I loved the idea of a female undertaker in Victorian London solving murders and was delighted to begin Lady of Ashes by Christine Trent. Narrated by Polly Lee, the tale delivered mystery, history and a side of romance as our protagonist suspects death by unnatural causes. Grab a cup of hot cocoa and see why I recommend this first in series.
by Christine Trent
Series: Lady of Ashes #1
Narrator: Polly Lee
Length: 15 hours and 16 minutes
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Purchase*: Amazon | Audible *affiliate
Narration: 4 cups Speed: 1.3x
In 1861 London, Violet Morgan is struggling to establish a good reputation for the undertaking business that her husband has largely abandoned. She provides comfort for the grieving, advises them on funeral fashion and etiquette, and arranges funerals.
Unbeknownst to his wife, Graham, who has nursed a hatred of America since his grandfather soldiered for Great Britain in the War of 1812, becomes involved in a scheme to sell arms to the South. Meanwhile, Violet receives the commission of a lifetime: undertaking the funeral for a friend of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. But her position remains precarious, especially when Graham disappears and she begins investigating a series of deaths among the poor. And the closer she gets to the truth, the greater the danger for them both…
This tale took me by surprise. It’s rich in history and brings the period to life. The crown, diplomacy, and the science of undertaking woven around the life of Violet Morgan and a series of natural murders that raise her suspicions. The Americas, traitors and more await you in this first in series.
Violet married an undertaker. She prefers working side by side with him, or should I say she runs the business, but I am getting ahead of myself. Domestic life isn’t her strong suit, but she tries to make a happy home.
The Morgan’s marriage has issues from him constantly firing the housekeepers that she employees to his secrets. Violet has been left to deal with the daily routine of their business. Arranging funerals, soothing the mourners, and preparing the bodies. Graham, unbeknownst to his wife, is looking to make money off the Americans during the Civil War.
I enjoyed how the author pulled us in and gave us a glimpse into the Morgan household before slowly weaving in the murder mystery. Mr. Morgan’s plans to aid will unknowingly change Violet’s life.
While he is busy trying to improve his station, Violet is undertaking the funeral of a friend of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and rescuing a child from the workhouse. I felt like I was walking the streets of 1861 London. I connected with Violet and felt for her through her troubled marriage to the way she handled accusations with dignity.
There is a bit of a romance, but I will leave you to discover that morsel. The story is brilliant and captures moments with the Queen, loss, social ladders, the plight of London’s poor and the diplomatic dance London plays with the Americas.
It really is a tapestry of time. The author wove these storylines together into the beginning of a saga that I cannot wait to continue.
Fans of historical fiction that have rich characters, a light mystery and period tidbits will delight in the Lady of Ashes series. There are six books in the series (saga) and the first three books were just released by Tantor.
Polly Lee narrates and became the voice of Violet. Her tone and pacing enhanced the story and I will continue to listen.
*Books are in Kindle Unlimited
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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
Thanks for the review! I’ve been eying the audio because the premise sounds fascinating. Another reviewer on my blog reviewed the ebooks way back when so I never tried them the first time around.
Another great review making me want to read
Anne - Books of My Heart
I really like the sound of this one. Excellent review!
Lover of Romance
What a great review you have of this one! I just love those tapestry of time type of feels in a historical especially historical fiction, just adds the right touch on that.
Was the narrator British? If so I may give the audiobook a try, otherwise I’ll add the book to my TBR for the year.
Polly Lee was raised in the UK.
I’m so glad to get your thoughts on this one. I read a novella from later in the series and was fascinated by the character and the world. Good to know the full-length books are fab, too.