The Anatomist’s Wife by Anna Lee Huber was good but not great. It did not live up to its intriguing premise for me. It is set in 1830, soon after it came to light in England that not only were bodies being snatched from graves for anatomy study, two laborers named Burke and Hare had been killing people for the purpose.
The main character, Lady Keira Darby, had an arranged marriage to an anatomist. He chose her because of her skills as an artist and forced her to sketch his autopsies. He is now dead, but society feels she is “unnatural” because she was willing to watch her husband work, not realizing or accepting that she had no choice.
Lady Darby is now living with her sister’s family on her brother-in-law’s estate in the wilds of Scotland. The book opens with the murder of a guest at the estate. Mr. Sebastian Gage, son of a well-known inquiry agent in London, is also a guest. He surreptitiously asks Lady Darcy to assist him in investigating the murder.
Lady Darby and Mr. Gage are supposed to have a Pride & Prejudice like attraction, strongly disliking each other at first but being drawn to each other physically and admiring each other’s good qualities. When the change in their relationship comes, turning romantic instead of antagonistic, it seems quite sudden, without proper plot twists that bring them to realize and accept their attraction to each other.
I am not a historical fiction purist. I don’t know enough about any time period to notice when a few words or behaviors are out of place in a time period. However, the way Lady Darby and Mr. Gage talked and acted felt too modern for 1830 Scotland. I was often pulled out of the time period and location.
The Anatomist’s Wife is the first in a series. I recommend it for someone with lots of time to read who enjoys historical mysteries with a touch of romance set in England.