The Counterfeit Heiress: A Lady Emily Mystery
Tasha Alexander’s beloved Lady Emily returns here in her ninth escapade. The Lady Emily mysteries reach out to far more than just the feminists among us. As historical cozies, they appeal to a much larger audience. As a bonus, they inform as well as entertain. Toward the end of the 19th century, a woman had many constraints placed upon her, so playing detective, even when accompanying her handsome husband, could be highly problematic. But in THE COUNTERFEIT HEIRESS, once again Lady Emily proves up to the task.
It all started at a wonderful masquerade party hosted by the mistress of Devonshire House. Lady Emily cajoles her husband, Colin Hargreaves, into dressing as Beau Brummell while she costumes herself as Artemis. But when she dances with a gentleman there who seems to mistake her for someone else, she is confused by his brashly caustic remark. It appears there may be two partygoers dressed as Artemis. When the other one is confronted and tries to pass herself off as the elusive heiress Mademoiselle Estella Lamar, long-time acquaintance of Lady Emily’s dear friend Cécile, the imposter flees. Even though she eludes her pursuers, she doesn’t get very far, and her body is found a few hours later a distance from Devonshire House. Did someone want to kill Mademoiselle Lamar or the woman posing as her? Whatever the answer, there is certainly danger afoot.
"Written in period language and nuanced with historical events, THE COUNTERFEIT HEIRESS is every bit as enjoyable as all of Tasha Alexander’s romps into Europe’s past."
Naturally, Cécile becomes most worried, although she must admit that she hasn’t seen her friend, Estella Lamar, in many years. But occasionally, letters have arrived from her since she left Paris to explore the world, and she now sends correspondence from all sorts of exotic locations. Those letters, coupled with photographs of the heiress posing in front of famous landmarks, gives Lady Emily and Cécile hope that Mademoiselle Lamar is truly enjoying her travels and has not met an untimely end. But it also has left them puzzled. When looked at closely, the letters appear to be unmistakably genuine. The murder of the woman posing as the heiress, though, suggests that Mademoiselle Lamar is in grave danger.
Keeping in mind that they are looking for the imposter’s killer, they nonetheless realize it must be intertwined with Mademoiselle Lamar somehow. So Lady Emily, Colin, family friend Jeremy Sheffield (Duke of Bainbridge) and Cécile make the crossing from London to Paris to expand their investigation. Once they start poking around the streets of Paris, it becomes apparent that they’re getting too close to the killer for comfort. Someone has taken to stalking at least one of them, and the threats are flying. Will the Sûreté be of any help? Thankfully, Colin has the backing of the Crown to open doors for them. But he and Jeremy will also need to keep a close eye on the ladies, as they have a tendency to wander into peril almost without a second thought. Lady Emily is fearless.
The horror of what happened to Mademoiselle Lamar will dawn on the reader about the same time as Colin and his wife start to figure it out, too. And the solution is a real stunner! Who would have thought it possible?
Written in period language and nuanced with historical events, THE COUNTERFEIT HEIRESS is every bit as enjoyable as all of Tasha Alexander’s romps into Europe’s past. Lady Emily’s moxie stands out, assuring readers that she must have been based on a woman of extraordinary valor and forethought, a woman far ahead of her time. She and Colin are perfectly paired for sleuthing, and they make this one wild ride.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on October 17, 2014