Source: Publisher via Edelweiss
Genre: Historical Romantic Suspense
Karen Odden’s enthralling debut historical mystery transports readers to Victorian England, where a terrifying railway disaster plunges a headstrong young noblewoman into a conspiracy that reaches to the highest corridors of power.
Following a humiliating fourth Season in London, Lady Elizabeth Fraser is on her way back to her ancestral country estate when her train careens off the rails and bursts into flames. Though she is injured, she manages to drag herself and her unconscious mother out of the wreckage, and amid the chaos that ensues, a brilliant young railway surgeon saves her mother’s life. Elizabeth feels an immediate connection with Paul Wilcox—though society would never deem a medical man eligible for the daughter of an earl.
After Paul reveals that the train wreck was no accident, and the inspector who tried to prevent it dies under mysterious circumstances, Elizabeth undertakes a dangerous investigation of her own that leads back to her family’s buried secrets. The more she learns, the more she must risk. Not only are her dowry and her reputation at stake; Paul’s very life hangs in the balance when he is arrested for manslaughter. As the trial draws near, and Parliament prepares for a vote that will change the course of the nation, Elizabeth uncovers a conspiracy that has been years in the making. But time is running out for her to see justice done.
I love Victorian era novels be it fantasy, romance, or in this case, a mystery. A LADY IN THE SMOKE started with a tragic railroad accident which turned into a malpractice/murder lawsuit against Paul, the doctor who helped Lady Elizabeth Fraser and her mother survive that night. Out of gratitude and justice to the wrongly accused, Elizabeth pooled her resources to help Paul's defense. As the investigation progressed Elizabeth discovered that it was no accident and Paul's case is but a diversion in a bigger and more nefarious plot that involves Elizabeth's family directly. Elizabeth uncovered layers of betrayal, manipulation, and revenge that led to her father's death and now continues to threaten her future.
The historical aspect of A LADY IN THE SMOKE is well done and very gritty. There's the usual affluence attached to the aristocracy that can be seen here and the class division is very stark. The setting focused more on the differences between the classes than on the landscape and other circumstance.
I didn't care much for the romance between Paul and Elizabeth as they didn't display a flaming attraction for each other. Also, their pairing is so downplayed I was a little surprised when they started showing signs of affection. I feel like this is a missed opportunity because it could've roused more emotions from me if only the author invested more page time building the romance between the two. Elizabeth is a Lady and Paul a surgeon, an improper relationship at this time, a perfect set up for a tense filled romance. And it doesn't have to be fiery, they just have to go through the "motions" for it to be convincing.
The mystery suspense in A LADY IN SMOKE is its strongest suit. This is where all the plotting went to and its very well done. The author took her time in building the case, revealing clues here and there leading to some shocking revelations motivated by money, revenge, and decades-old grudges.
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