Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily series is, without a doubt, my favorite book series of my adult life. Lady Emily Hargreaves is a Victorian aristocrat, pushing the boundaries of society as a woman in a world where ladies of means are expected to marry, bear children, and manage their husband’s estate by becoming a notorious investigator in her own right, solving numerous murders across England and the continent. A huge lover of ancient Greece, literature, fashion, and her husband, the famously handsome Colin Hargreaves, Emily and I have much in common. In the month of January alone, I have read five Emily books and two novellas.
Needless to say, I am now playing catch up, as I haven’t been able to write my reviews as fast as I’ve devoured these books!
My first Lady Emily read of 2020 was the eighth installment, BEHIND THE SHATTERED GLASS. This, like so many other books on my “Currently Reading” shelf, was a title I began last year and never got around to finishing. 2019 was a busy year, what with starting my graduate degree, and I lost track of several books, BEHIND THE SHATTERED GLASS being one of them.
Initially, I began reading this one on April 11, 2019. I picked back up with it around Christmas in December, just over eight months later, and finished the book on January 3, 2020. I gave this title 5 stars because, overall, I enjoyed the story and the social issues Alexander laced within the text. However, now that I’ve had some time to sit on it, I do have some points to revisit.
Set in Derbyshire, England, at Colin’s family estate, the Hargreaveses–now grown by three since Emily has given birth to twins, and the couple adopted the child of the murderess in the last book–settle in for a comfortable autumn in the country. The idyllic scenery is quickly thrown into chaos when their neighbor, the Marquess of Montagu, stumbles through their door bleeding. The Marquess proclaims Murder! Before subsequently dying on the Hargreaveses’ floor. Naturally, Emily and Colin spring to action, bent on bringing the murderer to justice.
Except that’s not necessarily what happens.
For the sake of this review, I will divulge the ending, as really, I can’t review it without talking about that. Spoiler warning from here on out!
Throughout the story, Emily uncovers more and more evidence that the former Marquess is, to put it plainly, a scumbag. He has a history of “trifling” with women of a lower class, in many instances absolutely ruining them. It becomes very clear that whatever happened to this guy, he deserved it.
Throughout the story, we also follow the story of a maid in the Hargreaveses’ employ named Lily. Lily is a good employee, a virtuous young woman, and is being courted by a friend of Colin’s who is staying at Anglemore Park with the family. This unorthodox relationship takes up a significant portion of the story, with the romance on Lily’s mind and Emily’s as well. Everything seems to be going well for Lily while Emily works to solve the murder.
Then the end of the book comes and, as is so frequently the case in Emily’s stories, the pace picks up as new theories and evidence present themselves to our heroine. It is revealed in the final chapters that Lily, in fact, was the murderess all along. The Marquess of Montagu found her outside looking at the moon, shortly after being rejected by another woman–the Vicar’s daughter, another low-ranking woman he could trifle with. In his rage and, presumably drunkenness since he was killed during a party at his home, he tried to assault Lily, who defended herself by striking him with a rock.
Upon learning this, Emily and Colin do not seek to have their murderer brought to Scotland Yard for trial. Instead, they build their own case against the Marquess, working up a defense for Lily to spare her punishment. In the end, Lily is spared and Emily makes arrangements with her mother-in-law to change Lily’s position so that she may be courted more openly by Colin’s friend.
My biggest qualm with this story, particularly the ending, was how neatly everything was tied up at the end. I enjoy this series so much because Emily is relatable and the stories are realistic, but this was by far the least realistic ending I’ve read in this series so far. Not that I wasn’t thrilled by it–I was; the Marquess absolutely deserved what came to him and Lily deserved happiness after surviving such a terrible attack–but it all felt too neat. The more I think about it, the more I don’t know how to feel about the ending.
Regardless, though, I stand by my initial five-star rating. The mystery was interesting and the confession was satisfying, and seeing Emily as a mother is something I’ve been dying to see since TEARS OF PEARL, the fourth installment in which Emily suffers a miscarriage after being attacked by another murderer. All in all, I did love this book. I’ll continue to grapple with my feelings on the ending for the foreseeable future, though.