Desert Isle Keeper
A Terrible Beauty
A Terrible Beauty, the eleventh entry in the Lady Emily series, returns to a pivotal event that occurred prior to the first book: the death of Lady Emily’s first husband Lord Philip Ashton. Over the course of the series Lady Emily has gone from being a recent widow to being a respected Greek scholar, and is a strong-minded, independent woman. She also fell in love with, and married Colin Hargreaves, Philip’s best friend, and a special agent for the government.
Colin and Emily head to Santorini with two of their friends. When they arrive at Emily’s villa, they learn Philip has returned. While there are eventually murders and other mysteries to solve, the central mystery is: Is this really Philip? Both Emily and Colin are skeptical initially, but the man knows things only the real Philip would know, and has scars matching Philip’s. Emily isn’t sure. She had only a superficial knowledge of Philip prior to their marriage, and he left almost immediately after their honeymoon to hunt in Africa.
The narrative switches back and forth between Emily’s and Philip’s perspective, with Emily’s chapters occurring in the present as she and Colin attempt to solve the mystery of Philip as well as a series of unsettling occurrences on the island. Those from Philip’s perspective provide information about where he’s been, without revealing if the man is Philip or not.
I’ve been a fan of the Lady Emily series since reading the first book, And Only to Deceive, but was nervous about the plot of A Terrible Beauty. I love Colin and Emily’s relationship. They’re each bright and a bit stubborn, but they adore and respect each other. Their feelings never waiver, as each makes it clear they will not lose the other, no matter whether the man is Philip or not. As a side benefit, I love the author’s descriptions of 1899 Santorini, so different from the tourist-filled island of today.
If you haven’t read any in the series, I would suggest you start back at the beginning, as I believe this book will have far less impact if you do not know Emily, Colin, and Philip’s full history.
Grade: A- Sensuality: Subtle