A Discreet Gentleman of Discovery
by Kris Tualla
18th century romance set in Norway. Brander Hansen lost his hearing to an infection at the age of seven. Disinherited by his father, he sets himself up as a "gentleman of discovery," a kind of 18th century detective, aided by his cousin Niels. Baroness Regin Kildahl writes to him for help when her husband gambles away their estate, not knowing that Brander has been systematically buying up the debts on the Kildahl estate, hoping to buy himself a title. Brander, using his professional pseudonym Lord Olaf Olsen, agrees to help her, while also attempting to solve a string of murders around Christiania (Oslo). The plot description on Amazon goes into a lot more detail about the plot, but it's kind of spoiler-y, don't read it if you don't want to know half the story.
If, like Devo Girl, you like historical fiction and a deaf hero, this is definitely one to check out. The writing is above average for romance, and the author has clearly done a lot of research. I really liked the Norwegian setting; it was original and interesting. The plot and characterization is satisfyingly rich, and the use of language is mostly appropriate for the era, something you don't find often in historical romance. It gets a bit overly cheezy toward the end, but on the whole the balance of mystery, adventure, and romance is pretty good, which is also unusual--most romance authors usually drop the other plot elements once the hero and heroine get together.
The depiction of deafness is pretty good. The author clearly did research on that too, which is much appreciated. Brander and Niels use a sign language they developed together, but Brander can also read lips. He communicates using a mix of sign language, mouthing words silently, and writing. It was a nice believable touch that he can't speak well, and chooses not to. I really liked that he wasn't like a deaf superhero who can do everything perfectly (although his lipreading is a bit too effortless and perfect). I also liked that he's pretty well adjusted to his disability--I'm so tired of the injury/recovery story. But his deafness is still a big part of the story, it's definitely not glossed over.
The best part is that even though this is a romance in a series, the next books will all be about Brander and Regin, not about secondary characters spun off into their own books. There are several other books about the Hansen family, but they are set in different time periods, and it's not necessary to read them to enjoy this one. The second Brander/Regin novel, A Discreet Gentleman of Matrimony, is already out, and the author has another three in the works. So much to look forward to!