This book is the first of the Lady Emily series, a series I have seen on the shelves of bookstores and libraries alike for years and, despite it being part of one of my favorite genres (historical cozy mysteries), I have never read it before. Until now. When I put it on my TBR, there were only four books in the series, which means I probably put it on there in 2009 (which tells you how long this series has been on my TBR). Although I do think I would have enjoyed it more a few years ago, I did find this book difficult to put down.
Page Count: 321
Synopsis: Lady Emily Ashton never really knew her husband, having married him only to escape her bothersome mother. However, just after their marriage, her husband Philip Ashton dies while on a safari in Africa. A year and a half after her death, Emily begins to learn more about the husband she never really knew and finds herself caught up in the black market for stolen artifacts, priceless ancient Greek statues, and two wealthy suitors.
Even if this book did have its weaknesses, it is an immensely enjoyable and light read. It reminds me a bit of gothic romances written by Victoria Holt or Mary Stewart, though it stays closer to a suspense novel than a romance. Emily is an enjoyable protagonist, if a bit unrealistic for her era. There are a large array of characters, but I feel like the author did a good job in giving just enough information about each to prevent confusion. The mystery is less of a formulaic murder mystery and more like a suspense. It reminded me of a combination of Elizabeth Peter’s and Laurie R. King’s writing (which is rather high praise, as I love both authors). However, the ending did feel a bit predictable to me, and I kept hoping a twist might defy my prediction. Even so, I feel like this series is one that I could easily binge read.
I did enjoy that I was always questioning the motives of the two suitors of Emily. One is Andrew Palmer, the other Colin Hargreaves. Both of them were friends of her husband and took the trip to Africa with him. Andrew is light and friendly, Colin dark and mysterious. And neither of them are what they appear. Honestly, for me the romance wasn’t that interesting. While I didn’t dislike it, I found myself drawn towards the mystery and Emily learning more about her husband.
One of my favorite things about the book is the deep dive it takes into Greek and classic literature and antiquity. After Emily finds out about her husband’s interest in it and all the books he had on it, she finds herself expanding her learning by studying and reading the great classics. Because of this, the book is filled with quotes from beautiful classics, especially classic poetry. It also takes a look at the very real problem at the time of black market antiquity, where priceless artifacts were sold to wealthy people instead of carefully preserved in museums. It also brings up the morality of forgers and imitations of original works. Either way, I loved the more ancient aspects contained in this story.
There were some points this book did fall into cliches. Like (without giving away spoilers) the more romantic scenes. Emily goes from showing little interest in men and deciding never to remarry to, “I hardly know you, but I’m suddenly inexplicably attracted to you, so I’m open to marriage and you can court me.” I’m paraphrasing, for the record, but it struck me as shallow when it took her so long to realize and fall in love with the husband she never really knew. And then suddenly she likes this other guy when she showed little care towards him before.
Saying that, I already got the next book from the library and I will be reading it soon. I am curious to read the next few books, seeing if I enjoy them as much as I enjoyed this one.
Have you read this series? If so, what did you think about it and what should I expect from the sequels? If not, does it look interesting to you? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more musings and, as always,
Best wishes in your life full of adventure,