There's something fun about discovering an author for the very first time. When I finish the new find, I'm always happy to know that more is waiting for me. This is how I felt after reading A CRIMSON WARNING by Tasha Alexander. I enjoyed the book, and learning that it's part of a series made me happy to know that I would have more chances to peek in on Lady Emily Hargreaves's Victorian London.
Lady Emily is anticipating the delights of the season: the balls, her involvement in lobbying for the right to vote, and, of course, time with her favorite Greek books. At one of the season's first events, Lady Emily is happily dancing away the evening with her husband Colin, looking for an opportunity to sneak out so they can spend some time alone when a fight breaks out among two men. It turns out that an affair has been exposed, and they are arguing over ladies at the party. Suddenly, Colin, an agent of the crown, is called away on urgent business. Emily heads home with friends to discuss the eventful evening. When Colin arrives, it is with sad news: a well-known businessman has been murdered. His fiancée is devastated, but it's when she starts receiving threatening notes from the person who claims to have killed her soon-to-be husband that Emily and Colin start investigating.
Days later, red paint is found splashed on the homes of some of London's most well-to-do. The paint is a warning, and secrets are revealed shortly after, leaving some in London to revel in the disclosures, and others to fear for their lives and what will be revealed about them. When two of society's ladies are kidnapped, the season that held so much promise for fun is now filled with fear.
Lady Emily is far from the standard lady of the day. While she enjoys the pleasures of the season, it's her work lobbying for a woman's right to vote that riles her mother, a more straightforward Victorian lady, to no end. She's also smart and extremely well-educated, which keeps her highly active in her husband's affairs with the crown. And he's willing to keep her involved even when others think he's wrong to do so. Their relationship is certainly more open than most at the time, which is one of the reasons this novel is fun. There is also romance here, but it's not overwhelming and blends in nicely with the story. As a non-romance reader, I was slightly worried that it would overtake the plot, so I was happily surprised with the balance that was struck.
While I loved Colin and Lady Emily's investigation, what I enjoyed even more was the setting. Tasha Alexander does a wonderful job with the details, creating interesting ladies and a picture of Victorian England that is easy to be swept up in. I do wish Lady Emily's mother played a larger role here --- she was quite the interesting character and obviously one very different from Emily. It would have been fun to see more of their interactions.
As a reader of many historical fiction titles, this is one author I'll be returning to for a dose of fun mixed with a great historical setting. She does a fantastic job of weaving together interesting characters with a mystery to keep you wondering what secrets are buried deep in the closets of high society. If you like a little mystery mixed with your historical fiction, Tasha Alexander will not disappoint.
Reviewed by Amy Gwiazdowski