Skip to main content

Review: Tears of Pearl, by Tasha Alexander

Lady Emily Ashton and her husband, Colin Hargreaves, are on their honeymoon to Constantinople, when a girl in the harem, the daughter of an Englishman dies. Lady Emily, at the behest of the English Crown, enters the harem to discover who murdered the girl.

I enjoy reading about the Victorian time period, I really do. I read Tasha Alexander’s first book, And Only to Deceive, and liked it, in a way. The details of Victorian England were well-researched. But here, with the Ottoman Empire, I feel that the author skimped on historical accuracy in order to focus on the exoticness of the location. There was a lot that I found to be in-credible, mainly that Emily as a westerner would be able to come and go in the harem so easily—and that the women there would be so willing to talk to her. Or that a woman of the harem would be able to do what Roxelana tries to do, without any consequences! Also, Emily had free and easy access to the sultan, which wasn’t believable to me, either. I don’t know much about the Ottoman Empire in the late 19th century, so I don’t know if my misgivings about the accuracy are correct or not (for all I know European women took baths frequently with women of the harem). However, I think the author should have at least have attempted a story that seemed realistic.

For all that Emily prides herself on being forward-thinking, she’s still prevented from understanding the players in this particular game by her own narrow views on the Ottoman lifestyle (which she seems to have mostly gleaned from romance novels). And she exhibits no interest in understanding them, either. Even when common sense would dictate that helping Roxelana do what she does is a very, very stupid idea, Emily still assists her. Is it really stupidity on Emily’s part? Or ignorance? In any case, the way that Emily goes about solving the murder of the harem girl is, in her usual way, very single-minded. How can you solve a crime if you don’t even try to understand the people involved?

Nonetheless, I enjoyed the sexual tension between Emily and Colin; they haven’t merely settled down into a life of marital complacency. Things between them are still intriguing and exciting. It’s too bad that the writing seems to have fallen down a bit, because there was a lot of potential here.


Alyce said…
This does sound like it would have been an appealing story if not for the issues you mentioned.
History Buff said…
Katherine and Alyce,

Tasha Alexander has the history right. English women in the nineteenth century did a lot of traveling (solo, in pairs, even without males). And they went to the mid-east, North Africa, and the Orient. We have all sorts of travel books and letters written by them. Just two examples for you. The wife of a British Ambassador to Turkey (he was Lord Layard) was a friend of the Sultan and frequently visited the harem. Lady Ashley Wortley Montagu wrote, among other things, about going to the Turkish baths in Constantinople. And those absolutely fascinating books verify that Lady Emily could have done all those things in Tears of Pearl.

This is a favorite period of mine. I've read a ton about it. I've found Alexander to be extremely careful and accurate. We need to be careful readers and NOT judge on the basis of inaccurate preconceptions about the way things were.

If you want a really good story and also have an easy opportunity to learn about social history, you can rely on Tasha Alexander!

Popular posts from this blog

2015 Reading

1. The Vanishing Witch, by Karen Maitland
2. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
3. Texts From Jane Eyre, by Mallory Ortberg
4. Brighton Rock, by Graham Green
5. Brat Farrar, by Josephine Tey
6. Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert
7. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
8. A Movable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway
9. A Room of One's Own, by Virginia Woolf
10. Other Voices, Other Rooms, by Truman Capote
11. Maggie-Now, by Betty Smith

1. Middlemarch, by George Eliot
2. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
3. Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate, by Cynthia Lee
4. Music For Chameleons, by Truman Capote
5. Peyton Place, by Grace Metalious
6. Unrequited, by Lisa Phillips
7. Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
8. A Lost Lady, by Willa Cather

1. Persuasion, by Jane Austen
2. Love With a Chance of Drowning, by Torre DeRoche
3. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
4. Miss Buncle's Book, by DE Stevenson
5. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garc…

2016 Reading

1. The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
2. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum
3. The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
4. Liar: A Memoir, by Rob Roberge

1. The Forsyte Saga, by John Galsworthy
2. Girl in the Woods, by Aspen Matis
3. She Left Me the Gun, by Emma Brockes
4. Because of the Lockwoods, by Dorothy Whipple
5. The Chronology of Water, by Lidia Yuknavitch
6. To Show and to Tell, by Philip Lopate

1. Fierce Attachments, by Vivian Gornick
2. Too Brief a Treat, by Truman Capote
3. On the Move: a Life, by Oliver Sacks
4. The Go-Between, by LP Hartley
5. The Art of Memoir, by Mary Karr
6. Giving Up the Ghost, by Hilary Mantel
7. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
8. The Great American Bus Ride, by Irma Kurtz
9. An Unquiet Mind, by Kay Radfield Jamison
10. A Widow's Story, by Joyce Carol Oates
11. So Sad Today, by Melissa Broder
12. The Liar's Club, by Mary Karr
13. An American Childhood, by Annie Dillard
14. So Sad Today, by Melissa Broder

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Pages: 972Originally published: 1944My edition: 2000 (Chicago Review Press)How I acquired my copy:, 2004

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is…