Tears of Pearl: A Novel of Suspense Hardcover – Sep 1 2009
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“The forth book of Alexander’s Victorian-era series has a lush setting and beautiful details. . . . The romance and lovely writing sweep the readers along. Emily is a most independent woman for her time. Her voice and the accurate historical details will keep the reader enthralled.”—Romantic Times (4 ½ stars, Top Pick)
“The author deftly handles the exotic setting and a subplot in which Emily worries she may be pregnant.”—Publishers Weekly
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One of the highlights of this book was reliving a trip I made to Istanbul (Constantinople) a few years ago and getting to explore it through someone else's eyes. From a historical standpoint, it was an interesting time period before the fall of the Ottoman Empire and before the country became Turkey. I was able to retrace my own steps through the city and felt like I knew the landmarks of where Lady Emily's adventure took her.
The plot itself is interesting enough: On her honeymoon with her new husband (who, hopefully in book #5, won't disappear in Africa while big game hunting) stumbles into a mystery involving a slain harem girl and her diplomat father. The book contains really interesting descriptions of the life inside a harem, which will probably intrigue and yet disgust readers with our modern day virtues. And Emily's ingenuity and talent as a detective are put to the test as she gets deeper into the mystery.
I know that some people will say - wait, this is the Ottoman empire! How can an English woman run around all willy-nilly and solve a mystery? Well, it's fiction, but based on truth: Lady Paget and other important women who actually did mingle with Sultans. So for the most part, I'm inclined to believe that had Lady Emily existed in real life, she would have been able to do these things (Victorian women were more bound by class than being a woman.)
The only real weakpoint for me in this novel - and this is nitpicking - is that the romance between Emily and Colin needs work. I like Colin as a character, but as a couple, they seem like two people who got bored and decided to get married because they ran out of things to talk about.
Overall it's a 4.5/5 star book. This book will both appeal to readers who are already fans of Miss Alexander's works and those who want to get into the world of a very intrepid Victorian woman.
Lady Emily and Colin Hargreaves are finally married--another plus for this series is that the central relationship has been a key part of the series and has moved along at a fine pace, neither too slow or too fast--prior to the beginning of this fourth novel. (Alexander has a short story of their nuptials available through Amazon and her website if you are a fan and didn't want to miss the event.) Now they are on their honeymoon and of course fall into a mystery of kidnapping, murder and danger. Emily and Colin work together and learn about another culture as they explore Istanbul.
Is this novel the height of excitement? No, but it is intriguing and keeps the reader involved as the mystery takes twists and turns. This is a light historical mystery, well-executed. I'll continue to recommend the series to friends. Best yet, Mom and I will look forward to hopefully a fifth entry in the series.
Tears of Pearl, Tasha Alexander's fourth Lady Emily mystery, was a book I looked forward to reading. Even though I found the third book (A Fatal Waltz) disappointing, I was still enamored enough of the first and second book in the series to pre-order this latest installment. Unfortunately, I found little that appealed to me when it came to the main character. Those who have read the third book may recall that Emily was often compared to that paragon of female beauty and intelligence: Countess von Lange, who was essentially a poisonous, adulterous, conceited woman with an air of supreme superiority ... and she was't even funny. If this was the author's way of telling readers what to expect of Emily's future character development, then I should have taken the author seriously and stopped with the third book.
Emily's character is not so far gone as to be completely intolerable in Tears of Pearl, but I found her grating nonetheless. And this starts immediately in the first chapter on the train: her presumptuousness in thinking that people not so much as WANT her help, but essentially NEED her help, this is what she thinks. Even when she tries to be sympathetic to someone, it comes across as condescending rather than compassionate.
Yes, characters can have faults, but the main character must also speak to the reader in a way that we care about them, that their flaws are just that, a flaw, usually redeemed through some of their better judgment and qualities. Why else should we care about them? Why should we be interested at all in their plight, misery, adventure, internal struggles?
Emily has that sense of self-entitlement that comes with being an upper-class woman, that her morals and judgment are superior to those outside her own class, and especially those whose culture are alien to her own. She walks about Constantinople with a degree of self-importance and ignorance. This is fine if it was any other Victorian upper-class woman, but isn't she supposed to be enlightened ... even just a little? Yet I found her to be a woman with little imagination and unwillingness to even TRY to understand how (in this case) women of a different culture do not think as she does. This kind of narrow thinking completely spoils the book.
Then there is her method of investigating and interviewing various persons-of-interest. Again, her ego gets in the way of things; her stubbornness cloud her judgment when she should be reasonable and rational (which is why she often misses the clue). It's the stereotypical female character who cannot control their emotions and revert all too quickly to self-pity. Emily can't seem to help herself; she must air her opinions to all and sundry, even to those inside the harem who are naturally inclined to be secretive and suspicious. Didn't she stop and think, even for a minute, that imposing her top-lofty ideals may get in the way of the greater good---namely solving a murder? I also found it hard to believe that she would approach the sultan (the sultan!) as if he were an equal! This is where her upbringing should come to the forefront: manners, but she lacks those, too. What has happened to this woman? She is about as subtle as a bull in a china shop.
A little sensitivity, a little common sense and---dare I say---a little humility, would go a long, long way, Lady Emily.
I must point out immediately that I have not read any books by this author before, much less another Lady Emily novel. I did enjoy the setting. I thought it was described in great detail, but not so overly done that it would make the story drag. I also thought the characterization was well done. The characters were not flat, nor were they sterotypical.
On that note, I want to point out that, because I had not read previous novels, I was put off by the constant references of previous novel situations and plots. Characters that had no importance to this story line were interjected through letters or in first person dialogue. I had no idea who or why they were even mentioned and I don't believe it added to this story at all. It became more of a speed bump/hinderence to me and spoiled the story line since I had no background to draw on. I don't think anyone who has read the previous three novels would find a problem in this.