Lady Emily Ashton is thrilled to finally be out of mourning for her late husband Philip and enjoying the social season in Victorian London. The brainy, headstrong beauty has developed a keen interest in Greek artifacts and passes many enjoyable hours educating herself at the British Museum.

But Emily's orderly life is disrupted when a new face among the aristocracy, a rather odd man who claims to be the direct descendant of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI, becomes a suitor. Then a mysterious cat burglar begins stealing precious gems that once belonged to the French queen. Murder soon follows and Emily is forced to face the realization that the daring thief is stalking her.

A more pleasant challenge for Emily is the ardent pursuit of her husband's best friend, the dashing Colin Hargreaves. Emily is intensely interested in Colin but also enjoys her freedom and all the attention that comes with being a beautiful and wealthy young widow. Perhaps Emily's biggest challenge is her domineering mother, who believes that her daughter should be focusing her energies on finding a new husband preferably a titled one and has even enlisted the queen's help in convincing Emily to wed.

In A Poisoned Season, author Tasha Alexander continues the adventures begun in her debut novel, And Only to Deceive. Emily, who is at times arrogant, yet somehow sympathetic, and the large cast of characters (both above- and below-stairs) give fascinating insights into the society of the late 19th century. Unfolding at a leisurely pace, A Poisoned Season draws the reader into the glittering Victorian age with its society balls, Worth gowns, hansom cabs and proper manners. Throw in a complex mystery with several intriguing twists and you have the ingredients for a charming historical cozy with a clever heroine readers won't soon forget. Dedra Anderson writes from Highlands Ranch, Colorado.

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