Lady of Ashes by Christine Trent
Book 1 in Lady of Ashes Historical Mystery Series
ARC, Paperback, 420 pages
February 26, 2013
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Source: Received book from the Author as part of Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour
“In 1861 London, Violet Morgan is struggling to establish a good reputation for the undertaking business that her husband has largely abandoned. She provides comfort for the grieving, advises them on funeral fashion and etiquette, and arranges funerals.
Unbeknownst to his wife, Graham, who has nursed a hatred of America since his grandfather soldiered for Great Britain in the War of 1812, becomes involved in a scheme to sell arms to the South. Meanwhile, Violet receives the commission of a lifetime: undertaking the funeral for a friend of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. But her position remains precarious, especially when Graham disappears and she begins investigating a series of deaths among the poor. And the closer she gets to the truth, the greater the danger for them both…”
I have enjoyed all of the previous books I have read by Christine Trent; however the Victorian period was somewhat new to me in terms of fiction. Trent has kept her books interesting by choosing unique professions for her main characters and that tradition has continued here as well, in the form of a female undertaker. Not only is this a profession that I don’t know too much about in the modern sense, I don’t know anything about how this was done in the 1800’s.
One of the aspects that I thought was interesting was the exploration of the unacceptability of a female working in this profession. This point is made again and again by various commoners, politicians, and even Queen Victoria herself. At the same time you get to see the British viewpoints on embalming – in the face of its growing usage in the United States during the Civil War. There were a lot of traditions of funerals that we learn the history behind in this novel.
The plot was a little all over the place for me. We get story segments of various people including: Charles Frances Adams (diplomat to Briton from the United States), Queen Victoria, Graham (Violet’s husband), Violet, and a couple others. While the stories all came together eventually and these segments made sense, while reading it was hard to gauge the importance or keep track of what was going on. I think I would have preferred the narrative to be limited in scope of perspective. The mystery that Violet gets caught up in made sense to the story and didn’t feel contrived at all – which I think can sometimes happen with historical mysteries. I can tell you that I certainly did not figure out the mystery.
For the most part I really liked the characters and thought they were well written. I didn’t like Graham at all – which I don’t think I was supposed to – but it was hard to see the evolution of him through Violet’s eyes.
The ending of this book leads me to wonder if Trent will trade in her English setting for an American one in the continuation of the series or in future books outside the series.
Author Christine Trent also has written the following: The Queen’s Dollmaker, A Royal Likeness, and By the King’s Design. There are also expected to be two other books in the Historical Mystery series. You can visit Christine’s website for additional information about the book. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?
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I also have a giveaway for you – one copy of Lady of Ashes by Christine Trent to one lucky winner – and it is open Internationally. The last day to enter is March 24th. To enter, complete the Rafflecopter below.
Copyright © 2013 by The Maiden’s Court