Published Feb 26, 2013
Trade paperback, 420 pages
Christine Trent is a historical novelist who has the knack for creating memorable women characters. They are independent tradeswomen with unusual professions whose lives cross with well-known historical figures. In The Queen's Dollmaker, Claudette Laurent is a dollmaker who meets Queen Marie Antoinette; in A Royal Likeness, Marguerite is the apprentice of Madame Tussaud, learning the trade of making life-size wax models of famous people; in By the King's Design, Annabelle Stirling is a draper (cloth merchant) who gets to decorate King George IV's Pavilion; and finally in her latest novel Lady of Ashes, we meet Violet Morgan who is a female undertaker who is involved with the burial of Queen Victoria's husband.
The setting is Victorian London, where Violet Morgan shares the trade of undertaking with her husband, Graham. She takes pride in her trade and the reader learns about her profession, funeral etiquette, and how people mourned in 1860s England. Fascinating to say the least. Violet is a sensible, hardworking woman who knows how to deal with death. After she goes through a harrowing near-death experience, discovers her husband's obsession and develops a meaningful relationship with a child named Susanna, she also begins to notice some of the corpses she prepares for burial have suffered a strange death, leading to the possibility of serial murders.
There is a lot of history in this novel, from the Civil War in the Unites States to the political affairs with Queen Victoria. Trent seemlessly blends all of this with Violet's story, and, as is her trademark, involves her common tradeswoman with Royalty. This novel is labelled an historical mystery. The prologue begins with the murderer's entry into a diary. So right from the very beginning we are guessing as to who this murderer might be and who was murdered. Throughout the book we have various entries from the murderer who writes in this diary. However, Violet only becomes aware that someone might be committing murders in the second half of the book. Therefore, this is more an historical story with a mystery element than a mystery novel as one might expect when reading this genre.
Out of all the books I read by Christine Trent this is one of my favourite. Trent is truly a master at bringing history alive through the eyes of a strong tradeswoman. Death is common to all of us, so any reader can relate to a certain extent. I also grew to have an appreciation for those who are in this profession and deal with it on a daily basis. This is the first book in a series, so we are to see more of Violet. I know because I asked Christine Trent. Visit again on Thursday, March 7 to read more of what she has to say about Lady of Ashes and for a chance to win a copy of this book!
Note: This book is rated C = clean read.
To read more reviews, visit the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours Page.
Twitter Hashtag: #LadyOfAshesVirtualTour
Christine Trent's novels include The Queen's Dollmaker, A Royal Likeness and By the King's Design.
For more information, please visit Christine Trent's website. You can also find her on Facebook.
Reviewed by Laura
Disclosure: Thanks to the author and Historical Fiction Book Tours for sending me this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.