At her friend Ivy's behest, Emily reluctantly agrees to attend a party at the sprawling English country estate of Lord Fortescue, a man she finds as odious as he is powerful. But if Emily is expecting Lord Fortescue to be the greatest of her problems, she is wrong. Her host has also invited Kristiana von Lange, an Austrian countess who was once linked romantically with Emily's fiancé, the debonair Colin Hargreaves. What Emily believes will be a tedious evening turns deadly when Fortescue is found murdered, and his protégé, Robert Brandon—Ivy's husband—is arrested for the crime.Some times there are books that are just a perfect fit for a reader. Both this series, and Deanna Raybourn's Lady Julia Grey series are that for me.
Determined to right this terrible wrong and clear Robert's name, Emily begins to dig for answers, a quest that will lead her from London's glittering ballrooms to Vienna's sordid backstreets. Not until she engages a notorious anarchist in a game of wits does the shocking truth begin to emerge: the price of exonerating Robert can be paid only by placing Colin in deadly peril. To save her fiancé, Emily must do the unthinkable: bargain with her nemesis, the Countess von Lange.
If I was to create a list of things that I love in a book, not specifically a mystery, but just any book, then at the top of the list would be historical setting, drool worthy hero, unusual locations, and a imaginative storyline. Throw in a mystery, a house party and
Set in Victorian times, Lady Emily Ashton has grown since the events of the first book in the series. She has found she has a nose for investigation, something that is not necessarily always appreciated by the people around her, especially her friend Ivy's politician husband, Robert. Robert is eager to rise through the political ranks, and as such has allied himself with Lord Fortescue.
When Ivy invites Emily to join them for a house party, she joins them, not realising that amongst the guests there will be one of her fiance Colin Hargreaves' former loves and some times partner in his role as an agent for the British Crown, Countess. With Colin called away on business for the Crown, Emily is left to fend for herself in a hostile environment, with the Countess Kristiana von Lange taking every opportunity she can to undermine the relationship between Colin and Emily.
Worse still, when the host of the house party is found dead, Robert is presumed to be the murderer, and a distraught Ivy calls on Emily to assist with the investigation. Emily is drawn into a complex web of plots and intrigues, and finds herself in Vienna, dealing with royalty, anarchists, old murders and jealous ex lovers. It certainly doesn't help that it appears that Colin may be hiding something from her.
As with so many of these types of novels where the heroine is to be a strong, independent woman, as much as the author tries to maintain the historical integrity of the characters, it is not always possible to completely keep modern attitudes and actions from creeping in, but it is usually minimal. Some of the plotting did seem a little overly contrived, but I guess when you want to cover such a broad range of themes and relationships, plus provide a resolution to a couple of mysteries that will happen.
The one thing that the author did do is to provide a delicious morsel in the very end of the novel. As soon as I closed the book I was ready for the next book in the series. Fortunately, after waiting for a few months, I shouldn't have to wait too much longer to actually read it. Tears of Pearl was released at the beginning of last month and is currently sitting on my library book shelf calling my name.
You can read my review of the previous two books in this series here and can find out more about Tasha Alexander's books, including information on the locations used in her novels at her website.