The series I would like to talk about today is the Lily Bard Mysteries. There are 5 books total in this series. It is written by the same author of the Sookie Stackhouse/ Southern Vampire otherwise known as True Blood series - Charlaine Harris.
Shakespeare's Landlord is the first book in the series. We are introduced to Lily, a hardworking cleaning lady and a loner. Years before Lily survived a horrific rape that was made very public. Now she lives in a small town where she works out at a gym, runs in the night and spends her day cleaning people's houses and wanting to be left alone. Her life is going along fine until she finds the dead body of her landlord. Lily is written as a tough but wounded character. Many people will not like her in this book. I love her. I understand her very real need to protect herself at all cost. The rape is detailed in this book. Ms Harris has made it public knowledge that she is a survivor of a sexual assault. One can imagine the difficulty she had in writing this. I think her experience is what made this character so real. Lily deals with so much that real survivors deal with. The mystery was well written. I read through this book in a day, really not stopping until I got to the end, ( in the wee hours of the morning).
Shakespeare's Champion is the second book in the series. In this book Lily discovers a body in the gym. At first glance it looks like an accident with gym equipment. However we soon see it was a murder that is connected to two murders of black residents. This book brings out the racial tensions that you can sometimes find in a small town, ( you can find that anywhere but I think it is easier to see in small towns). The romance that looked promising in the first book fizzles out here but don't worry. This is the book where Lily meets Jack. Lily is once again a reluctant detective. I really like the way Ms. Harris draws us into Lily. Yes she is still an unlikable person to a lot of people. But she is starting to grow. I still love her.
The third book is Shakespeare's Christmas. In this book we find Lily returning home for her sister's wedding. This is her first return home since she left after the attack there. She is handling the return home fairly well when a murder happens. Then her boyfriend shows up in town investigating a kidnapping. There is another murder. And it may all be connected to her future brother in law. Will Lily find out he truth before her sister's wedding? In this book we learn more of her relationship to her family and the effects the rape had on those relationships. You are understanding Lily more. Enjoy the mystery.
In the fourth book, Shakespeare's Trollop, we find Lily back in Shakespeare. The victim this time is a neighbor who has a bad reputation. If you have read the other books you will have probably guessed who it is from the title. Most people in town assume the victim slept with the wrong man and got what they knew would happen to girls like her. Lily was the victim's cleaning lady so she knows a bit more than the general townsfolk do. She is hired to clean out the apartment by the victim's mother and gets the chance to delve even deeper, (and also tries to hide the worst of her daughter's activities from her mother). In this we see a Lily in a softer role than usual. I think we see growth on her part. Her relationship with Jack, bumpy as ever, is also growing. I like the way we also get to know the victim, who was a minor character in previous books, better.
In the final book of the series, (unless Ms Harris changes her mind), Shakespeare's Counselor, Lily has decided to take on her past. With Jack's encouragement, she starts to attend group therapy for rape survivors and a body is discovered where the groups meets. Lily learns that her therapist is also being stalked. There is a mystery in this book, a strange twisting one, but you an see the series wrapping up. I think this book shows the most personal development in Lily. It is, in my opinion, a solid close to the Lily Bard series. Lily may , from my understanding, return as a guest in other books by Ms. Harris.
I really enjoyed this series by Charlaine Harris. If you are a Sookie fan who hasn't read any of these, do not expect the same light, humorous approach. Lily Bard is very troubled and these books deal with a darker subject. There is nothing light and humorous about rape recovery. It is a long difficult process. To treat it any other way would have been insulting to survivors.
Charlaine Harris has a website where you can learn more about Ms Harris, this series and all her other writings. You can also get screen savers and play Dying for Daylight, a vampire game, (how fun is that?). The website is at http://www.charlaineharris.com/
You can also fan her on Facebook.
For help or information regarding sexual assault:
National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1.800.656.HOPE.