Lady Emily Ashton has been a widow for longer than she had known her husband Philip – and she has only been in mourning for a year. We begin the story from Emily’s point of view and know Phillip only from her account. Emily freely admits she made no effort to know her husband before his death, having written him off as an ignorant hunter. As Emily discovers Philip’s intellect, kindness, and his love for her via his diaries, she starts to realize that her previous indifference is something she may regret.
While examining her husband’s life and character, Emily discovers a man she barely knew, and worse, one she could have loved. However, Emily also learns about his passions – and his dangerous secrets regarding stolen or forged antiquities. Emily also begins to realize Philip’s death may not have been an accident and, armed with the knowledge gained in the pursuit of getting to know her dead husband, sets off to solve the crime.
I choose Tasha Alexander’s And Only to Deceive for three reasons: it is partially set in Greece; it is, in part, epistolary, a subgenre I fell in love with after reading The Letters of Napoleon to Josephine; and it is part of a series – winter being my time for series.
What captured me is the work’s sense of the human condition: the wonder that we may never truly know another person, the joy of trying, and the great mystery therein. Eventually the reader, having known Philip only as well as Emily originally had, comes to love him, and there is an exquisite sense of loss and bereavement felt for what could have been a beautiful, complimentary relationship between these two people.
Almost equally wonderful as the characterization is the mystery plot, it being neither too heavy-handed, nor illogical in the path to its solution. The limitations of etiquette and the position of women within the period are excellently handled, and the romance readers can look forward to is treated with dignity.
You can find the book in print or electronic format via the Deerfield Public Library catalog right now. If you have to wait, be sure to check out “You Might Also Like These…” at the bottom of the catalog page.
This review was previously published by the Deerfield Review.