This is the fourth book in this series, but only the second that I have read. The previous one, Tears of Pearl, I read and enjoyed so much that when I saw this on the shelf at the library I snatched it up and dragged my son (and all our stuff) back to the checkout so I could take it home and read it. It took me a matter of hours to devour it (spread in 20-30 minute increments over a few days - I have a toddler) and I'm considering doing something I almost never do: reading the series out of order. (The other series that I've discovered in the middle and then gone back to the start being The Home Repair is Homicide series - mostly if I discover it's a series I either just pick it up in the middle or hold off on the latest installment until I've caught up.)
One of the blurbs on the back states that Alexander is perfect for fans of Laurie R. King and I agree - she's following the same vein: real people interspersed with her creations, a capable female protagonist who was very "modern" for the times she's living in...but by my math King is writing a full 40-50 years after Lady Emily's adventures. Still, the heroines are intelligent and scrappy (sorry, they are) and constantly proving people wrong by being stronger than their gender suggests.
This installment takes place in France, opens with a dead body, and follows a twisty tale of madness, misconception and a WASPy (were there WASPS in Victorian France?) ability to not acknowledge unpleasantness. I had an inkling of where the story was headed and got there just ahead of our heroine, but I won't hold that against Alexander. I'm well read in these Novels of Suspense.
There are two things I particularly like about the series:
1) her use of real people lend credence to the possibility of these stories actually happening. Monet makes an appearance in this one, for example. She also has a firm grasp on the dress and social niceties that existed at the time. Every now and again, you can almost hear the crinolines rustling through the paragraphs.
2) her subtlety in the romantic scene department. I enjoy a good romp, but after watching people make out at the lunch table in high school (I wish I were kidding) and then a glut of Sex and the City, I have to admit that witnessing serious snogging - even if it's just being described to me - is a huge turnoff. There is obvious romance and intimacy and a healthy relationship happening between Lady Emily and her Husband, but it is alluded to and even then it is mostly for the purposes of illustrating other more pressing plot points. It's well-done, at any rate.
So if historical romantic suspenseful murder mysteries are your thing - pick these up. But maybe start at the beginning so you don't find yourself in my quandary.
Oh, but maybe I won't go back just yet - there's a new one out at the end of Oct...or maybe I should read the first two *very* quickly so I can have all the backstory I need...decisions, decisions...