Several of my close friends are also genre fiction writers. Several of them, in fact, were my friends before they were published writers. One of those is Jennifer Ashley who writes mostly historical fiction, romance, and erotica. I, however, have developed an absolute addiction to her Gabriel Lacey mysteries, which she writes under the pen name Ashley Gardner.
These Regency era mysteries were originally published by Berkeley Prime Crime, but never caught on as well as Jen’s erotica and romance books, which I, for one, think is a bloody shame.
The stories center around one Gabriel Lacey, ex-captain in the British military. Lacey is home from the wars with an injury caused by his ex-commander—a man who was once his mentor and best friend and with whom he must come in constant contact because his real best friend is the ex-commander’s wife. (I find the relationship between these two especially compelling because my best friend is male.)
This is just piece of the substrate upon which these stories are built. Gabriel Lacey is the sort of man who cannot help but come to the defense of those weaker than himself. Thereby hangs a series of mysteries which Lacey solves with the aid of a wonderful cast of characters that includes the above-mentioned real best friend, a Bow Street Runner, a sassy actress, and a don of the bonne tonne who occasionally functions as a Watson to Lacey’s Holmes. Yet, Gabriel Lacey solves twisted mysteries, not because he is spectacularly clever ala Holmes, but because he is spectacularly stubborn.
The deft way in which Jen manages the immediate plot of each novel within the context of a larger story arc is, to me, especially delightful. The writer in me takes copious notes, the reader just enjoys the heck out of the stories. And Jennifer’s skill with words is as deep as her ability to martial ideas, evoke emotions, and weave plot lines.
As a result, Gabriel Lacey—wounded warrior, tortured soul and mensch—is as addictive a substance as dark Belgian chocolate. Jen’s plotting is tight and true, her characters are vivid and drawn in three dimensions. In the six Lacey books and one novella I’ve read, no detail or niggle has thrown me out of the story. My editor hat has stayed firmly ensconced on the bust of Pallas I keep above my chamber door, and I have never said “Huh?” even under my breath.
Let me be clear. I write and edit for a living. It is incredibly hard for me to read a book for enjoyment these days and I find even books I enjoy have at least one little niggle that tosses me out of the world momentarily. Not the Gabriel Lacey books and hence I am as addicted to Ashley Gardner mysteries as I am to good English tea and strongly resent the fact that Jen has to write anything else in order to support her husband in the manner to which he has become accustomed.
This is why I encourage everyone reading this blog to go out and buy Ashley Gardner’s Gabriel Lacey books. Buy many copies and give them to your friends and family.
Send the publisher the unmistakable me$$age that these books are gold and must continue to be published.
Book 1 – The Hanover Square Affair
Book 2 – A Regimental Murder
Book 3 – The Glass House
Book 4 – The Sudbury School Murders
Book 4.5 – Novella – The Necklace Affair
Book 5 – A Body in Berkeley Square
Book 6 – A Covent Garden Mystery
Book 6.5 – Short stories – The Gentleman’s Walking Stick – eBook
Book 7 – A Death in Norfolk — to be released as an eBook October 2011
A Disappearance in Drury Lane
The Alexandrian Affair
Murder in Grosvenor Square
I should note that iBooks, Nook and Amazon occasionally run sales on these items. For example, iBook has several of the volumes on sale from .99 to 2.99 RIGHT NOW! So get readin’!