Wednesday, July 30, 2008

And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander

And Only to Deceive is labelled as "A Novel of Suspense". I definitely would not categorize it as romance and it's not chick lit, despite the first-person narrative. 

Lady Emily Ashton is a widow, her husband having died a year and a half previous to the opening of the novel. She married Philip in an effort to leave the home of her overbearing mother, who is very much aware of social standing but not much else. Through reading his journals, she finds that her husband was very interested in Greek antiquities. She begins to immerse herself in Greek learning, starting with Homer, and begins to embark on the life of an "eccentric" young woman. 

Through the course of her education in all things Greek, Emily travels to Paris, where she meets Mr. Andrew Palmer. Palmer's father is interested in publishing a monograph in honor of her husband. While looking through his papers, Emily is disturbed to find a tale of stolen antiquities and forgeries. With the help of her new friends, the American Margaret, and Mrs. Cecile du Lac, Emily researches the role her husband played in this mystery, and she finds that the love she could not give him in life she has found in his death. 

What makes this book so interesting is its setting. Amidst books set in the Regency, a book set in the late Victorian Era is refreshing. Women were beginning to be allowed more liberties while still experiencing a social constraint so foreign to our modern mores. This alone makes the book fresh and interesting. 

Alexander also leaves detail to the imagination. She does not spend pages describing the rooms and the settings to the reader, giving just enough detail to give an impression, while letting the reader fill in the rest. I appreciate this because Alexander does not make the book a "role-playing" type of read, where the characters are modern day people acting like people from the Victorian Era. This irritates me to no end in many historical novels. I didn't feel that way at all with this book! 

She also uses real people in their real settings. Among them are the artist Renoir and Alexander Murray, the Keeper of Greek and Roman Antiquities at the British Museum. Their roles were small enough that Alexander did not ruin the integrity of the real people. 

I give this book an A+ and look forward to reading more in this series. 

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