A Fatal Waltz

A Fatal Waltz would be the third in the "Lady Emily Ashton" series that Tasha Alexander writes. I read the first book because there was something on the cover about "if Jane Austen wrote mysteries" and my mom bought it for me as a joke. I read the second because a friend's father somehow wound up on the cover recommending it (not exactly his type of literature...). I read the third because, having just finished a dreadful book, I needed something that I knew would be fun. And that's exactly what it was, provided that you don't want you fun to come at the cost of thought or energy.

Lady Ashton has succumbed to the suit of Colin Hargreaves (the best friend of her first husband, whose murder formed the focus of the first novel) and the pair are engaged, but somehow, they can't quite manage to make the wedding happen. First, Colin is called away for business (he's a spy dontcha know!) and then the most powerful man in England swears that he'll do all in his power to put an end to it, as he despises Lady Ashton. Well, when he winds up murdered, you'd think that might at least pave the way for the wedding (and provide the basic plot of the novel as Lady Ashton seeks to exonerate her friend's husband, who winds up as the prime suspect), but then the Queen decides that as a favor to Lady Ashton's mother, she will lend the location and her presence... next summer.

I put the basic plot of the novel in parentheses there because I'm not fooling myself... I know why I'm reading these. I like the romance of it all, and the mystery comes second. And it's hard not to put the romance first in this one, because it's not just their cute banter as to when they can get married ("I'm free this afternoon."), but we see a bit of Colin's past as a former flame turns up. She may be married and she may be Austrian, but that only makes her more of a threat to poor Emily, who's worried that she might not measure up to such a glamorous creature... particularly when the woman tells Emily outright that when Colin proposed to *her*, she turned him down because she selflessly didn't want him to become sloppy in his work and risk his life. Despite the melodrama, I was pleased that Colin was given this past love who clearly meant something to him and he doesn't try to deny it. After all, the first novel had the intriguing premise of a young woman who didn't particularly know her husband well, but when he dies, in her search for answers, she finds that she was dearly loved... and she can't help but fall in love with him as well. It was poignant and here, we see Colin allowed to have something, too. I'm not sure I appreciated it when it was blatantly pointed out the phrase being something like "we're both people who've lived" or somesuch, but it leveled the playing field. And lest ye think that the drama ended there, oh no... we've got a case of hopeless love, multiple cases of familial revenge, and a baby on the way whose father might be execute. And the whole murder case thing. We also get to run around Vienna for a while, which is nice if you've been to Vienna so you have visuals for the copious amounts of historical touchstones and location references. Just like tourists now, they couldn't get out of Wien without sampling sachertorte.

I only wish that these books didn't bother to make an appearance in hardcover, as the third novel just made its debut in paperback and the fourth is out, but I simply can't justify the purchase. So if historical romance mystery floats your boat and you enjoyed the first two, then certainly try the third. You won't be surprised by anything that happens, but you'll certainly feel satisfied.

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