Lady of Ashes
Lady of Ashes series #1
Kensington Press, Feb 2013
401 pages, ebook, paperback, hardcover, audible book
Victorian romance, Women’s Lit
The cover is wonderfully atmospheric and takes you back to the foggy London streets of the time. And there stands Mrs. Morgan of Morgan Undertaking. Though I think she should be holding either a white lily or a yellow rose, depending on what you want to reference. An excellent cover.
The story is complex because so many things happen around this one woman, Violet Morgan. Her husband, Graham, and his brother get up to an attempt to run the blockade on the Confederate States at first with weapons and then with rum leaving her to answer all the questions back in London with no answers. She takes in a young girl from the workhouse, Susannah Sweeney, who doesn’t speak, and discovers she has secrets to tell. She shares her interest in embalming with the Prince Consort by happenstance and ends up being his mortician and the confidant to his queen. She questions what two of her clients died of and ends up tracking down a serial killer almost at the cost of her own life. She gets the news that her husband and brother-in-law are dead, but people don’t believe it. She gets the news that Samuel Harper, the American lawyer, is dead, but he comes back to knock on her door. Violet Morgan’s been famous and infamous, almost notorious all in just a little over four hundred pages simply by sitting at the center of this story. She’s also been happily married, ready to dump her husband, widowed without feeling, devastated by the death of another man, and ecstatically happy in the course of those same pages. That takes a very creative writer. I must say Ms. Trent handled it all very well.
The pace was a bit slow in some places and the tension suffered a tad from that, but I’m not sure a faster pace would have been appropriate for a book about an undertaker! The parts about the housekeeping slowed things down, but they were also part of the overall picture of things between Violet and Graham and greatly helped set the scene for daily Victorian life. Having problems with the staff was part of life in those times and pointed out how badly Violet actually was at handling a household. The problem with the smell in the basement pointed out the problems people ran into at this time with industrial advancements still being new and unscrupulous builders taking advantage of the fact that people didn’t know what’s going on. I’m seriously considering reading more in this series when I have the time. This unusual woman with the unusual career is the catalyst for lots of happenings that make for some really good reading!