Friday, March 25, 2011
At her friend Ivy's behest, Emily reluctantly agrees to attend a party at the sprawling English country estate of Lord Fortescue, a man she finds as odious as he is powerful. But if Emily is expecting Lord Fortescue to be the greatest of her problems, she is wrong. Her host has also invited Kristiana von Lange, an Austrian countess who was once linked romantically with Emily's fiancé, the debonair Colin Hargreaves. What Emily believes will be a tedious evening turns deadly when Fortescue is found murdered, and his protégé, Robert Brandon - Ivy's husband - is arrested for the crime.
Determined to right this terrible wrong and clear Robert's name, Emily begins to dig for answers, a quest that will lead her from London's glittering ballrooms to Vienna's sordid backstreets. Not until she engages a notorious anarchist in a game of wits does the shocking truth begin to emerge: the price of exonerating Robert can be paid only by placing Colin in deadly peril. To save her fiancé, Emily must do the unthinkable: bargain with her nemesis, the Countess von Lange.
I seem to be on an 1890's kick at the moment and Lady Emily Ashton is furthering the cause. Better than the last book in the series, I enjoyed reading of Lady Emily's adventures in Vienna in this third installment in the series. While trying to clear the name of her best friend's husband who has been accused of murder, Emily meets all sorts of interesting people and finds herself in a maze of intrigue. In addition, she must fight the urge to scratch out the eyes of her fiancé's former lover who enjoys tormenting Emily with innuendo that they have resumed their affair. Is it true or not? As usual, I loved the research, styles and settings in this late Victorian mystery that takes place in Cornwall, Vienna and ultimately London.
Now that Lady Emily is engaged to Colin Hargreaves, it makes things a bit sticky. Colin's career is a dangerous one, involved in top secret diplomatic assignments, often aiding the Queen and Her Majesty's government. He is a target to assorted undesirables who would love to stop him and get rid of him once and for all. Colin can take care of himself and is used to danger, but this poses a problem for Lady Emily who worries for him. She's already a widow and naturally doesn't want to lose him! It's inevitable that Colin's love for Emily is going to hinder him in regard to his undercover exploits. His enemies will target Emily to get to him. How will they handle this once they marry? How can Colin be effective when he's worrying about the safety of Emily all the time? Will she be a distraction that will ultimately put him in danger - put him off his guard? Will Colin's career, as we know it, end? Or will they have to just live with the danger and deal with it? Can they be happy together either way?
Unfortunately, Lady Emily has an independent streak that often puts her in danger. But at the same time, she has a good heart and can't say no to a friend in need - especially if it involves a mystery. Her best friend Ivy is in a fix. Ivy's husband, Robert, is in jail accused of killing his mentor, Lord Fortescue, a man considered the most important, but also one of the most hated men in the government. Robert awaits trial at Newgate and Lady Emily goes to Vienna to find out if she can discover who the real murderer is.
The scenes and descriptions of Vienna were wonderful! Emily fits right in and promptly befriends various people. One of whom is an undiscovered and highly charming artist who seems to have a permanent seat at one of the many coffee houses. He helps arrange a meeting with mastermind anarchist, Schroder, who may or may not be in cahoots with another evil mastermind who double-crossed Emily earlier in Cornwall at a house party where the murder took place. He wants to start a world war pitting England against Germany and he wants Colin Hargreaves dead. The more Emily delves into the murder mystery, the more complex it becomes and there are plenty of skeletons in the closet that are revealed. Fortunately, Colin is in Vienna too, but unfortunately, so is the Countess von Lange, Colin's old love. She is a thorn in Emily's side. The Countess is beautiful and provocative - and I hated her! Does Colin still love the Countess? To add to the mess, Lady Emily's old friend, Jeremy Sheffield, Duke of Bainbridge, has decided he's in love - with Emily! (as if we didn't see that one coming!)
I really enjoyed the intrigue involved in A Fatal Waltz and the various threads that were throughout it. It all comes together at the end (I admit, I guessed right about who the killer was) and I am eager to continue with the series. Whereas I was a trifle annoyed with Emily in the last book, I really liked her in this one. She's back in my good graces! Her romance with Colin is at arm's length, even though they are affianced, they remain respectable, no hanky panky and slipping into each other's bedrooms in the middle of the night. But is someone else sneaking into Colin's? Hmmm...
A satisfying and well written historical mystery that scratched my Victorian itch! I recommend it!