Tag Archives: The Adventuress

A Terrible Beauty

a-terrible-beauty

Title:  A Terrible Beauty (Lady Emily 11)
Author:  Tasha Alexander
Publisher:  Minotaur Press
Publication Date:  2016
ISBN:  978-1-250-05827-0

Book Summary:
Following the heartbreak of Jeremy, Duke of Bainbridge, as seen in The Adventuress,  Lady Emily decides a change of scenery would be best for her friend.  In an attempt to lift his spirits, Lady Emily and husband Colin Hargreaves, whisk Jeremy off to a holiday in Greece.  They are joined by Emily’s good friend Margaret.  A lover of all things Latin, Margaret and Emily plan lively debates and entertaining excursions.  The friends will stay on the island of Santorini at Emily’s villa, left to her by her deceased first husband, Lord Philip Ashton.

Philip left for a hunting trip to Africa right after the couple was married and died abroad, victim of poisoning.  Perhaps it is the impending trip to the island that Philip was so fond of, Emily is haunted by thoughts of her first husband exacerbated by strange occurrences that plague her mind.  First, an unsigned postcard arrives addressed to The Viscountess Ashton, a name she has not used in over five years since her marriage to Colin.  Then, Philip’s journal entry of the night of their engagement is pulled out of its hiding place and put in plain sight.  Finally, Emily is sure that she has seen the ghost of her dead husband both on the boat to Greece and hiding behind a column in the ruins.

When the friends arrive in Santorini, the housekeeper shocks them with the news that the Viscount Ashton is there.  Although his face had aged by time and the sun, Philip is who Emily remembers.  He recounts a fantastic tale of an escape from near death by poison, of wandering through the plains of Africa, a rescue by a kind-hearted traveler, and a renewed passion for archaeology.

As overwhelmed by confusion as Emily is, her husband, once Philip’s best friend, is beset with grief and guilt at the possibility that he had left his friend for dead.  The couple is also unsure how his arrival will affect the status of their marriage and more importantly the legitimacy of their children.

The conflict mounts as they discover that Philip has been pursued by an illegal antique artifacts dealer who is convinced that he is in possession of a piece of Achilles’ helmet.  An expert and scholar on Achilles, Phillip is convinced of the authenticity of the artifact that he discovered but distraught at how it was stolen from him moments after its unearthing.  The tension rises as dead bodies, mysterious conversations, and haunting clues follow as Emily and Colin must work together to prevent more loss and to salvage their marriage.

Book Commentary:
Oh, how I loved this book!!!  I have been reading Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily series for years but I think this one might be my favorite.  She hearkens back to the adventure and uncertainty of Colin and Emily’s first escapes together; there is a sense of a simpler time as they struggle to grasp hold of what they know and hold most dear.  At times the reader isn’t sure if he can trust Emily’s perceptions as she is often clouded by pain, guilt, and fear.

I really enjoyed the development of Colin’s character; he always seems to be so in charge and in control.  In this novel, we see a break in the calm, cool exterior.  His obvious love for Emily and his genuine compassion for his friend present conflicting emotions and he at times seems a bit lost.  I think this adds a great deal of humanity to his character; the dimension of his raw emotions and his true sense of integrity and honesty create a disjointedness and vulnerability that makes the reader enjoy him even more.

Philip’s character is the most fascinating in the story.  We are reminded how time distorts memories and we can’t always trust what Colin remembers about his friend.  Emily interaction with Philip prior to his departure to Africa consisted only of their courting and very brief marriage; she knows him only through the journals that he left behind.  Philip too has created idolized memories of Emily and their relationship.

Throughout the novel, I felt a sense of heartbreak for these characters and the conflicting emotions that they must be facing.  At the same time, the tension of the stolen artifacts and the ensuing violence build to a very climatic ending.

Who might like this book:
I know that I have mentioned this before, but Tasha Alexander’s biography indicates that she was an English major “in order to have a legitimate excuse for spending all her time reading.”  You have to respect an author who loves reading as much as she does!

This story further capitalized on Emily’s (and the author’s) love of Greece.  The descriptions of the sites visited and the historical details provide a feel of a travelogue, meshed with an exciting story.

Read the series in order.  You will do a disservice to yourself if you miss any of the previous adventures.

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
The Adventuress

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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