So this is something I started a while back. Sometimes you want more Austen books after you have read all her books. There are variations on her stories, but you don’t always want to read the same story. You want Austen-like works, but what to read or watch?
That’s why I started this series. I will review books that have the things we love about the Austen novels, but in something fresher than a retelling.
And Only to Deceive (Lady Emily Mysteries #1) by Tasha Alexander
Lady Emily is a widow.
But she isn’t sad as she never loved her husband.
Emily Ashton is an only daughter and all her life her mother has been plotting and planning and maneuvering, etc to get her daughter married off to a wealthy and eligible bachelor.
Emily chose Viscount Phillip Ashton for three reason:
- He seemed less chauvinistic than most men
- He appears to be someone she could live
- By marrying she would be free of her mother
Phillip was interested in pursuing her, was ecstatic at capturing his quarry, and not long after they married went on a big game hunt to Africa were he became sick and died.
Emily was actually happier after his death as:
- She didn’t really know her husband or spend time with him
- Was free of her mother
- Given freedom
- Has money
- Has large houses
- She had to absent from society for two years but that was okay as she didn’t really care for “society”.
Life was solitary but it wasn’t bad.
However, everything changed when her husband’s best friend came to visit after a year and a half. Mr. Colin Hargreaves came to speak to Emily about her Greek villa-all is in order, and she is free to go there anytime, just let him know and he will arrange the trip for her, Kallista.
Emily is completely surprised as her husband never said any such thing about villas and he never called her Kallista.
Emily is baffled by this and even more when her butler let’s her know that he fired a footman who was digging in her late husband’s desk. She starts looking to see if anything is missing, although how would she know as she has never been in there really, and discovers a threatening note.
This is just the firsts in a series of instances that makes Emily realize she knew very little, if anything, about her husband. It turns out that he was an avid collector or Greek art and throughly knowledgeable of it and Greek history.
She also finds his journals and reads about his love for her (in incredibly sweet journal entries).
Emily’s interest is piqued and she begins reading Homer’s The Odyssey and researching into Greek art and mythology.
She discovers more things do not add up and that her husband was caught up in a fake antiquary ring. Could it be that he was duped, with all his knowledge and expertise? Or was he the ringleader?
Emily cannot believe the later, as she reads her husband’s journals, she starts to fall in love with him, and remembers the wonderful and romantic gestures he would do, but took for granted at the time.
Emily isn’t sure who to trust, besides her old friend Ivy and new friend Lady Cécile du Lac. Colin Hagreaves spends a lot of time around her, and then she discovers that he has been watching her. Why? Could he be the ringleader?
Emily meets another friend of her late husband, Andrew Palmer. Andrew is fun, light, sarcastic, and likes to party and go out. He gives Emily a lot of attention and she enjoys it, as anyone who has been sent to the sidelines would. He is from noble stock, but no money. Could he be after her wealth, or is he really interested in her?
Colin and Andrew were both on the hunting trip with her husband, could one of them have killed him?
Then Emily gets a note about her husband being alive! Is he a criminal hiding out? Or was he betrayed by a friend and desperately in need?
Emily sets off a plan to Africa, and will she be happy with what she finds? Or is she heading into a trap?
I really enjoyed this mystery as I liked that Emily was an independent woman with a strong personality and ideas about what she wanted, but at the same time she was still a woman of her times. I hate when people write historical fiction and the people are so much a product of our time. It makes zero sense.
So why would an Austen fan enjoy this? Well first of all, Lady Emily’s mother could be Mrs. Bennet. Both are soooo similar in the way they try to maneuver and manipulate their daughters into getting a good match. Both are driven by fear-Mrs. Bennet of Mr. Bennet’s death and no home or income; and Emily’s mother fears that her daughter will grow old single and childless. Emily and her mother; along with Elizabeth and Mrs. Bennet-do not have a very good relationship.
The book has these wonderful journal etries of Phillip’s love and his pursuit of her. I LOVE how we see the total love he has for her. Those scenes were to me, very reminiscent of Captain Wentworth’s letter of love-both extremely romantic.
One theme throughout the book is how we can see one view of a person and think we know them, when in reality we know nothing as to who they really are. With Emily-she believed her husband was a hunter and hunted her, she never took the time to see more of who he was, We see the same thing in Jane Austen from Marianne seeing Willoughby do a few “romantic things” to believing he had a completely different character: to Emma believing from the stories about Frank and his few letters that he was noble and true; to Elizabeth and everyone disliking Mr. Darcy and loving Wickham. All saw one side of a person and believed they knew his true character only to in the end be wrong as there was much more to this men that what was seen at first sight.
Emily, Colin, and Andrew Palmer all remind me of several Austen triangles. Emily meets Colin and at first thinks him kind and interesting, but after he tries to warn her off her investigating she becomes angry and dislikes him. Instead she gives all her attention to Andrew Palmer, a pretty party boy who has name but no cash. He flatters, imbibes, resists tradition, has fun-but isn’t an honest or upstanding man. He paints a bad picture of Colin, something Emily should be wary of as she hardly knows Andrew, while Colin and Phillip were friends since boyhood. It reminded me of Elizabeth not liking Mr. Darcy, and believing Wickham’s view of Darcy instead of Bingley.
A pretty party boy with no money-we see this in Willoughby, Wickham, and Frank Churchill. All men care about the dollars and any way to get them-and all are sarcastic, critical, full of laughs-but laughing at other’s expense.
Plus, our main character loves Jane Austen:
“Finally I [Lady Emily] happened upon a bookstall that had a ragged secondhand copy of Pride and Prejudice, which I promptly bought. Phillip, engaged in some business of some kind, did not accompany me. Back at the hotel, I showed him my purchase and settled in for a nice read. The next morning at breakfast, he presented me with a beautifully wrapped parcel containing a first edition of the book.” -pg 141
Sounds like my kind of gift!
For more Non-Austen Reads for Austen Readers, go to Book Club Picks: Julie
For more book reviews, go to Jane Austen: Her Heart Did Whisper