Friday, August 14, 2009

A Fatal Waltz by Tasha Alexander

A Fatal Waltz

A Fatal Waltz
by Tasha Alexander

Trade Paperback: 308 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins
First Released: 2008

Author Website

Source: I bought it from Books-A-Million.

Back Cover Description:
At her friend Ivy's behest, Lady Emily Ashton reluctantly agrees to attend a house party at the country estate of Lord Basil Fortescue, a man she finds as personally odious as he is politically powerful. But if she was expecting Lord Fortescue to be the greatest of her problems, she was wrong. Her host has also included Kristiana von Lange among the guests, an Austrian countess who had once been linked romantically with Emily's fiancé, Colin Hargreaves. Both Lord Fortescue and the countess take great delight in tormenting Emily, but petty malice turns deadly serious when Lord Fortescue is found murdered, and his protégé, Robert Brandon - Ivy’s husband - is arrested for the crime.

Emily’s efforts to clear Robert’s name take her to Vienna. Glittering balls, sordid back streets, chic cafes, and even the Imperial palace yield fragmentary clues, but not until Emily engages a notorious anarchist in a game of wits does the shocking truth begin to emerge: The price of exonerating Robert can only be paid by placing Colin in deadly peril. And the one way Emily can ensure his safety is to strike an unthinkable bargain with her nemesis, the Countess von Lange.

A Fatal Waltz is a suspenseful historical mystery and romance set in England and Vienna in the 1890s. This book is the third in the series but is understandable without reading the previous books. However, I'd still recommend you start with the first book in series since each book "spoils" the previous ones and, if you enjoy this one, you'll want to read them, too.

The world-building in this novel was excellent. The historical details were skillfully woven into the story, bringing the world alive in my imagination without slowing the pace. The characters were all interesting and engaging. Emily was occasionally distressingly naive, but only as was accurate to the character.

The novel has an underlying humor that keeps it from getting dark. The complex mystery kept me guessing until the very end, and the ending was satisfying.

I don't recall any cussing, but the anarchist might have sworn once since a point was made that he wasn't religious. There was no sex. Overall, Tasha Alexander delivered an excellent historical mystery once again. I'd highly recommend this book as well-written, clean reading.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Chapter One
I had not noticed it when she first arrived: the way she leaned too far towards him as he kissed her hand, the hint of surprised recognition in his eyes. But having spent an afternoon in the same room as them, watching the effortless manner in which they fell into familiar conversation--two striking individuals against an equally spectacular backdrop--I could not deny that they were more than casual acquaintances. Never had I suspected my fiancé was so close to another woman.

I was accustomed to, and often amused by the parade of young ladies who flirted with Colin Hargreaves at every opportunity. The fact that he looked something like a Greek statue of ideal man--by Praxiteles, of course--made him irresistible to debutantes. His enormous fortune, family lineage that could be traced to the time of William the Conqueror, and a well-tended estate ensured that he was equally attractive to their parents. But until today, I'd never seen him react to a woman the way he did to the Countess von Lange.

“And you know, Schatz, the Baroness Meinz thought that Tintoretto had done the doors of the Duomo in Florence. Can you imagine?” she asked. Schatz? I was shocked to hear her use a term of endearment in such an intimate tone of voice.

“Well, perhaps she's no scholar of art, but--” Colin began.

“Scholar? Darling, she's absolutely hopeless. Why even you know who Tintoretto is, don't you Lady Ashton?”

“Of course,” I said, my lack of knowledge of Renaissance art making it impossible for me to add anything more.

“You understand, I hope, why Tintoretto couldn't have done the doors?” she asked, her green eyes dancing as she looked at me.

“My expertise is in classical art, countess,” I said. “I'm afraid I'm unable to discuss the nuances of the Italian Renaissance.”

“Nuance has nothing to do with it. Tintoretto was a painter. Ghiberti was a sculptor. He did the doors--Michelangelo called them gates of paradise.” She pushed against Colin's arm playfully. “You are going to have to educate her. I can't have you married to someone who's as foolish as the baroness. It would be unconscionable.”

“You've nothing to fear on that count,” he said. “Emily's brilliant.”

“Spoken like a man in love.” She had turned so that her back was almost to me, cutting me out of the conversation.

Read the rest of chapter one.

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