Now engaged to Colin Hargreaves, Lady Emily Ashton finds herself with fiance in tow at a house party given by the mentor of her best friend Ivy’s husband Robert. Emily isn’t fond of Lord Fortescue but knows she needs to support her friend. Unfortunately, she discovers a new nemesis at the party in the form of Kristiana von Lange, an Austrian countess who clearly has previously been enamored with Emily’s fiance. Even worse, the host of the party is murdered, and Ivy’s husband is arrested for the crime. In a quest to rescue her newly pregnant friend’s husband, Emily finds herself travelling to Vienna in search of a murderer.
It had been too long since I read the last Emily Ashton mystery when I picked this one up, and as a result the details in my head were a bit foggy. I couldn’t really remember what happened in the last one, A Poisoned Season. Lucky for me, these mysteries each stand fairly well on their own two feet, and I found myself slipping into the story effortlessly as I became reacquainted with Emily’s world.
Emily remains something of an unconventional heroine at this point in the series. She may be engaged to a respectable man, but she’s still more inclined to drink port and get herself involved in her society and solving its crimes than a respectable lady of her time might, as Emily’s mother often notes. As a result, she remains somewhat anachronistic, at least to this reader, but her character is so delightful and believes so deeply in the way women should be treated – as equals – that it’s impossible for a modern girl not to appreciate and like her. Her romance with Colin is still breathtaking despite their engagement; in this at least, the author stays true to Victorian mores as Emily behaves properly for once and completely resists even touching Colin in the presence of others. They do exchange kisses, but that’s as far as it goes, and this creates a really nice and unusual sense of both restraint and excitement. We can feel how eager they are to be married and the waiting makes it almost better – especially when Emily gets jealous of Kristiana. She starts to feel very human in this one.
The plot itself didn’t honestly do all that much to capture my attention, especially at the start. I was more enjoying the atmosphere and character development. I wasn’t racing through to get to the end, but as the book is 300 pages long and I read it on a Saturday, I finished it in one sitting. I loved the part of the novel that was set in Vienna. I do love England, but it’s just wonderful to have a change of scene, and this brooding, snow-covered city suited the mood of the book perfectly. Emily’s investigations frequently led to a few twists and turns with the mystery itself, with some tense scenes particularly towards the end. I have two more of these books, so I knew nothing was really going to happen to Emily, but there were no guarantees about anyone else.
A Fatal Waltz served its purpose well; it is a diverting, very romantic historical mystery that has plenty for modern readers to get involved in. I actually really enjoyed it and cracked open the next Emily Ashton book just a week later. I don’t think I’ll be letting the rest of the series sit as long as I left this one!
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