Series: Lady of Ashes Historical Mystery
Publication Date: 26th February 2013
Book Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours
Synopsis: 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 was introduced to Christine Trent's writing with By The King's Design, an enjoyable read that left me keen to try more. The synopsis for Lady of Ashes, the first in Christine's historical mystery series had me thoroughly intrigued then the opportunity arose to participate in the Lady of Ashes book tour ... sign me up!! Christine Trent has a knack for writing about the lives of tradeswomen as they intersect with royalty, strong women pioneering their times ... in this instance, Violet Morgan with Crown Prince Albert and Queen Victoria.
Violet Morgan often wondered why she was so skilled at dressing a corpse, yet was embarrassingly incompetent in the simplest household task, such as selecting draperies or hiring housemaids.
Violet is the endearing heroine of Lady of Ashes. A Victorian undertaker, intelligent, compassionate, hard working, savvy businesswoman and one of my favourite characters to read of - which may have had something to do with my fascination with her choice of profession.
Set in the early 1860's and packed with easily digestible historical detail, the mystery element was a seamless addition but I have to say I was more captivated by the cast of characters, the wonderfully atmospheric Victorian era and undertaking practices.
The American Civil War is central to the plot and it was interesting to read England's view of the conflict, their careful attempts to stay in favour with both the Union and the Confederacy but what sold this book for me was the richly detailed look at undertaking, Violet's care, sensitivity and passion, the practices in tending the deceased, funereal etiquette and mourning customs depending on social class ... I seriously couldn't get enough.
Wholeheartedly recommending this one and eagerly awaiting the next two books in this series, tentatively titled Stolen Remains (2014) and Sacred Remains (2015).
Cover: Isn't it perfect? A favourite this year
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Giveaway ends 2nd April and winner will be announced on my blog.
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My thanks to Christine Trent and Amy of Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for my copy of Lady Of Ashes.