I love Lucinda Brant’s historical romance books with a fiery passion. She exemplifies the very best of what the genre can and should be. So, it is exceedingly painful to give her “Alec Halsey Mystery Series” 4 stars, even if for an entirely personal reason that will not affect all readers: I’m not a big fan of beta heroes, and Alec is as beta as they come.
He grows as a man and a character over the course of three books—Deadly Engagement, Deadly Affair, and Deadly Peril—but he never really rises to the same level as Roxton or the Earl of Salt Hendon in my esteem, mostly because I wouldn’t ever be able to fall madly in love with him. (He would, undoubtedly be a better relationship choice, realistically, than either; I will give him that, which says plenty about my taste in men.)
In the main, he is cerebral and erudite, more likely to use brain than brawn, without the typical arrogance of the aristo, and able to quietly lead from behind, but initially seemed an unlikely solver of the mysteries that plague him. The questions and clues are solid and plentiful and keep one guessing, but by the end of the third book, I wished I had known a bit more of his ambassadorial backstory while reading the first two (though clearly not the very important secrets he was keeping), as it made more sense of things. Also, every so often, he comes off priggish or cold, and so I wasn’t always certain of the depth of his passion for his heroine. Her passion is never in question, though often skillfully banked, and I did think her an excellent complement to him.
The third book, Deadly Peril, rates 4.5 stars, because Alec is forced by circumstance to play the alpha hero to protect and finally claim his true love, and we see him as he once was, a rash and hot-headed youth, which I found more appealing than the measured, thoughtful intellectual. I find myself nursing a tremendous fondness for him, and I was truly touched when he was finally joined with Selina. Their love was hard-won and deep, and a lovely subplot spanning the series, though not as timeless as other of Brant’s heroes and heroines. I was happy for them both when I read their HEA, but was jealous of neither.
As with her other books, the secondary characters are wonderful, and she does a very good job of representing various shades of the nobility. I love the populist bent of this cast (even if it naturally bred out of the hero the innate arrogance I love so much in several of Brant’s other heroes; this is a much humbler man than my Forevermore Book Boyfriend, Roxton). I also enjoyed he international nature of the various characters’ interests and adventures and the contextual commentary on the events of the day. The use of a fictional nation was a fascinating device, and the world-building quite well done.