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And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander

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diamondlil
Bibliomaniac

And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander

Postby diamondlil » Sun August 31st, 2008, 9:32 pm

For Emily, accepting the proposal of Philip, the Viscount Ashton, was an easy way to escape her overbearing mother, who was set on a grand society match. So when Emily's dashing husband died on safari soon after their wedding, she felt little grief. After all, she barely knew him. Now, nearly two years later, she discovers that Philip was a far different man from the one she had married so cavalierly. His journals reveal him to have been a gentleman scholar and antiquities collector who, to her surprise, was deeply in love with his wife. Emily becomes fascinated with this new image of her dead husband and she immerses herself in all things ancient and begins to study Greek.

Emily's intellectual pursuits and her desire to learn more about Philip take her to the quiet corridors of the British Museum, one of her husband's favorite places. There, amid priceless ancient statues, she uncovers a dark, dangerous secret involving stolen artifacts from the Greco-Roman galleries. And to complicate matters, she's juggling two very prominent and wealthy suitors, one of whose intentions may go beyond the marrying kind. As she sets out to solve the crime, her search leads to more surprises about Philip and causes her to question the role in Victorian society to which she, as a woman, is relegated.


In my review of Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn, I mentioned that just lately it has seemed as though I have been reading a lot of mysteries that seem to have similar settings and characters (i.e young women who become amateur sleuths (two of whom are recent widows) and all set in Victorian times). This was actually the first of those mysteries that I read, and yet strangely enough is the last review written. How odd!

Lady Emily Ashton had the misfortune to be married and then widowed very shortly thereafter. Her husband, Sir Philip appeared to have not formed any great emotional bond with his wife, and to be fair, the feeling was pretty much mutual as far as Lady Ashton was concerned. She barely knew her husband, other than the fact that he loved to go hunting in Africa, which is where he died. For her part, marriage meant a chance to escape from an overbearing society mother and having done her familial duty. As the daughter of an Earl, it was her responsibility to attract a suitably titled husband.

With her husband dead, Emily has been forced to basically withdraw from society whilst she undertakes her period of mourning. Inspired by the discovery of some journals belonging to her husband, instead of feeling constrained by her period of mourning, it is a period of freedom for her as she begins to learn some Greek, to know more about her dead husband and his interests, and as she begins to wonder if perhaps he had lived there would have been a chance to actually learn to love her husband.

It is this romantic hopelessness that causes Emily to become more interested in many of the beautiful antique objects that her husband surrounded himself with and for her to become a regular visitor to the British Museum. She stumbles onto a forgery plot, and soon finds herself with more excitement than she knows what to do with. As her period of mourning comes to an end and she prepares to reenter society as a widow of beauty and financial independence, Emily finds herself with not one but two admirers, both of whom were connected with her husband. It is however difficult to deal with suitors when one seems to be falling in love with your own dead husband.

This novel is a charming read about a woman who is trying to once more find her sense of self in the world of her time - a time when the social restrictions for a young woman were very strict - whilst also having to reevaluate the things that she knows about her own history. It was interesting to take a side trip or two to France where the rules were not quite so extreme.

It was also interesting to get a comparison to Emily's life by looking at the lives of her friends Ivy and Margaret, and to a lesser extent her French friend Cecile. Ivy is a newly married young woman, subject to the restrictions placed on her by her somewhat conservative husband (his shock at discovering his young wife had a taste for Emily's port collection was very amusing). Margaret is an American heiress, something of a blue stocking who doesn't really want to be part of society and therefore seen as eccentric, and then the freedom allowed to Cecile within French society.

The historical details about the life and times of a young Victorian, from customs to fashion to language were beautifully integrated into the storyline and yet Alexander still managed to provide us with a very intriguing mystery about a compelling female amateur sleuth.

tsjmom
Reader

Postby tsjmom » Thu February 26th, 2009, 12:22 am

4/5 for me. I enjoyed the strong female character and the suspense of 'who did it'. An easy read.

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MedievalBookworm
Scribbler

And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander

Postby MedievalBookworm » Sun May 31st, 2009, 11:04 am

Lady Emily Ashton married her husband simply to get out of her mother’s house. When he dies less than six months after their marriage on a hunting trip in Africa, Emily does not know what to feel except perplexed. Everyone close to her husband assumes that she is mourning him dreadfully and sprinkles her with anecdotes, assuming that she’ll relate. Emily, however, barely knew her husband and struggles to orient herself in this world. When she learns that her husband felt a great deal more for her than she did for him, she begins searching for his true character, and in the bargain learns about disturbing fakes at the British Museum. Could the husband for whom she has begun to feel a posthumous affection be the criminal, or is it one of his friends?

I waited a while to write this review because I was a little perplexed as to how I felt about it. I still am. While I was reading the book, my last of the Read-a-Thon, I loved it. I continued reading after the Read-a-Thon was over because I enjoyed it so much, but towards the end I started to feel a little deflated about it and now that I’ve finished, my feelings are mixed. I think it has a lot to do with where the plot went. Emily convinces herself that a specific person is guilty with the coercion of another friend. I was convinced that person #1 was perfectly innocent while person #2 was definitely guilty. Sorry, if you’ve read the book, you will know who I mean. Lo and behold, I was right, but I think her willing ignorance and inability to think for herself - after going in and doing all that research and coming to so many great conclusions - really got to me. I liked person #1!

I originally went for this book because it reminded me of the Lady Julia Grey mysteries (Silent in the Grave) which I found absolutely fabulous. Husband very recently dead, later evidence of his suspicious behavior in regards to someone, widow finding her wings while solving a mystery directly involving dead husband. I think this one suffered a little in comparison, which is unfortunate, especially so because there are things I loved about this book. I loved Emily’s interest in the Classics, her desire to learn ancient Greek and really get into her research. The way she went about falling love with her husband after his death was sweet, if a little strange; but the feeling of regret is one that comes through beautifully and is really touching. She realizes that she could have loved this man if she’d looked twice at him and the fact that she didn’t bother really hurts her.

I think this book is really well-written, too. I know it completely sucked me in within the first few pages and I can’t say that about many of my more recent reads. Even though I solved the mystery, I still wanted to know the exact details and I wanted to see what would happen when Emily figured it out. Like I said, this book kept me reading after the Read-a-Thon was over and I’d spent 12 1/2 of the past 24 reading away and I plan on reading the rest of the series. Even though it isn’t the best, I would still recommend it if you are looking for more like Deanna Raybourn’s excellent series or, better yet, if you haven’t read them and want to try this genre, which is sort of more historical fiction than mystery but still has both.

Originally posted here.

tsjmom
Reader

Postby tsjmom » Fri August 7th, 2009, 12:13 am

I enjoyed this book 4/5. I always like trying to figure out who did it (this is fairly transparent, though) and how a novel will end. The best part is this portrays an independent, self sufficient women in a time when they had no rights at all.

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Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: The Miller's Dance by Winston Graham & How to Stop Time by Matt Haig
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Postby Madeleine » Thu March 27th, 2014, 3:04 pm

Looks like Tasha's books are being re-issued, in the UK anyway, with new covers - I saw the new edition of this one in Waterstone's today, and others, according to Amazon, have also been re-issued, or will be later this year.
Currently reading "How to stop time" by Matt Haig & "The Miller's Dance" by Winston Graham

User avatar
Madeleine
Bibliomaniac
Currently reading: The Miller's Dance by Winston Graham & How to Stop Time by Matt Haig
Preferred HF: Plantagenets, Victorian, crime
Location: Essex/London

Postby Madeleine » Tue May 19th, 2015, 10:10 am

Finished this yesterday and thoroughly enjoyed it, although I did find a few modern words and expressions (such as "hallway") which jarred slightly, but apart from that I really liked it. Emily is an appealing character, and I liked the way that she and her friends dealt with being women at a time when they were expected to conform to the social conventions - Emily's mother was a nightmare! I agree about the scenes with the port, but Ivy's husband isn't quite as much of a stick in the mud as the reader is first led to believe. I also guessed quite early on how it was all going to turn out - the culprit is pretty obvious - but as a light, historical crime read I found it very enjoyable.
Currently reading "How to stop time" by Matt Haig & "The Miller's Dance" by Winston Graham


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