Lady Emily Ashton has never lacked confidence. In the deft hands of her creator, author Tasha Alexander, this widowed nineteenth-century beauty drinks port with the boys, studies ancient Greek, solves murders (including that of her late husband), and clears the falsely accused. In her latest adventure, Tears of Pearl: A Novel of Suspense, Lady Emily is as stylish as ever, and newly married to the handsome Colin Hargreaves.
After twice refusing Hargreaves’s proposals—the “hard-earned independence” she discovered following the death of her first husband is too precious to relinquish—Lady Emily comes to believe that marriage is, after all, “essential to my happiness.” Alexander’s fifth novel and her fourth in the Lady Emily series, Tears of Pearl opens as the couple journeys East for their honeymoon. A diplomat warns Lady Emily that “travel isn’t all romance,” but Alexander’s well-paced plotting ensure the two are one and the same. Against the backdrop of Constantinople—a world of sultans, spires, and young girls from the harem found murdered in the garden—the couple enjoys what Lady Emily coyly calls the “myriad benefits of married life.”
Alexander’s fans have long been drawn to Lady Emily’s fierce individualism, her smarts, and witty bon mots; she is, as Alexander puts it, a “woman who understood the need to fight for a life of her own, someone who was not bound by a prison of unfair and unjust rules.” In Tears of Pearl, readers will also love Lady Emily’s lifestyle: on the Orient Express, the couple steps “into a dining room … worthy of the best restaurants in Europe. Soft candles flickered with the gentle motion of the train, sending light undulating across the crystal glasses, gold-rimmed porcelain, and damask tablecloths the color of bright moonlight.” Arriving in Constantinople, Lady Emily finds an “exotic dream full of spice and music and beauty” where “the scent of cardamom blew through the streets like a fresh wind.” She smells the Bosphorus Sea and spies in the distance the spires of Topkapi Palace, the Blue Mosque, and Aya Sofya. She marvels at how the “minarets of the holy buildings jutted into the crisp sky” while above her, “gulls circled and dove, careening around the minarets and then pausing to coast on the air, as if catching their breath before darting off again.”
Lady Emily also drinks “hot orange blossom water,” visits the hamam, or baths, to bathe with the concubines, and glimpses life behind the palace walls. Yes, it’s all in the name of justice—finding out who killed a diplomat’s daughter—but Alexander’s rendering of the Ottoman Empire is as intriguing as the whodunit at hand. With its smart dialogue and captivating heroine, Tears of Pearl is a rich escape into the mysterious and the exotic.