Book Review: LADY OF ASHES by Christine Trent

Lady of Ashes

 

Publisher: Kensington
Released: February 26, 2013
Source: Review copy from the publisher

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…

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I thoroughly enjoyed LADY OF ASHES, the first book in an original new series featuring Victorian undertakers. This book first caught my eye many months ago, and I was intrigued that the protagonist was a 19th century female undertaker. Though her career choice was odd for a woman of her time, Violet Morgan’s character was likable and easy to connect with, and she drew me into the story. She was a compassionate person and savvy businesswoman, able to keep Morgan Undertaking thriving while her husband’s shady dealings kept him otherwise occupied.

LADY OF ASHES was well-researched historical fiction, giving readers a detailed look at funeral practices and mourning customs during the Victorian Era, as well as British opinions about Americans and the Civil War, and the plight of the London poor.

The plot moved slowly at first, but my morbid fascination with the subject matter (early embalming techniques!) easily held my interest. The pacing picked up considerably after Violet suspects foul play in the deaths of two seemingly unrelated people. I loved how the mystery played out – very exciting!

A macabre murder mystery, a touch of political intrigue, and a vivid glimpse of life in 1860s London made LADY OF ASHES an engrossing read.

Rating: 4½ Stars

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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