And Only to Deceive -- Tasha Alexander
When Emily accepted the proposal of the dashing (and rich) Viscount Philip Ashton, it wasn't for any of the usual reasons. Not for his money or his title, and certainly not because she loved him. It was to escape her domineering mother.
So, when Philip died on safari shortly after the wedding, Emily was less distraught than one would expect. After all, though she had had some nice moments with Philip, she hardly even knew him.
She has to act the grieving widow for society -- but secretly, widowhood agrees with Emily. She has much more freedom than she ever would have as a wife, and she has much more freedom than she ever did have as a daughter.
As she comes to the end of her mourning period, though, she begins reading her husband's recently-unearthed journals. Not only does she discover that there was much more to her husband than she'd previously believed -- not to mention the fact that he was truly, deeply in love with her -- but she also uncovers a mystery. One that, if explored too deeply, may put her own life in danger...
One of my very favorite things about And Only to Deceive was that Emily exhibited actual development of character. Rather than an Unusual Upbringing Resulting In A Heroine With Semi-Modern Sensibilities (a la Lady Julia Grey and Amelia Peabody*), Emily explores her new-found freedom slowly and tentatively, and (almost) always remembers to keep Society's Opinion in mind. That isn't to say that she doesn't make some mistakes -- a bit of freedom to someone unused to it can make for a bit of recklessness.
Add to that a love story with a dead (or is he?) man, a couple of swoony moments with a live man, a discovery and exploration of classic literature and archeology on the part of our heroine, and a rather xenophobic lady's maid, and the result is an enjoyable romantic mystery.
I was a bit disappointed with Emily's inability to spot the villain from a mile away -- after all, she's supposed to be very bright, as well as a great reader of popular novels, so she really should have pegged him from Minute One -- but I can't fault her for much else. After all, there were plenty of pieces of the puzzle that I wasn't sure about until I was quite close to the end. I'll pick up Book Two soon.
*That is NOT to suggest that I don't adore Lady Julia and Mrs. Emerson with all of my heart. Because I do love them.
Book source: Bought with money earned from the sweat of my brow.