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England - 1861

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Lady of Ashes

by Christine Trent

What a novel idea - a story featuring a lady undertaker in Victorian England! Violet Morgan, trained by her husband to take part in his mortuary business, finds the job well suited to her interests and talent. Unfortunately, the couple’s increased social status demands that she, as a proper middle class lady, should instead be tending to her household. The popular Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management is constantly dangled before her as are the criticisms of her family. Mystery comes when Violet suspects that some of the decreased she’s dressed have been murdered, and when her husband unbeknownst to her is involved in secret shipments in support of the Southern effort in the American civil War, and, finally, when the orphaned girl she has taken under wing disappears.

Trent’s novels are full of historical details. Information about nineteenth century funeral practices, the lamentable state of women and girls in England’s workhouses, the machinations of official representatives and spies from both the Northern and the Confederate states, and the diplomatic crisis known as the Trent Affair, are just some of the topics covered. Personalities such as Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, Sir William Jenner, Charles Francis, son of John Quincy Adam, as well as others also are brought into the story. Fortunately the author provides full historical notes, including her reason for selecting a Victorian undertaker as her protagonist.

This is the first of the Violet Morgan undertaker series.

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