Lady of Ashes by Christine Trent
The main character of this story set in Victorian London is a figure rarely discussed in literature. Violet is an undertaker. Yes, you read that correctly, she is an undertaker. It may be her husband’s business, but she has learned all there is about the trade and has made a name for herself in the funerary business.
This story is chock full of Victoriana culture and history. The Victorians took mourning and all its ceremony and accoutrements very seriously, and you learn a lot about the stages of mourning and such here. Quite fascinating actually. It is also interesting to see the American Civil War from the English perspective.
The only fault I saw in the book was the number of plotlines running through the narrative: the undertaking business, train wrecks, illegal smuggling, the death (and funeral) of a royal, a disappearing husband, a found daughter, and illicit love affairs. Wait! I missed one. A serial killer is at work in London as well. While the serial killer was interesting (and an actual historical person) I think it could have been left out. There was quite enough going on in Violet’s life already!