What would happen if the man you just married yet hardly knew died suddenly, leaving behind not only a vast fortune, but a host of secrets as well? If you were an aristocrat in Victorian England, you'd certainly let sleeping dogs lie and focus your attentions on finding a new husband after an appropriate period of mourning. Fortunately for us, the independent-minded heroine in Tasha Alexander's debut novel has other ideas. Lady Emily Ashton has never been one to follow society's conventions, and after finding a mysterious cautionary note in her late husband Philip's personal effects, she decides to investigate his death.

Embarking on a search for answers that takes her from the halls of the British Museum to Paris and beyond, Emily plunges into a fascinating world of ancient antiquities, Greek mythology and scholarly pursuits not at all suited for a lady, as her class-conscious mother constantly reminds her. Undeterred, she delves further into her investigations and finds herself belatedly falling in love with her late husband, whom she'd married primarily as a means of escaping her mother's clutches. When her sleuthing reveals elements of forgery, theft and deception lurking beneath the surface of the genteel world of statuary collecting beloved by her husband, Emily ends up facing the same danger that may have brought about his untimely demise. Confiding in two of his dearest friends, both of whom vie feverishly for her affections, she soon realizes that in life, as in art, appearances can be deceiving. Engagingly suspenseful and rich with period detail, And Only to Deceive provides a fascinating look at the repressive social mores and painstaking rules of etiquette in Victorian high society. Barrier-breaking sleuth Nancy Drew has nothing on Alexander's fearless and tenacious Lady Emily, and readers will be glad to discover that there's an encore performance in the works for this unconventional heroine.

Joni Rendon lives in London and loves novels about Victorian England, but is grateful for today's more relaxed code of conduct.

 

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