Well I finally decided to get around to reading them recently, only to discover that it was a SERIES of books and that I had #2 and #3, but #1 had disappeared somewhere. Lucky me, the library had an electronic copy available for lending so I got it, started reading, and was finished five days later. The last time I read a book that quickly was before I got a full-time job and had endless hours to burn, so that says something. So what is this great book?
Let me introduce you to the Lady Emily mysteries, written by Tasha Alexander. And Only to Deceive is the first in the series, but based on this book alone I'm ready to jump headfirst into the rest.
The story is told from Lady Emily Ashton's point of view. A widow after only six months of marriage, she is finally emerging from her deep mourning period and has reentered society, only to find herself embroiled in a mystery involving museums, art forgeries, and the black market for stolen antiquities.
While the mystery is not a very deep one, Alexander does a wonderful job of keeping the plot twisting and turning to the point that even I wasn't quite sure where it would end up.
What particulary interested me though, was the accuracy in which Alexander portrayed Lady Emily's emotions and actions as an upper middle-class Victorian woman. Her thoughts of marriage as any easy way out of dealing with an overbearing mother and of seeing widowhood as a way to finally be independent, were very realistic views that some woman had during this era. I've read other Victorian inspired historical fiction pieces before, and it's obvious the author has taken someone with modern view sets and plopped them in a Victorian world. Alexander's Lady Emily however, is a Victorian woman who is completely at home in her late 1880's time period.
Due to similar names, the side characters were sometimes confusing, but this is made up for by each of their historically matched development and attitudes. History buffs will recognize some of the names (Renoir, with whom Lady Emily has a painting done by), and a number of the locations mentioned in the story.
In addition, the costumer in me was secretly drooling over the fact that there are several mentions of Lady Emily visiting with and receiving dresses from the House of Worth. Alexander mentions that she thoroughly researched her material and based on some of the dress descriptions, I would love to know if they are real Worth dresses (I suspect at least two are from originals) and if there are any made up from designs or other existing dresses.
After glancing through the other books on my shelf, I suspect that these are not heavy duty reading, and fall more into the category of a great afternoon read. Although this is only my first foray with Lady Emily, I greatly anticipate the next outing.
Overall rating - 4 out of 5