**** Minor spoilers for the earlier books in this review ****
The Premise: In the last book, Brisbane disappears, as usual, leaving Lady Julia Grey again with the sense of unfinished business regarding their relationship, so when her sister Portia is invited to Brisbane's new home on the northern moors, Julia decides to take matters into her own hands and come along, uninvited or not. Julia doesn't expect a warm welcome by a man who is clearly hiding something, but she's surprised to find the previous tenants of Grimsgrave, the Lady Allensby and her two daughters, Ailith and Hilda, still in residence, while Brisbane acts as slippery as ever.
My Thoughts: Julia gets more and more impetuous in each book. I think the first impression she made on me has stayed in my mind (a woman who knows the societal rules of her time and abides by them despite feeling the constraints), so whenever Julia does or says things that are distinctly unladylike, I feel a little surprised. I wasn't sure how to feel about Julia's decision to just show up at Brisbane's house, despite her sister Portia and brother Valerius coming along, because there are members of her family (including her father) who call it what it is - throwing herself at a man who of late has shown an insulting lack of interest. I did cringe a little, wondering what Brisbane's reaction would be.
When Julia gets to Grimsgrave, the sparring with Brisbane begins again, and their interactions highlight how much Julia's character has evolved. Do not fear though - this is the best thing ever. I find their relationship even more delicious because Julia is comfortable with who she is. Brisbane is a dark horse; he manages to stymie Julia even when she thinks she has the upper hand, but Julia isn't afraid to keep pushing. I understand her character (it helps that she's the first person narrator), but Brisbane holds his cards very close to his chest. I know he loves her, but he has strange ideas about honor, relationships, and protecting people. If Julia hadn't changed into who she is now, I don't think their relationship would work because she'd be too afraid to break down his barriers. This Julia gives as good as she gets, and I was cheering for her every time she managed to chip his armor.
Every book in this series involves a mystery. In Silent on the Moor, the biggest mystery is Brisbane himself. He clearly has a past that is tied to Grimsgrave, and Julia learns as much about him as she does about the strange Allensbys. At first, it's Julia's nosiness that prompts her questions about the Allensby family. Is there something between the beautiful Ailith and Brisbane? Then there is the question of Redwall Allenby, Ailith's brother, recently passed. Was there more to his death and his disgrace in Egyptology circles? These are things Julia is curious about, but it's only when she makes a macabre discovery that the sleuthing begins in earnest. Julia knows that this is the window for her chance at happiness, and if she doesn't figure out what's going on, she'll lose Brisbane forever. Although the mystery feels somewhat secondary to the relationship troubles, I found it rather satisfying that the focus was where it was. I wanted what Julia does when she goes to Grimsgrave: to settle the thing between her and Brisbane once and for all.
It's all very atmospheric. The Allenbys sit proud, closed off in their broken down home, remembering glory of generations long past, while the nearby villagers bear them no good will. Julia and her family stumble awkwardly into this situation, not exactly wanted but tolerated nonetheless, while Brisbane stomps in and out, dark and broody as ever. Brisbane perfectly suits the crumbling Grimsgrave and the wild and dangerous moor. I loved the setting, particularly at this time of year, when things get wet and gloomy, and dark clouds hang above. With Brisbane's gypsy past and the moor setting, it's clear that there's a nod here to Wuthering Heights, but in this case there's a happier outcome.
Oh man, the ending. The story took it's time getting there (my trade paperback is 465 pages), but it was well worth reading because the final pages are sigh-worthy. For those of you who are peekers - just believe me that it ends well and try not to skip ahead.
Overall: This may be my favorite Lady Julia Grey installment yet. Wholly for the ending, although the dramatic setting on the moors, the strange Allenbys and the broody Brisbane aren't too shabby in making this a lovely story. The mix of romance, mystery and the Victorian setting are perfect. I love this series. So good.
OK, I must say that I've been waiting for this book to be published in Mass Market because my copies of the earlier books are MMPBs. But, although this book was published in trade paperback in March, 2009 (as of this post 1 year and 8 months ago), there seems to be no plan to release this book in mass market? What's up with that?