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…
After the adventures of a dollmaker, a cloth merchant and a waxworker, Christine Trent brings us a new story about a female undertaker. I enjoyed her previous books and was very excited to read this one too since Lady of Ashes is an historical mystery set during Victorian England, one of my favourite historical period. Also, I have to say that the title and cover caught my attention right away.
Violet Morgan is an independent and strong willed woman who is married to an undertaker, Graham Morgan. While Violet is completely taken by her profession, Graham seems to be much more worried about their social status than anything else. This is often a topic of heated discussions between spouses. Slowly, Violet feels that the man she is married to is not the same anymore…
The heroine clearly knows that she is good at her job and she isn't afraid to show it, despite her husband's patronizing manners. I couldn’t help but to feel proud of her, a woman in a world lead by men who only see her as a wife. She feels real, strong with just enough sensitivity and warmth to make you cheer for her. The scenes where Violet takes care of the deceased and their families always providing the best care are quite moving.
The historical details about mourning and funerals are completely fascinating and made me even understand some of the modern customs. Honestly, I never thought much about the subject before and it wasn't something that would usually draw my attention. Since reading this book I cannot stop searching for more information, especially about mourning jewelry.
Having very little knowledge about the American Civil War, it was interesting to read about the British and American relationship during this conflict and how fragile those ties were with both the North and South. The tension was palpable through the pages!
Lady of Ashes became my favourite book by Catherine Trent and certainly one of my best reads this year.
To read more about Christine Trent and her books, you can visit her website: