Lady Emily Ashton is back in her third episode of romantic suspense set in the Victorian world of mannerly gentlemen, conniving mothers, and scandals behind closed doors. Forced to join a group of socialites at the home of formidable and odious Lord Fortescue, whom she loathes (and whose daughter covets Emily’s fiancé, Colin Hargreaves), Emily and others in the party feel little regret when Fortescue is murdered. Unfortunately, her best friend’s husband, Robert, is arrested and imprisoned in the Tower, after witnesses confirm his fight with the victim. Resolved to exonerate Robert, Emily heads for Vienna on the killer’s trail. Austria proves rich with intrigue, and this portion of the story really shines as readers take a tour of nineteenth-century Vienna—its parties and its cafés—in the wintertime, shadowed by decidedly evil characters. Emily’s sparkling wit makes up for the somewhat convoluted plot and large cast of characters who move from England to the Continent and back at the slightest provocation. This is a captivating addition to the adventures of an irresistible Victorian iconoclast.
Blending romance and historical mystery, Alexander has delightful fun with both genres. Rich, young widow Lady Emily Ashton occasionally has tea with the queen, but she isn't exactly a perfect Victorian lady. Pretty and poised though she may be, her preference for port and cigars, her devotion to both "popular" novels and classic Greek literature (which she reads in Greek), and her involvement in solving the mystery of her husband's death (, 2005) have made her the subject of plenty of gossip. Her forthright opinions stir up chitchat once again when she becomes curious about the theft of several items once owned by Marie Antoinette and about a new gentleman on the social scene, who claims to be an heir to the throne of France. Alexander's witty treatment of the trivial pursuits of the aristocracy, coupled with an engaging mystery and a deliciously flirtatious romance between Emily and handsome Colin Hargreaves, makes for entertaining reading for those who like historical mysteries that don't take themselves all that seriously.
In this charming late Victorian romantic suspense novel, Emily, a young and beautiful widow, regrets her husband's African hunting expedition death less than is proper. The late Philip, Viscount Ashton, had a passion for classical antiquity, and Emily, in an attempt to get to know her husband postmortem, uses her newfound independence in London to study it. In the process, she forms a friendship with Cecile du Lac, a Parisian of a certain age, and realizes that there was more to Philip than she realized—including his genuine passion and love for her. The charming Colin Hargreaves may have been involved with Philip in art forgeries, and Andrew Palmer proposes to Emily and then offers evidence that Philip is still alive. By this time, Emily and Cecile are a well-practiced team of amateur sleuths: Phillip's secrets begin to emerge, and travel to Greece provides the possibilities of a new life. Alexander makes Emily light but sympathetic, and conveys period flavor without being ponderous. Her knowledge of the ethical dilemmas posed by Victorian etiquette is considerable; sexual chemistry in particular is handled with exquisite delicacy. The archeological background will lure readers who like to dig for their clues.
Newly returned to her home in Mayfair, Lady Emily Hargreaves is looking forward to enjoying the delights of the season. The delights, that is, as defined by her own eccentricities—reading waltzing with her dashing husband, and joining the Women’s Liberal Federation in the early stages of its campaign to win the vote for women. But an audacious vandal disturbs the peace in the capital city, splashing red paint on the neat edifices of the homes of London’s elite. This mark, impossible to hide, presages the revelation of scandalous secrets, driving the hapless victims into disgrace, despair and even death. Soon, all of London high society is living in fear of learning who will be the next target, and Lady Emily and her husband, Colin, favorite agent of the crown, must uncover the identity and reveal the motives of the twisted mind behind it all before another innocent life is lost.
In Alexander's lackluster fourth Lady Emily historical (after ), Emily and her new husband, British intelligence agent Colin Hargreaves, are honeymooning in Constantinople when a half-English harem girl is murdered. After Colin is charged with the investigation, the British crown reluctantly allows Emily to handle questioning within the harem. Emily follows the clues much farther afield, exploring the tangled histories of the victim's diplomat father from whom she was abducted many years before, her troubled archeologist brother and sultans both current and deposed. The author deftly handles the exotic setting and a subplot in which Emily worries she may be pregnant, but a lack of tension and a number of implausibilities, starting with the ease with which a Western woman can play detective in despotic, late 19th-century Constantinople, make this a relatively weak entry. Hopefully, Emily will recover her usual sparkle once the newlyweds return to more familiar ground.
Alexander’s new historical mystery takes place in the late-nineteenth century and takes up at the point Tears of Pearl (2009) left off. In Tears, Lady Emily’s honeymoon with second husband Colin ended with her being shot and losing her unborn baby. Now she and Colin are staying in Normandy with his autocratic mother, Mrs. Hargreaves, who takes it amiss when Emily comes upon the body of a murdered young woman while horseback riding. Lady Emily can’t help but investigate the murder, especially when she learns the dead girl came from an aristocratic family in Rouens and was confined to an insane asylum. She also has to deal with her hostile mother-in-law, her worries about her own mental and emotional health, the reappearance of the flirtatious and clever thief Sebastian, and the murdered girl’s decidedly strange family. Readers who enjoy historical mysteries with strong female characters will find much to enjoy here and will want to seek out Lady Emily’s earlier adventures.