Review: Lady of Ashes by Christine Trent
Title: Lady of Ashes
Author: Christine Trent
Publisher: Kensington Books 26 February 2013
Labels: 19th Century, Victorian Period, Mystery, Historical Fiction, Historical Fiction Virtual Tours, Historical Mystery Fiction, Civil War in America, Undertaker, Royalty, England.
Rating: 5 Stars
Violet and her husband Graham Morgan have an undertaking business in London, England. When the story begins they've been married seven years and do not have children. Violet is a career woman in a culture where women were supposed to be the caretaker of a home, instead Violet is an undertaker for the deceased and grieving families. Graham and his brother Fletcher are a conniving duo in a business venture of their own which brings in another plot. Meanwhile, Violet notices unusual markings on two cadaver's she must prepare for a funeral. She is suspicious, could their deaths have been pre-meditated?
1. Graham is a nervous, obsessive, volatile, hostile, arrogant, selfish, mentally unstable, husband. He is not a likable character. He did give an added storyline, link to other characters, as well as be an opponent in the story.
2. In Lady of Ashes the story showed me how tirelessly and faithfully Violet worked in the undertaking business. She was comfortable with the recently deceased as well as their family members. She was organized, serious, empathetic; but I wondered, where was Graham? What were his duties, if any? His main duties seemed to be slinking around with his brother, or badgering Violet.
3. Violet came across as a timid little wife. I couldn't understand this, as she had a job that required her to be assertive. She could be bold, expressive, and outspoken in other areas of her life; but with her husband she shrunk back. At first she got on my last nerve. Then I realized she was a product of the Victorian culture. I also realized I too can be out-spoken in some areas of my life, and timid in others. I feel she was shown as a dimensional character and this made her believable.
4. I felt there was great pacing in the story between the various peaks of plots. This is a busy story, several points of history are brought in as well as historical figures from England and America.
5. At each chapter there is a diary entry, I was kept guessing until the end as to who was writing it.
6. Reading about Violet's duties as an undertaker was fascinating. This was a strong point in Lady of Ashes, I don't believe this had been a story written about yet. For the living, death is a mystery and a bit unsettling. Violet is adept and matter-of-fact in her career. She was so comfortable in her duties with the dead that she made me comfortable in reading about it.
7. I gave 5 stars to Lady of Ashes for several reasons.
- It is a huge story with several plots, and all were orchestrated at just the right moment.
- I read the book in about 48 hours, I had a hard time putting the book down.
- Violet is a character that blossomed, she is a person of integrity. She rose to the obstacles that came in to her life with bravery.
- I quickly became invested in the story, mainly because of Violet, yet other characters I cared about also.
- Violet's duties as an undertaker were very interesting.
Christine Trent writes historical fiction from her two-story home library. She lives with her wonderful bookshelf-building husband, four precocious cats, a large doll collection, entirely too many fountain pens, and over 4,000 fully cataloged books. She and her husband are active travelers and journey regularly to England to conduct book research at historic sites.
Christine Trent's novels include The Queen's Dollmaker, A Royal Likeness and By the King's Design.
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