A Cold Highland Wind (Lady Emily Ashton Mysteries: Book 17) by Tasha Alexander

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, Minotaur Books

Date of publication: October 3rd, 2023

Genre: Mystery, Historical Fiction, Fiction, Scotland, Mystery Thriller, Historical Mystery, Historical

Series: Lady Emily Ashton Mysteries

And Only to Deceive—Book 1

A Poisoned Season—Book 2

A Fatal Waltz—Book 3

The Bridal Strain: Emily and Colin’s Wedding—Book 3.5

Tears of Pearl—Book 4

Dangerous to Know—Book 5

A Crimson Warning—Book 6

Death in the Floating City—Book 7

Behind Shattered Glass—Book 8

The Counterfiet Hieress—Book 9

Star of the East—Book 9.5

The Adventuress—Book 10

That Silent Night: A Lady Emily Christmas Story—Book 10.5

A Terrible Beauty—Book 11

Death in St. Petersburg—Book 12

Amid the Winter’s Snow—Book 12.5

Uneasy Lies the Crown—Book 13

Upon the Midnight Clear—Book 13.5

In the Shadow of Vesuvius—Book 14

The Dark Heart of Florence—Book 15

Secrets of the Nile—Book 16

A Cold Highland Wind—Book 17

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

In this new installment of Tasha Alexander’s acclaimed Lady Emily series set in the wild Scottish highlands, an ancient story of witchcraft may hold the key to solving a murder centuries later.

Lady Emily, husband Colin Hargreaves, and their three sons eagerly embark on a family vacation at Cairnfarn Castle, the Scottish estate of their dear friend Jeremy, Duke of Bainbridge. But a high-spirited celebration at the beginning of their stay comes to a grisly end when the duke’s gamekeeper is found murdered on the banks of the loch. Handsome Angus Sinclair had a host of enemies: the fiancée he abandoned in Edinburgh, the young woman who had fallen hopelessly in love with him, and the rough farmer who saw him as a rival for her affections. But what is meaning of the curious runic stone left on Sinclair’s forehead?

Scotland, 1676. Lady MacAllister, wife of the Laird of Cairnfarn Castle, suddenly finds herself widowed and thrown out of her home. Her sole companion is a Moorish slave girl who helps her secretly spirit out her most prized possessions from the castle: her strange books. Her neighbors are wary of a woman living on her own, and when a poppet—a doll used to cast spells—and a daisy wheel are found in her isolated cottage, Lady MacAllister is accused of witchcraft, a crime punishable by death.

Hundreds of years later, Lady Emily searches for the link between Lady MacAllister’s harrowing witchcraft trial and the brutal death of Sinclair. She must follow a trail of hidden motives, an illicit affair, and a mysterious stranger to reveal the dark side of a seemingly idyllic Highland village.

First Line:

At first glance, blood doesn’t stand out on tartan. At least not on the tartan worn by the dead man sprawled next to a loch on a Highland estate of my dear friend Jeremy Sheffield, Duke of Bainbridge.

A Cold Highland Wind by Tasha Alexander

Lady Emily, her husband, and their three sons are vacationing at their friend’s castle in Scotland. On the first night there, the body of the gamekeeper is found murdered on the beach of the adjoining loch. And curiously, there is a runic stone sitting on his forehead. Who killed the gamekeeper and why? And what is the connection between a former Moorish slave, the former lady of the castle, and a trial for witchcraft in 1676 and the murder in 1905?

I am a sucker for Scotland and will buy/read any book set there. So, when I saw this book in the SMP Influencer email, I accepted the invite. I didn’t know (mainly because I didn’t pull it up on Goodreads) that this was the 17th book in the series. I admit I had second thoughts about reading it. But the lure of Edwardian-era Scotland was too big of a pull, and I dove right in.

A Cold Highland Wind is the 17th book in the Lady Emily Ashton Mystery series. Yes, you read that right, book 17. But, surprisingly, readers can read this book as a stand-alone. There are mentions of past cases that stay just mentions.

A Cold Highland Wind is a slow-paced book. I tend to read books relatively fast; this book took me two days to read. But, the slow pace worked. There were parts of the book where I wanted it to move more quickly, but that was just me.

The first storyline centers on Lady Emily’s investigation into the gamekeeper’s death. This well-written storyline had me guessing who killed the gamekeeper (and the housekeeper later in the book). She was a thorough investigator who left no stone unturned during the investigation. The lead-up to the big confession was heartbreaking (for all involved), but what happened after shook me. I was teary-eyed at the end of that storyline.

The second storyline held my attention more than the first one. It follows Tansy (or Tasnim), Rosslyn, and a witchcraft trial. Again, this was a well-written storyline. But Tansy’s plight kept my attention more than the 1905 storyline. She was kidnapped, sold as an enslaved person, suffered unimaginable situations, and ended up in Scotland. I was astonished at how this storyline ended up. From how it began and what it ended up as was different from what I expected.

The characters in A Cold Highland Wind were interesting. I liked that Lady Emily and Tansy bucked the traditional perceptions of women of their times. I did find some of the secondary characters a little flat, but they weren’t the ones that were important.

The author keeps the two storylines separate for the entire book. They are only connected at the end of the book when Lady Emily’s friend mentions items prevalent in the second storyline.

The mystery angle of A Cold Highland Wind was terrific. The author did a great job of keeping me guessing what would happen in the 1676 and 1905 storyline. With 1676, I expected the last half of the storyline to go differently than it did. I thought it was going to go another way. In the 1905 storyline, I did not expect the killer to be who he was or what that person did. As I stated above, I was distraught by what happened and got teary-eyed.

The end of A Cold Highland Wind was typical. The author wrapped up both storylines and connected them. I liked how she left enough room to wonder if another book would be.

I recommend A Cold Highland Wind to anyone over 16. There is violence and a very mild sex scene but no language.

Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press, Minotaur Books, NetGalley, and Tasha Alexander for allowing me to read and review A Cold Highland Wind. All opinions stated in this review are mine.

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