Miss Bates is familiar with Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily mystery series. She read the first few, And Only To Deceive, A Poisoned Season, maybe A Fatal Waltz. The Adventuress is tenth (!) in the series and Alexander’s tried-and-true formula is evident. Reminiscent of Raybourn’s Lady Julia series, Alexander’s series introduces a widowed, precocious Victorian lady-sleuth who finds love and romance and displays her sharp sleuthing skills with each novel. Miss Bates abandoned both Victorian “Ladies” because of romance dearth, despite dashing heroes. This tenth novel finds Emily at the French Riviera with beloved agent-for-the-Crown husband and sleuthing partner, Colin Hargreaves, celebrating the engagement of best friend Jeremy Sheffield, Duke of Bainbridge, to American heiress, the eponymous “adventuress,” Amity Wells. Jeremy, Emily, and Colin are part of quite a party: Amity’s crass parents; peevish, unsavory brother Augustus; Margaret and Cécile, Emily’s friends; Jack, Jeremy’s brother; Cristabel, Amity’s friend; and, Misters Neville and Fairchild, Jeremy’s bosom pals. Amidst luxury hotels stays, celebratory dinners, and site-seeing, murder mystery arrives when Mr. Neville is found, an apparent suicide, in Jeremy’s room. Emily soon suspects more nefarious reasons for Mr. Neville’s death. Was Chauncey Neville the murderer’s target, or was the poisoned whiskey meant for Jeremy?
Miss Bates took a whole week to slog through Alexander’s murder mystery. Picture her in a variety of desultory poses on her reading couch, frowning, scowling, sighing, or eye-rolling. She is done with Lady Emily and her stiff-for-the-proprieties Colin. Miss Bates is not a fan of first-person narration (though she forgives Charlotte Brontë, Mary Stewart, Susanna Kearsley, and Simone St. James for using it. Because LOVE). First-person narration is not The Adventuress‘s sin: it is garbled, however, by frequent mid-chapter forays into third-person narration that follow Amity’s POV and make for a disjointed narrative. Miss Bates couldn’t figure out hide nor hair for this, but it could also follow that Miss Bates is dense.
Even the peculiar dissonance of narrative perspectives could’ve been overlooked were it not, says Miss B., for odious characters. Amity Wells is a spoiled bitch and no one calls her on it. The English characters, such as Emily and Colin, treat her with a stiff, indulgent politeness, or slavishly trip over themselves to apologize to her for every perceived slight. Jeremy is a great big DOOB. Most of the time, Emily, Colin, BFs included, are rich people being catty together. Moreover, Miss Bates figured out the solution to the mystery by chapter five. On a suspense level, The Adventuress is meh. Miss Bates’ favourite moment came when Birdie, Amity’s mother, slapped her. The writing was clear, but uninspired; the dialogue, wooden. However, Miss Bates liked the setting quite a bit, so reading it wasn’t a total loss. Miss Bates has no doubt The Adventuress has its fans and Lady Emily her followers. Nevertheless, Miss Bates will say with Canadian politeness and in company with her alter ego, Jane Austen, “it had a high claim to forbearance,” Emma.
Tasha Alexander’s The Adventuress is published by Minotaur Books. It was released on October 13th, 2016, and fans of the series may find it at their preferred vendors. Miss Bates received an e-ARC from Minotaur Books, via Netgalley.