Tag Archives: Lady Emily

Death Wears a Mask

death-wears-a-mask

Title:  Death Wears a Mask (Amory Ames 2)
Author:  Ashley Weaver
Publisher:  Minotaur Books
Publication Date:  2015
ISBN:  978-1-250-09612-8

Book Summary:
After capturing a murderer and almost being killed herself at Brightwell, Amory Ames is enjoying some quiet time at home.  Her relationship with husband Milo seems to have arrived at a comfortable truce and she is hoping that his playboy ways have been calmed.  Amory accepts an invitation for she and Milo to attend a dinner party at the home of the Barringtons.  Mrs. Barrington was a friend of Amory’s mother and Amory is a bit surprised at the attempt at a renewed friendship after years apart.  At the party, it becomes apparent that Mrs. Barrington has more need of Amory that just her presence.  She pulls Amory aside as they progress into dinner, fiercely whispering to her that she should watch the guests.

Because of Amory’s success at Brightwell, Mrs. Barrington reveals to her that a number of her expensive and sentimental jewelry pieces have gone missing.  Through careful research, she is able to eliminate the staff as suspects.  Coincidentally, all the thefts have occurred on days when she has hosted dinner parties and all these dinner parties have included the same guests.  Amory and Mrs. Barrington work together to lay a trap the next evening at a masquerade party given by one of the guests, Lord Dunmore.  Lord Dunmore is charming and handsome and has almost as rakish a reputation of Milo.  Mrs. Barrington plans to wear a paste version of an expensive sapphire bracelet to entice a theft and to then catch the villain in the act.

Milo is amused by Amory’s involvement but deems it more necessary to visit his club to discuss the purchase of a fine Arabian horse than attend the party.  Unsure about Milo’s motivation and true intent, Amory arrives at the ball alone and the stage is set.  Lord Dunmore takes great interest in Amory and when she slips on the stair and sprains her ankle, he is quick to whisk her off her feet and take her to a bedchamber to examine her foot.  When Milo catches Amory with Lord Dunmore, he is nonplussed.  However, the scene becomes dire when a shot is heard, and the body of Mrs. Barrinton’s nephew is found with the stolen jewels in his pocket.

Inspector Jones from Brightwell has been reassigned to Scotland Yard and once again asks for Amory’s insight on the guests.  Amory agrees to help but quickly is overwhelmed by romantic conflicts, hidden agendas, and secret pasts.  Milo also has seemed to take the opportunity to revert back to his old ways.  Amory is unsure of who and what to trust because of the masks that people wear.

Book Commentary:
What a fantastic series!!  This is book two and the setting has switched to the elite of London.  Post World War I has invited a time of opulence and grandeur and the characters seem to have a life of lavish and leisure.  However, dark secrets of betrayal, financial loss, and violence are hidden just below the surface.  I really enjoy how the author describes this Golden Age while still laying the foundation of how the world will change in just a few short years.  I look forward to watching how these conflicting themes will play out in future books.

I absolutely love the character of Amory.  She is smart, refined, and elegant but her underlying sensitivity and humanity drive her actions.  She definitely knows her role in society and her marriage and doesn’t outwardly rebel against the norms but she knows how to work the system behind the scenes.  I appreciate her motivation in helping others as opposed to using the events just as a diversion.  Once again, Milo is an enigmatic character; we see a bit more of who he is but there is still more brewing under the surface.  I had a prediction as to what his character motivation was based on the first book and I was wrong; however, the author does provide some clues and I hope that more will be discovered in future books.

Who might like this book:
I have been reading a lot of books about World War I and the Golden Age right afterward; it is fascinating time in history and the series has set itself well into the manners and enigmas of the upper echelons of society.  In some ways, Amory reminds me of a more “modern day” version of Lady Emily from Tasha Alexander’s series; they are both strong, intelligent women who understand the norms and customs of society but also how to use them to their advantage.  Milo and Colin, however, are as different as can be!

You must read the first book, Murder at Brightwell, first.  It is just wrong to read this series out of order.  I am thrilled that the new Amory book, A Most Novel Revenge, is set for release on October 11, 2016.  As further endorsement of this series, unlike the first two books, I am not waiting.  I’m splurging on the hardback!!

 

Advertisements

Amy Snow

Amy Snow

Title:  Amy Snow
Author:  Tracy Rees
Publisher:  Simon & Schuster
Publication Date:  2015
ISBN:  978-1-5011-2837-0

Book Summary:
In 1831, Aurelia, eight-year-old daughter and only child of Lord and Lady Vennaway, once again disobeys her governess and rushes out to play in the newly fallen snow on her family’s English estate.  Headstrong and spoiled, but also compassionate and inquisitive, Aurelia is shocked to discover an abandoned infant left in the snow.  Although her parents disapprove of the child, they are unwilling to deny anything to their only child.  And so, Amy is raised in the household.  She spends most of her time below stairs and out of the Vennaway’s sight, but Aurelia is ever diligent and stops in very frequently to be with Amy and comfort and guide her.  As Amy grows older, she provides a comforting balm to Aurelia’s flighty personality.  Grudgingly, the elder Vennaway’s allow Amy into the schoolroom to take lessons with Aurelia when the tutor recognizes the effect Amy has on the young heiress.

Although Amy has Aurelia’s love and devotion, life at Hatville Court is challenging.  She helps the servants with the chores, but Amy learns quickly that it is best that avoid all contact with Lord and Lady Vennaway.  She isn’t able to make a connection with the servants, because they think she is above them.  The bond however between the girls is as close as sisters and eventually, Aurelia makes Amy her personal companion.

Aurelia’s parents push for a marriage which would eventually give them the heir they so desire, but these plans are cancelled when Aurelia is discovered with a terminal illness.  Amy serves Aurelia in her final days as a nurse, but immediately following her death, funeral, and reading of the will, the Vennaways make it clear that Amy is to leave Hatville Court.  Prior to her departure, Amy is secretly visited by Mr. Clay who presents Amy with a letter from Aurelia that he was charged to deliver to her before she left Hatville.  Even in death, Aurelia is taking care of Amy and sets her on an adventure that would change her life.

The coded letter starts Amy on journey that enables Amy to discover not only who she is but also who she wants to be.  Her quest takes her to various locations around England and she meets a cast a characters, including a warm and welcoming family, a cantankerous old woman, and two dashing gentleman who vie for her heart.  The end result of the clues, puzzles, and hidden signs leads Amy to a conclusion that could threaten no only herself, but Aurelia’s legacy.

Book Commentary:
What a delightful story!!  I was intrigued by the puzzles and clues that were left to Amy, and the author does a wonderful job at allowing the reader to solve the mysteries along with her.  The story is truly a coming-of-age story with a great deal of mystery and subterfuge.  The author alternates the story between Amy’s present day situation and the story of her life with Aurelia though the memories.  Although the memories often help Amy solve the clues, they also provide so much insight about Aurelia and the relationship between the girls.

Amy is an admirable character and the reader enjoys watching her growth and discovery; however, even though Amy is the title character, I felt the story was really that of Aurelia.  Her depth of compassion, rebellion, and understanding of the world around her is evident through the quest she devises and I really felt she grew into herself posthumously through Amy’s own self-discovery.

The story is rich in detail about clothing and social mores and conventions; the reader feels Amy’s own spark of surprise and delight as her knowledge of the world grows.  The story is also full of entertaining and memorable secondary characters who help Amy on her journey.

Who might like this book:
Although a completely different type of story, I was reminded of Tasha Alexander’s Lady Darby series and Deanna Raybourn’s Lady Julia Grey series, in that the main characters truly learn the story of someone’s life after their death.  In all three cases, the story of the deceased character is told through letters, mementoes, and remembrances of other characters.  It is a really interesting way to tell a story.

The novel includes a wonderful interview with the author and a collection of book club discussion questions.  I really enjoyed the author’s writing style; she has one other book published called Florence Grace.  It is currently sitting in my Amazon wishlist!

That Silent Night

thatsilentnight

Title:  That Silent Night (Lady Emily Christmas Story 2)
Author:  Tasha Alexander
Publication Date:  2015
E-Book Format

Book Summary:
It is Christmastime, and Emily and Colin Hargreaves have been enjoying the holiday season at Anglemore Park, their house in the country, with their boys Henry, Richard, and Tom.  Their neighbors at Montagu Manor have been a bit overzealous in their own celebrations and invitations, so to escape yet another evening of charades and carolers, Emily and Colin have returned to their house in London for a brief respite and a bit of holiday shopping.  Enjoying a quiet evening at home, Emily and Colin’s serene time is interrupted when Emily is convinced that she saw a woman standing across the street from their home at the entrance of Hyde Park.  Amidst the snow and freezing temperatures, the young woman seems ill-prepared for the weather.  Emily rushes outside to assist the woman only to have found her vanished with no traces of footprints.  Convinced that the woman was a product of Emily’s over-active imagination and her current reading of sensational fiction, Colin is uninterested in Emily’s claim, despite the repeated re-appearance of the supposed specter.

While in London, Emily and Colin invite their new neighbors the Leighton’s to dine.  Recently returned from their honeymoon, the newlyweds are just settling into their new home but Emily is shocked at the resemblance between Mrs. Leighton and her ghost.  Although Mr. Leighton is quite affable, Mrs. Leighton communicates through stilted conversation and seems tense and uneasy. Emily is slowly able to draw the new bride out into conversation, however there is obviously something troubling the young woman.  When Mrs. Leighton disappears from her home, Colin and Emily aid in the search to find her, and Emily has to wonder if there is a ghost involved.

Book Commentary:
This is the second of the Lady Emily Christmas stories.  The first, Star of the East, was released in October of 2014.  I love these holiday novellas; there are a short treat for the holiday season and stay true to the original series.  This novella in particular provides a great opportunity for readers to get a day-to-day feel of Colin and Emily’s lives.  Their friendly banter and obvious affection help warm this seasonal story.  The plot is well-defined and very fitting of the abbreviated format.

Anne Perry, another of my favorite Victorian authors, has released a short Christmas novel every year for the past twelve years and I look forward to them each year.  Just like the first Christmas Carols of the season, these books mark the start of the holiday season for me.  I sincerely hope this also becomes a tradition for Tasha Alexander.

Who might like this book:
If you like the Tasha Alexander Lady Emily series, you will enjoy this Christmas novella.  Note that this story – along with last year’s Christmas novella Star of the East – is only available in e-book format.

The Adventuress

                            The Adventuress Inscription           The Adventuress

Title:  The Adventuress (Lady Emily 10)
Author:  Tasha Alexander
Publisher:  Minotaur Press
Publication Date:  2015
ISBN:  978-1250058263

Book Summary:
The French Riviera is an idyllic place for romance, and Colin and Emily are there to celebrate the engagement of one of Emily’s oldest friends, Jeremy, Duke of Banbridge.  His fiancé is Amity Wells, an American heiress who was in India with her parents as her father conducted business.  There she met Christabel Peabody and Jeremy’s brother, Captain Jack Sheffield.  As the younger son, Jack has dedicated his life to the army and serves as an entertaining and knowledgeable guide to the young ladies. Christabel is in India visiting her brother; her friendship with Amity blossoms into a true bond. As the friends develop fellowship, Amity shares her struggles as the daughter of a wealthy southern gentleman who built his fortune in copper following the War Between the States, and his fiercely determined wife who is intent on seeing her only child wed to an English nobleman. When Amity meets Jack’s older brother Jeremy, their two adventurous and slightly unconventional personalities seem to be a perfect match.

In an effort to outdo the American nouveau riche like the Vanderbilts and to give her daughter the most spectacular of weddings, Amity’s mother organizes a lavish engagement celebration in Cannes for her daughter, her fiancé, and their closest friends.  Emily is cautious about Jeremy’s impending nuptials; as life-long friends, she truly wants what will make Jeremy most happy.  Growing up on neighboring estates, Jeremy and Emily were childhood friends and at one point it was thought that they would marry.  Instead, they developed a link of camaraderie and mutual respect.  Why then is Emily so uncomfortable about the engagement and Jeremy’s intended?  Events occur that suggest the Emily is jealous, and that Jeremy’s marriage will end Jeremy’s platonic devotion to her.  Emily begins to question her own motivations and innermost feelings, and even her closest friends start to show some threads of doubt.

When Chauncey Neville, a member of their celebratory party and a longtime friend of Jeremy’s, is found dead of an apparent suicide, the festivities are cut short.  A seemingly happy and jovial man, suicide is very uncharacteristic of Chauncey.  Emily is dissatisfied with the coroner’s report and begins to investigate.  As questions and reservations begin to creep into the minds of the group, concerns of trust and safety become paramount.  Will tragedy and heartache prevent Amity and Jeremy from beginning their lives together?

Book Commentary:
Tasha Alexander is one of my top five most favorite historical mystery writers and her tenth installment of the Lady Emily series does not disappoint.  I’m going a little fan girl here, but I won an advanced reading copy of this book!!  She even wrote me a little note!!  Squeak!! The book is set for wide-release tomorrow, October 13.

My most favorite thing about this series is the character of Lady Emily.  She is confident, intelligent, and assertive, and yet follows the social mores and expectations of her time period.  I find her very believable in that she isn’t really frustrated with her placement in society, but rather accepts her role because it is what it is.  Now, she is of the upper crust and has connections to the Queen, but she is truly a woman of her time.

Emily’s husband, Colin Hargreaves, is an inquiry agent for the Queen and crown.  Emily’s involvement in his investigations and her own follows a believable and realistic pattern.  Her inquiries are melded with her social and societal obligations.  There is a seamless blending of the two roles that adds to the credibility of the story.

The novel took a slight departure from previous stories in that it seemed to be more of a psychological thriller than a mystery.  I was constantly questioning who I believed and who I trusted; much in the same way that Emily experiences her own self-doubt.  The French Riviera setting provided a beautiful backdrop to the story but wasn’t as integrated into the mystery itself as is often seen in the Lady Emily books, and I enjoyed this departure.

Tasha Alexander has a great voice in her writing.  I really enjoyed that the story was told by both Emily and Amity, using different starting points for each of their narratives.  As their story-telling caught up to the same point in time, the tension and excitement of the story built as well.  It was really interesting to see the evolution of the two viewpoints.

Who might like this book:
If you like English historical mysteries, you will enjoy the Lady Emily series.  The author has done an amazing amount of research and does a fabulous job at blending the atmosphere into the story.  Her characters are delightful; it is so much fun to see the reoccurring characters of Jeremy, Margaret, and Cecile develop and grown as individuals but it is just as fascinating to see their perspectives and interpretations woven into the plot.

Tasha Alexander’s biography indicates that she was an English major “in order to have a legitimate excuse for spending all her time reading.”  How brilliant is that!  Make sure that you read her series in order.  You will do a disservice to yourself if you miss any of the previous adventures.  The stories in order are:

And Only to Deceive
A Poisoned Season
A Fatal Waltz
Tears of Pearl
Dangerous to Know
A Crimson Warning
Death in the Floating City
Behind the Shattered Glass
The Counterfeit Heiress