Lady of Ashes by Christine Trent
Publication Date: February 26, 2013 | Kensington Publishing | 384p
Hosted by Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours
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"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've recently become re-obsessed with the Victorian era and was eager to snap up Lady of Ashes. Another plus is the fact that Christine Trent and her books are wonderful! The entire concept of a female undertaker in 1861 was fascinating. Victorians were notably obsessed with death, but a female in this profession would have been quite odd. Our MC is Violet, who has married into the undertaking business but her husband is a bit of a deadbeat which leaves Violet in charge. When she discovers a string of mysterious deaths and sets out to investigate, Violet finds herself in some crazy scenarios (a train crash, overseeing Queen Victoria's husband's funeral, some sort of American gang scheme, and fighting a tiger). Despite all of this, she still is a very believable character (yes, even the tiger). You sympathize with her as a woman struggling against social norms and trying to survive after her husband disappears.
Christine Trent's books seem to all follow the same exact pattern, yet with fresh and lively characters and locations for each book. As Lady of Ashes is set in the time period of the Civil War, it was interesting to get a British perspective of the American war. Every now and then I would get disoriented with the constant jumping around from character to character, but each offered a fresh viewpoint. If you are interested in the Victorian era like me, Lady of Ashes gets us a good glimpse into the life, customs, and people of the time. It was an adventure from beginning to end! This is the first in a mystery series and I am excited to see where the next book begins.
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