Graveyards and corpses don’t usually scream romance, but Brenda Novak uses them to perfect effect in her new historical romance, A Matter of Grave Concern. Action, mystery and fascinating historical tidbits are combined in this story of unlikely—and deliciously lusty—love.
Abigail Hale is the daughter of a surgeon at Aldersgate School of Medicine in 1830s London, where the study of anatomy is hampered by a sufficient lack of cadavers. Out of this need, the grim industry of stealing corpses from their graves to sell to medical schools is born. Abby abhors the practice as much as anyone, but she’s also relentlessly practical—without those bodies, her father’s school will not survive.
Her father knows that Abby is fascinated by medicine—although no medical school would accept a young woman—but he does not know that Abby has taken it upon herself to procure corpses. Her father’s ignorance is unfortunate, because Abby is in far over her head when Jack Hurtsill’s “London Supply Company” arrives with the body she requested.
Maximilian Wilder’s aristocratic good looks and crisp speech set him apart from the typical “sack ’em up” man, but his story of gambling debts is enough to convince Jack Hurtsill that he’s in it solely for the money. However, Max is really on the trail of his missing half sister Madeline, who was last seen in Jack’s company. When Jack turns up with a still-warm dead body that’s clearly never seen a grave, Max’s suspicions about Madeline’s fate seem justified—in the absence of convenient corpses, are Jack’s men committing murder to provide cadavers?
A Matter of Grave Concern makes a suitably creepy read for the Halloween season.
To keep Abby safe from harm at the hands of the body snatchers, Max “claims” her as his share of the spoils, keeping her locked in his room. Their plan is predictably compromised by the attraction between them, but Novak keeps their interactions fresh and fun with Abby’s curiosity about anatomy and Max’s willingness to let her explore.
Novak’s London is satisfyingly foggy and grim, and the stern realities of life in 1830 are never brushed off. The class differences between Abby and Max provide a sadly realistic obstacle to their love, and the standard expectations of a woman of the era are plainly laid out. Despite her spirit, smarts and sensibility, Abby does not have many options in life without a man’s protection.
Romance veteran Novak keeps the plot twists coming until the very end. A Matter of Grave Concern makes a suitably creepy read for the Halloween season, with a resolution that’s fanciful in the delightful way of the best romances.
Amy Garvey is a freelance editor and the author of several romances and two novels for young adults.