Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Blog Tour, Review & Giveaway: Lady of Ashes by Christine Trent (CLOSED)

Lady of Ashes by Christine Trent
February 2013
Format: ARC Paperback, 404 pages

First line: Violet Morgan often wondered why she was so skilled at dressing a corpse, yet was embarrassingly incompetent in the simplest household task, such as selecting draperies or hiring housemaids.

Synopsis:  In 1861 London, Violet Morgan is struggling to establish a good reputation for the undertaking business that her husband has largely abandoned. She provides comfort for the grieving, advises them on funeral fashion and etiquette, and arranges funerals.

Unbeknownst to his wife, Graham, who has nursed a hatred of America since his grandfather soldiered for Great Britain in the War of 1812, becomes involved in a scheme to sell arms to the South. Meanwhile, Violet receives the commission of a lifetime: undertaking the funeral for a friend of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. But her position remains precarious, especially when Graham disappears and she begins investigating a series of deaths among the poor. And the closer she gets to the truth, the greater the danger for them both…

My thoughts: I have really come to look forward to each of Christine Trent's books and this one was definitely no exception! I've read each of her books and always come away with the sense that I have not only just read an interesting and enjoyable book, but have learned a lot. And now, she is writing a series - this is the first of what is going to be a historical mystery series...I cannot wait to read the next one!!!

Lady of Ashes takes us into the world of undertaking in Victorian London. Not only is it highly unusual that a woman has taken on a job in this profession, but it is also a time when embalming is not in regular practice. Violet Morgan came in to the field when she met and married her husband, Graham. It becomes apparent that she has really taken to the field of undertaking, taking care with the proper care of the dead for burial and also helping the grieving family members cope. She does, however, seem to lack the basic skills of domestic housekeeping - having trouble taking care of her own home.

I loved getting an inside look into the world of undertaking and even the death customs during this time period. I admit that I knew virtually nothing about either and was fascinated with all that I learned. I had no idea that people hired mourners for funeral processions to show their elevated status - who would ever have thought that was a common practice? I also was amazed to learn that pall-bearers must be around the same age of the deceased, even if the deceased was a child. And the idea that all the clocks in a house were stopped at the time of a person's death is quite interesting...how long were the clocks kept this way?  

I loved just about all the characters that were introduced in this book. I felt that Violet and even her friend Mary were strong, independent women striving to survive in a male-dominated world. I enjoyed reading about the Adams and even Harper - although I have to admit at times I was confused as to his motives in his dealings with Violet. I did not like the character of Graham, Violet's husband. He just rubbed me the wrong way almost from the first time we meet him. 

There are several plots going on in the book. There's the story of the undertaking and how Violet and Morgan Undertaking deals with death. There's also the unsavory business venture that Graham and his brother get involved with, planning to use the funeral business as a front to get to their ultimate goal. This leads to the two of them coming under the watch of the US diplomats living in Britain and winds up causing Violet many problems down the road. Then there's the mystery surrounding the mysterious deaths of some of Violet's clients. All these help to keep you glued to the book as you get little cliff hangers as the book switches between the different plots.

Between the look inside death customs in Victorian London and the bit of American history we get throughout this book, I got quite an education! I love that Christine Trent has included some of the research she came across about Victorian era funerals and undertaking on her website. I also thought it was funny that she included the Trent Affair in her book solely because it was an event that occurred during the Civil War that happened to bear her last name. Who wouldn't want to do that?

One of the things I love best about Christine Trent's books is that she gives us a look into the trades that women in the past have been involved in. She thoroughly researches her books and the end result is a remarkable read that leaves you wanting more - not only more of her writing, but more about the topic of the book. I think that is a huge compliment to the author and their skill of crafting an engaging story.

About the author:  Christine Trent writes historical fiction from her two-story home library.  She lives with her wonderful bookshelf-building husband, four precocious cats, a large doll collection, entirely too many fountain pens, and over 4,000 fully cataloged books.  She and her husband are active travelers and journey regularly to England to conduct book research at historic sites.

Christine Trent's novels include The Queen's Dollmaker, A Royal Likeness and By the King's Design.

For more information, please visit Christine Trent's website.  You can also find her on Facebook.

Be sure to check out all the other stops on the blog tour and follow the tour on Twitter (hashtag:   #LadyOfAshesVirtualTour).

I received a complimentary copy of Lady of Ashes by Christine Trent from Amy at Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

Giveaway Information (CLOSED):
Thanks to Amy at Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours I have one copy of Lady of Ashes to give away to my readers. 


  • Open internationally
  • Must include email address to enter 

* Mandatory entry - Tell me why you want to read this book. 

* Extra entry #1 - become a follower of Always With a Book. If you are already a follower you will automatically receive the bonus entries (just leave the name you follow under).  

* Extra entry #2 - please help spread the word by blogging, posting on sidebar, tweeting, pinning onto Pinterest or posting this giveaway on Facebook (each way you share gets you 1 more entry).  

All entries can be in one email - but you MUST include email address or no entry

Good Luck!!! 



  1. I have been stalking this blog tour, this book sounds so intriguing! I love all things Victorian England and mystery....I also love the idea of a female undertaker! What a unique concept! I'm in!
    Email addy: thelitbitch [at] me [dot] com

  2. I don't think I've seen a negative review of this book anywhere. The premise is fascinating and I can't wait to read it. Thanks for offering it as a giveaway!

    I follow in Google Reader.


  3. Just thinking that her character was a woman undertaker, during those times, made me think that the story would be very interesting to read. I love heroine who are headstrong woman. Thank your for the giveaway. I ask to be your friend on Goodreads, and do my best to promote! Thanks for the giving away your omplimentary copy of Lady of Ashes by Christine. I also follow by newsletter and Google

  4. I tweeted: http://www.facebook.com/?ref=tn_tnmn

    I am fascinated by this time period and that the main character is a female undertaker!


  5. I like when a book has a strong female character, especially in this time frame.
    mtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

    -email subscriber
    -GFC follower
    -Facebook fan

  6. I'll be honest. I want to read this book because the cover is freaking gorgeous! ;)

  7. I love dark books and YA. This fits both those criteria.

    I follow via email: mestith at gmail dot com
    GFC: Meghan Stith
    FB: Meghan Stith

  8. Thanks so much for the giveaway. I love great HF, this one seems to really fit this category, that's why I want to read it.
    ehc16e at yahoo dot com
    I follow u through RSS Feed [Emma Cazabonne].
    and here is my tweet:

  9. i would enjoy Lady of Ashes, as i love historical fictions!!!

    i shared on my FB wall, www.facebook.com/cyn209

    i follow via GFC as Cyn209

    cyn209 at juno dot com

  10. Like you I found the world of undertaking fascinating and I really enjoy Christine's strong female characters. Great review!

  11. This book sounds so good! I cannot wait to read it! I love historical fiction but have not come across a female undertaker as a main character before...very interesting!

  12. I shared on Facebook (reshared the link Carol Wong posted): http://www.facebook.com/carol.n.wong?ref=ts&fref=ts#!/candc320/posts/588253397854553.

  13. I've read good reviews for this book. I like the Victorian setting.

    I am a follower (Nise")



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