2005, Historical Mystery
Harper, $13.95, 320 pages, Amazon ASIN 006114844X Part of a series
And Only to Deceive is the first entry in Tasha Alexander’s Victorian era suspense/mystery series featuring Lady Emily Ashton. Since it came out in 2005, I have read it at least once a year. I absolutely adore this book.
Lady Emily Ashton’s husband Philip died one year earlier. Emily never had any desire to marry, as she thought married women lived boring lives. Nevertheless, to escape her mother, she accepted Phillip's proposal. As far as Emily was concerned, Phillip’s one redeeming feature was that he left almost immediately after their honeymoon to go big game hunting in Africa. When he died there, Emily felt not grief, but relief; after all, she barely knew the man. Emily has no desire to marry again and instead begins to revel in the freedom her widowed state allows.
Emily gradually discovers more about her dead husband. She’s surprised to learn that he loved Greece, had a villa on Santorini, and donated numerous Greek artifacts to the British Museum. She begins to fall a little in love with him, but she is far more in love with some of his interests. Emily begins studying the classics and making frequent visits to the British Museum, where she stumbles upon a scheme involving forged artifacts.
As Emily attempts to learn more about her husband and the forgeries, two attractive friends of her husband pursue her. The men provide her with conflicting information about her husband and she’s not sure who to trust.
This is primarily an exploration of Emily and how she wants to live her life. I loved watching her realize that as a widow, she has more freedom than she had living with her parents or during her brief marriage. I truly enjoyed watching Emily stretch and grow and, at times, shock her friends and family. We learn about Phillip right along with Emily through short entries from his journal interspersed between chapters.
One hallmark of the series that I enjoy is Emily’s travels to different European locations. In this book, Emily goes from London, to Paris, rural England, and eventually to Santorini. I loved traveling along with her, seeing the Louvre, the Jardin des Tuileries, and other sites through her eyes.
We’re introduced to a number of interesting secondary characters as well. Many of them have prominent roles not only in this book, but also in the remainder of the series.
This isn’t an action-packed thriller; the focus is on the characters, and the slow unraveling of several mysteries. If you’re looking for suspense or mystery with lots of action, this isn’t the book for you. While not technically a romance, there’s a romantic thread that begins here, and grows nicely through the next two books.
This book has so many things that I like: An intelligent heroine, interesting secondary characters, information on archaeology and classics, and settings in places I love. To be honest, the only reason I gave it an A- instead of an A, is because I like the third entry in the series – A Fatal Waltz – even more. If you enjoy mysteries in a historical setting, with a romantic thread, I can heartily recommend this book.
-- LinnieGayl Kimmel
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