The fourth in the Lady Emily Ashton series starts with Colin and Emily married, at long last. They’re off on their honeymoon to Constantinople, intent on spending a lot of time together and only a little bit of time exploring the town. But fate doesn’t leave them alone, as a mystery falls literally into their laps on the train with a man, Sir Richard, falling unconscious at dinner. The plot thickens on arrival in Constantinople as a young English girl, Ceyden, is murdered in the harem, who turns out to be Sir Richard’s daughter. Colin and Emily are immediately off to solve the mystery and figure out who is behind the murder.
I knew I couldn’t wait long to read this after finishing A Fatal Waltz and I was glad to immerse myself in Colin and Emily’s world once again. It’s such a thrill to see that they’re finally married; rather than prolonging the suspense, Alexander has just tied the knot and shown that, for once, novels aren’t always dependent on romantic tension. And I was glad the characters could finally release their proper Victorian strongholds – though this novel fades to black, it’s obvious that they enjoy being married a considerable amount!
Other than that, however, I found I wasn’t as interested in this particular mystery as I had been previously. Though the atmosphere is very interesting and well done, the plot itself wasn’t what drew me along. It didn’t help that Colin was actually away for what felt like half the book, leaving Emily to solve things on her own. In some ways, I felt this dragged the story on a bit longer than it would have otherwise. There also isn’t the continuing tension that sprinkled through the last installment, with the bullets left everywhere, which meant that the plot moved a little less quickly. Until the end, that is, when everything gets very exciting.
What did work, however, was the emotional intensity of the novel. As a Victorian lady, Emily is forced to deal with the reality of marriage and its consequences. She hardly knew her first husband and had very little time with him, so the risk of pregnancy was not particularly high. Here, though, it’s obvious that marital relations result in pregnancies and Emily is terrified. Her friend Ivy is pregnant and very delicate back in England, which is a huge weight on her mind, and it doesn’t help that she too could wind up pregnant at almost any time. I felt like this was an incredible insight into the mind of a true Victorian woman; so often books are still written as though babies are always wonderful miracles, particularly in more romantic genres, because that’s the reality of today, when the vast majority of women and babies in western countries survive. What’s so often ignored is that children were far more likely to lead to death a hundred years ago, both for their mothers and themselves. This book presents Emily’s fear in a very realistic way that was easy to relate to.
Tears of Pearl was another excellent addition to the Lady Emily Ashton series. Possibly not enough to persuade those who weren’t enamored with the first or second to continue, but it worked very well for this fan of the series. It won’t be long until I continue with the next!
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