Kim’s Review of Death in the Floating City (Lady Emily Series #7) by Tasha Alexander

ditfcTowards the end of 2011/beginning of 2012 I was introduced to a character by the name of Lady Emily. She is a woman of the Victorian Era, a time when woman should be seen and not heard.  Lady Emily, however, is a woman who bucks that notion and delves into learning, reading, languages, art, geography, etc.  I found so much of myself in her at times that I flew through the first book of Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily series And Only to DeceiveAfter falling head-over-heels in love with Alexander’s writing, characters, and settings I quickly made my way through the other five available books: A Poisoned Season, A Fatal Waltz, Tears of Pearl, Dangerous to Knowand A Crimson Warning (all links lead to my reviews).

In the latest installment of the Lady Emily series, Death In the Floating City, we follow Emily as her adventures take her to Italy for the first time.  Many years ago, Emily’s childhood arch nemesis  Emma Callum, shocked English society by eloping to Venice, Italy with her lover, an Italian count.  Despite their past, Emma has now turned to Emily for help as she finds herself entangled in a mystery that involves the death of her father-in-law and the disappearance of her husband.  Emily takes her up on the offer, and travels to Venice with her husband, Colin Hargreaves.  There, Emily discovers that there is more to this story than what meets the eye, and she finds that she must look to the past to solve this crime in the present day.

I’ve always been impressed with authors who can write 5+ books in a series and keep each one feeling fresh and new, while continuing to develop the characters and relationships in new and exciting ways.  Death in the Floating City is the seventh book in the Lady Emily series, yet it reads with the excitement and freshness of the first, And Only to Deceive.  It’s 100% due to Alexander’s talent as a writer.  Not only should she continue to write the Lady Emily series, but I think she should start writing travel books as well.  Her descriptions of Venice are astonishingly beautiful, stunning, and so visual.  At times I could close my eyes and completely see the scene she was painting for me.

When I read Alexander’s books I literally become so engulfed by them.  The characters’ sadness is my sadness, their happiness is my happiness as well.  By the time I got to the last few pages of the book my face hurt SO MUCH from smiling.  I walked around the whole day with just a goofy grin on my face because I was completely overwhelmed with happiness.  Books that can have that kind of effect on a person are my favorite.  It’s a clear indication that the writer got you enveloped in the story.  The added surprise to Death in the Floating City was a book within the book!  Not only do you become completely obsessed with the murder mystery, but you are fascinated by the tragedy that is Besina and Nicolo’s story.  I was slightly saddened that Colin was missing for large chunks of this book, but understood the reason for it once I got to the end.

I’m excited about the direction that the series is taking.  The decisions and discoveries made at the end of Death in the Floating City should create some interesting problems/conflicts to overcome in the next books of the series.  Book eight, Behind the Shattered Glass, is slated to release this upcoming October.

On a completely different side note, Elsie Lyons has been designing the covers of Alexander’s novels since book five (Dangerous to Know) and she needs a shout out. These covers are exquisite and to put it simply, I love them.

4 out of 5 Stars

This is my twelfth completed review for the Historical Fiction Challenge.

Death in the Floating City by Tasha Alexander
Minotaur Books (2012)
Hardcover: 320 pages
ISBN: 9780312661762

#94 A Review of And Only To Deceive (Lady Emily Series #1) by Tasha Alexander

And Only to Deceive (Lady Emily Series #1)Good friend of the blog Laurel Ann Nattress (founder of Austenprose and newly published editor of Jane Austen Made Me Do It) recently sent me the newest book in the Lady Emily series by Tasha Alexander to review.  When I signed on to review A Crimson Warning I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there were five other books published beforehand.  Having never read any of the Lady Emily mysteries I said “why not?” and jumped in headfirst with book one: And Only To Deceive.

Being a woman in the Victorian Era, Emily Bromley’s main social obligation is to marry and have children.  Call her ahead of her time, but she thinks nothing of this prospect, and is practically forced to marry the wealthy Viscount Philip Ashton just to escape her mother.  A few months after the wedding, Philip is killed on safari in Africa, and Emily feels guilty in being more relieved than remorseful about his death.  Now independently wealthy due to her inheritance of his estate, she takes up a study of ancient Greek literature and antiquities upon finding out about Philip’s intense interest in these subjects.  She is extremely surprised to come across his journals detailing how in love with her he was, as well as some strange entries about antiquities.  As she learns more about these subjects as well as Philip himself, she begins to realize that not is all as it seems.  She discovers evidence of sly business dealings, as well as stories about Philip from his friends that don’t seem to add up.  Now it is up to Emily to uncover the truth about her husband and bring the details of his death in Africa to light.  Will she be able to do all this without being discovered by those who may have harmed Philip?

Lady Emily is a breath of fresh air on the heroine front.  She’s wonderfully charming, yet fiercely intelligent, pushing the boundaries and limits of what women were allowed to do back in the day.  She refuses to be placed into a certain social box, instead forging her own path, surrounding herself with friends who will accept her for who she is becoming.  I also like that she tries to influence the other women she knows to think in a more intellectual manner, and have a voice of their own rather than just accepting their husbands’ as their own.  She refuses to believe that all women are good for are being wives.  She studies Greek, art history, mythology, and much more, allowing her new-found knowledge to expand who she is. (Sound like an Austen heroine?)

The pace of the novel was absolutely excellent; there was never any feeling of boredom or plot dragging.  Everything kept me enthralled in the mystery, eagerly trying to figure out who was responsible for the missing original artifacts.  Being an avid reader, I also enjoyed the little discussions that were thrown in here and there between characters about different literature opinions.  The Odyssey is one of my favorite books of all time, so all of the discussion about it was a pleasure to read.  Alexander is a gifted writer of dialogue, moving most of the book along through conversation, rather than narrative overtures.

I’d like to think that if Jane Austen and Agatha Christie ever wrote novels together, Tasha Alexander’s works would be the result.  With Austen-like heroines and intelligent mysteries a la Christie, Alexander made a hell of a debut with And Only To Deceive.  If you’ve never heard of the Lady Emily novels (I’m still smacking myself that I never did) I heartily recommend giving them a try.  Alexander will have you on the edge of your seat from cover to cover, eager to pick up the next book in the series immediately after.

5 out of 5 Stars

And Only To Deceive by Tasha Alexander
Harper Collins (2006)
Paperback  336 pages
ISBN: 9780061148446