3 out of 5 fatal stars
This is the 3rd book in the Lady Emily series.
When you’ve established a mystery series with a smart, independent woman, that woman must remain smart. I get that Emily is a bit reckless and impetuous at times, because she believes so thoroughly in her own intelligence…. however, our girl Lady Emily does something I would expect of a TSTL (too stupid to live) girl in her first season. She trusts a man she just met and gets involved in a sketchy plot against her enemy, Lord Fortescue, that can lead to nothing but her downfall. I mean, girl, do not trust a man you don’t know while you are in the lion’s den! Even the way it was written and handled, it felt like the author was embarrassed and knew she was doing something stupid. The confrontation scene was half a page. It was so quickly done, and there was really no reaction by Colin, her fiancee, I read it twice to see if I missed something. It happens at the beginning of the story and puts her in Fortescue’s clutches. Sadly, I was so disgusted by this blunderous(tm) plot point, I had to knock the rating down a star.
I also felt this one was just too convoluted and repetitive. The man who draws Emily into the clumsy plot at the beginning is Mr. Harrison. He continues on as our villain and I felt he was overused as a plot point. I was also frustrated at the end of the story to realize the big trip to the continent was pointless. I love Vienna and the Viennese flavor of the story but it was totally unnecessary. There is this whole thing with a pair of shooting pistols that made no sense.
That said, I have long been in favor of Lord Fortescue’s death. This is no spoiler – it gleefully informed us in the blurb. I did a happy dance. I mean, it’s pretend. I can wish a pretend character to the depths of hell. Especially when that’s where he belongs. The situation is kinda of like Gosford Park. If you haven’t see it, please do. Basically, there’s a shooting party at Lord Fortescue’s country manor, and Ivy has asked Emily to attend with her fiancee, Colin. Fortescue is a powerful asshole in politics, and Robert, who is Ivy’s husband (Ivy is Emily’s best friend from childhood) is under his thumb. Fortescue feels it’s his duty to tell everyone what to do and often uses blackmail to do it. Robert does something that displeases Fortescue, so Fortescue publicly humiliates him and banishes him from his house. Then, being the jerk he is, he goes and gets hisself dead.
Robert is immediately arrested and everyone forgets how much they hated Fortescue when he was alive. There is nothing the British public and fashionable society loves more than turning on one of their own. Robert is dragged through the mud. And it’s not just the murder! There is some paperwork missing from Fortescue’s office so he is also being held for treason. This will ruin his poor wife as well. With nowhere to turn, and despite his misgivings about Emily’s modern ways, Robert begs her to help clear his name.
What bothers me is that they KNEW Harrison was after those papers. He was the obvious one to suspect, despite the fact he had an alibi for the murder. But what if he’d gotten the papers after the murder? There is also a lot of drama roiling in Germany and Austria and the papers had something to do with that. Instead of going after Harrison, Colin just highs off to Austria. Sigh. I mean, he’s the fiancee of the accused’s best friend. England is the home and high capital of nepotism, it’s all about who you know – how could he not have been involved? Well, it was too convenient for Emily to do it.
Again for diversity, there really isn’t any – it’s all rich whiteys. We do have a mention of a gay man in and amongst all the convoluted drama, and the writer and main character was respectful of that situation and not homophobic, whereas obviously, everyone else in society was.
Despite the convenient nature of the plot points, I still really enjoy this series. The side characters, the group of smart, independent women all around Emily are just a joy. But of course, there are still too many and they don’t always have much to do, so they rotate out.