Jul. 11th, 2011

jmc_bks: (flaming june)
Today's SBD:  Lady Julia Brisbane nee Grey, daughter of the Earl of March, wannabe detective.

Lady Julia is the narrator of her very own series of Victorian-set mysteries.  Published by MIRA, they have a romance subplot and are fairly popular among readers who read both romance and mystery I believe.  The first book, Silent in the Grave, opened with this

To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband's dead body is not entirely accurate.  Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching on the floor.

Grave won the 2008 RITA for Best Novel with Strong Romantic Elements.  I reviewed it here and the follow up, Silent in the Sanctuary, here.  The third book was a turning point for the relationship with Brisbane, but didn't really bring anything new to the series for me as a reader, so I abandoned it...until this last weekend, when I read the fourth book of the series The Dark Road to Darjeeling and started The Dark Inquiry.  

As you might guess, the fourth book of the series is set in India.  How does Lady Julia end up there?  Her honeymoon is hijacked by her sister, who insists that her (female) lover's husband has been murdered and Brisbane must investigate.   Except Lady Julia insists on participating -- because as an amateur she clearly has the skill and training to investigate?

Let me back up:  as Lady Julia is narrating the trip to The Peacocks, the tea plantation where the alleged murder occurred, all I could think was that she is the predecessor to the Ugly American cliche.  Except she's the Victorian British version:  ethnocentric, imperial ignorance plus inappropriate behavior, all wrapped up in self-indulgence and obliviousness.  

As the novel progresses and Lady Julia complains and whines and badgers Brisbane about being his partner, her ignorance and selfishness seem ever more difficult to ignore.  She wants to be his professional partner...despite having no training, little skill, and no actual understanding of the work or the risks.  It doesn't even occur to her that she's belittling his skill and the decades of experience he's acquired.  Even after her sister (another self-indulgent piece of work) points it out to her, she basically blows the criticism off.  In both books, as in earlier ones, she puts herself in danger and then is reliant on Brisbane or others to rescue her.  She lies to Brisbane when he doesn't knuckle under and give her the free reign to his investigations that she wants.
Part of me wonders, am I looking at her with a 21st century sensibility, and not accounting for the fact that as a character she is very much a product of her time and upbringing?  The pampered daughter of an earl would be thoughtless and selfish, so Raybourn has drawn a realistic character.  But the rest of me just thinks she's a TSTL twit.

Despite my general disgust for Lady Julia after finishing Darjeeling, I started The Dark Inquiry since it was at hand, in the hope that she would finally have gotten a clue.  
Not so much.
Another reader on Twitter pinpointed my issue:  lack of growth in Lady Julia's character.  Is she ever going to stop being a selfish twit?  The other reader mentioned that despite lack of growth, she continues to read the Stephanie Plum mysteries because Evanovich's humor and style appeal to her.  I've long since abandoned the Plum series, and I'm unlikely to read any more of the Lady Julia books.  Too many other books TBR to waste time on a narrator who makes me want to spank her and tell her to grow up.
The Dark Road to Darjeeling:  C+/B-
The Dark Inquiry:  DNF


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