Title: And Only to Deceive
Author: Tasha Alexander
Published: 2006, Harper
Category: Historical Fiction/Mystery
I ordered this book after seeing Tasha Alexander's first sale story at Dear Author. She said that her book "included lots of [her] favorite things: Victorian England, art forgery, dashing gentlemen, gorgeous gowns, ancient Greece, and Paris." SOLD! Especially the part about ancient Greece--loves me some antiquities. :)
Lady Emily Ashton's brand-new husband has just died while on safari in Africa. She's not too cut up about it, though, as she never really got to know him during their short marriage and she only married him in the first place to get away from her overbearing mother. But now as she hears all the wonderful things people are saying about him and reads his fascinating journal (which includes romantic notes about how very much he loved her), she begins to regret losing him before she even knew what she had. She finds out that he was very interested in classical studies and begins studying Greek literature and art. But just as she comes to think he was the perfect man, she starts to suspect that he was involved with an art forgery ring. And the dangerous consequences of it are catching up with her.
I have to admit that the other reason I bought this book was this great quote from the back cover: "Had Jane Austen written The Da Vinci Code, she may well have come up with this elegant novel." Not that I usually pay much attention to quotes or that I was any great lover of The Da Vinci Code, but it certainly intrigued me. I liked the idea of combining the slightly snarky commentary on etiquette and smart romance of Jane Austen with a suspenseful, chase-across-Europe kind of story. And that's very much what the book is. I was not completely wowed by the suspense part (a bit tepid; don't expect a ton of danger or thrills), though Emily did make for a fun amateur sleuth.
What did work completely for me was the story as historical fiction, with a nice little subtle romance thrown in. Victorian England is portrayed very nicely, and Emily moves through the restricting society with a hint of rebellion that makes her a very engaging character. I've got the sequel, A Poisoned Season, on my to-buy list.