretation of the story are very interesting. ;) Having said that, I must be one of the minority group of readers who just don't get the love-triangle-vibes that so many readers have been getting, so I'm puzzled about this Team-Hero-vs-Team-Kat-who-is-it-going-to-be. I mean, from where I'm sitting, it's obvious that the romance in the books is about Kat and Devlin! Their kind of scenario is rarely done realistically in romance novels (or maybe there are; I just haven't encountered those yet *sheepish grin* ) that I'm afraid it would be butchered in order to bow to the rules of romance novels. Outside romance, we all know Devlin is not the first man, fictional or real, whose true love is their mistress or someone other people deem is not right for them socially.

    There have been some very interesting comments (albeit vague ones) made by few readers on the web, that you couldn't help but think on them (Well, I ponder on them anyway). For one thing, don't you find it highly suspicious/curious regarding what we discovered has happened to Hero in WROH? As usual, this is just one reader's interpretation of the story so far (and I might have been reading into the hints and clues too much, hehehe) and it's all up to CS Harris in the end.

    In the mean time, let's keep on speculating!

    >>Someone told me the next one is the last in the series (OH, NOOOOO!)and there's a lot to wrap up in the space of a book.

    But...but it's only 1812! Please make it the whole Regency period, Ms Harris! (or at least until 1816 ;) )

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  32. Hi Untitled! What an interesting take. If this is the last book coming up, I guess we'll all find out what happened in the end. And then go and weep into our corn flakes because the series is over!

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  33. Anna,
    Blocking my ears to those words- last in the series- La la La! Don't want to hear that. How can we solve everything in one more book. And I'm team Kat.
    Suzi

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  34. I love Sebastian St. Cyr as you know Anna, Team Hero, too. I think Sebastian is going to realize she and he have more in common than they realize, that she's the better match for him. We'll see. I so can't wait for the next book after that last ending.

    Hopefully the series will continue. Back around March on her blog, she commented sales were up for Where Mermaids Sing, going for another printing, and that she hoped that would encourage pub to ask her to do more in series.

    Did you know she also writes as CS Graham with her husband, suspense thrillers, political intrigue and conspiracies - The Archangel Project is first book. I now have that to try in the TBR pile.

    And, I now have My Reckless Surrender to read, Anna, congrats again on the newest release.

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  35. Great cover, and will have to look this Author up, thanks for the review/summary!

    Did anyone else notice that the link doesn't work? csharris.com is something to do with construction or some such thing.

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  36. Jessica, it's .net (not .com)

    http://www.csharris.net/

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  37. Are you, Suzi? How interesting! I can't see how she's going to wrap everything up in one book either. I hope the last book in the series thing is just an EVOL rumor!

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  38. Hi Pam! Lovely to see you - sorry I'm a few days getting back here. Doing a blog tour for MRS and things have been a bit hectic! Hey, another team Hero person. Yay! Oh, hope she DOES do some more. I think she's brilliant. I've got the first Graham book in my TBR pile too. Thanks for saying you're looking forward to MRS!

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  39. Jessica, sorry you're having trouble with the links - that's MY fault! Seriously, check out these books, they're great!

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