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3.9 out of 5 stars
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 24 January 2008
I was captivated by this book from the very first sentence. It takes off with a hiss and a roar: by page 3, Emily has not just met and married Philip the Viscount Ashton, but she has also been widowed. By the end of the first chapter, a year after Philip's death, she begins to learn how little she knew about the man to whom she was briefly married. Intrigued, she starts to investigate her late husband more and this leads her into investigating a mystery involving forgeries of Ancient Greek artefacts - which may have involved her husband.

At the same time, two men (both friends of her former husband) are displaying an interest in her. Are their motives pure, or are one - or both - of them not to be trusted?

I enjoyed this complicated tale very much. It kept me guessing throughout - every time I thought I knew how it was all going to be resolved, the story would do another twist. I also enjoyed reading about late 19th century London and Paris. Tasha Alexander has included several epilogues talking about the research that she did while writing this book which are very interesting to read. Emily's character was somewhat annoying to me in the early stages - very self-centered and the kind of person who would do things simply to be contrary. But I warmed to her as the book went on. This was Tasha Alexander's first book but since then she has continued Emily's story in subsequent novels - which I will definitely seek out now.

* Warning: The only review of this book that is older than mine (entitled "Excellent") reveals twists that don't emerge until at least halfway through. I would advise you not to read that review before reading the book! It definitely spoiled my enjoyment of it. *
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on 24 July 2016
Sometimes, a book just doesn't work for me no matter how much I want to enjoy it. And Only to Deceive have everything that I should like, interesting characters, a mystery and a tragic love story. However, somewhere along the way the story just lost my interest and unfortunately I never found it as interesting as it was, in the beginning, to read.

So, what went wrong? Why did this book not appeal to me? I think the biggest problem for me was that the plot, Emily's hunt for the truth about Philips involvement in the forgery of art, or rather the whole forgery plot was so simple to figure out that it took away the enjoyment to read the book. Since this book is bit old now and several new books have been published was it easy to cross one person of the list as suspects and that made the list of people that could be involved pretty small. And, a book that started off interesting just lost its spark along the way.

I did find Emily's newfound love for Philip tragic and sweet, but alas even that went a bit boring after a while. She discovered new things about him and she realized that the man she married was a different man than she had imagined and suddenly she fell in love with him. With the problem that he is dead. Like the forgery part that also lost its spark after a while.

However, I do want to continue with the series. I did like Emily enough to want to read more about her. I just hope the stories in the rest of the books are better and that the mysteries will be much more interesting to read about. Also, I'm not really that fond of Colin, and I hope that I will grow to like him.
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on 14 May 2014
These books are pretty addictive. Great stories and engaging characters. They are only marred by the obvious naïveté of the presumably American author. She is writing about Victorian aristocratic characters who talk about "figuring things out", spending "the Fall" somewhere and something not happening "anytime soon". These jar and could do easily have been edited out by a competent English editor.

Otherwise, highly recommended.
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Lady Emily Ashton was widowed after only a few months of marriage and she now finds herself rich but constrained by Victorian society to stay in seclusion as she mourns her late husband Phillip. But she didn't really know her husband at all well and had accepted his proposal more to get away from her dominating mother than because she was in love.

Now she is bored and takes up the study of Greece and Rome and starts to learn Greek. Her husband was interested in antiquities and she wonders why everyone is so interested in his papers. Was he involved in something illegal and whom can she trust now?

I found the first half of this book slow going but I persevered because I liked Emily and felt sorry for her situation. The nook became much more interesting and exciting in the second half and Emily grows and matures as the story progresses. The writing is good and I did like the characters and the background is well researched. I have bought the next one in the series and I'm sure I will enjoy it.
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on 2 May 2016
I did read somewhere that these were poor relations of another American authors' attempts to portray the English aristocracy in Victorian times, i cannot really agree. Yes, the books are of a similar genre, with similar characters et al. I just find I am unable to categorically state a preference. Both are enjoyable romps. I have not yet noticed any of the errors in this book that most writers from the USA make, particularly with regard to forms of address.
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on 16 September 2013
Honestly, I'm not a frequent historical fiction reader, I was just looking for something a little different from my normal fare so I was always going to be a difficult one to please - this review might help others in the same situation. For me, the book focused too much on romance and fashion over the mystery and intrigue. The author says at the end that she didn't want to put a modern character in a corset but I felt she did exactly that, I'm afraid. Some aspects were well researched but it felt like facts were being smattered throughout the book to validate the context to some extent. It is generally well written but just not particularly thrilling - an easy, pleasant read but not the exciting, immersive (within the culture of another period) book that I thought I might get from the other reviews.
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on 5 May 2008
A thoroughly engaging mystery novel, set in Victorian England (with excusrions to France along the way) which features society sleuth, Lady Emily Ashton. Lady Emily marries in haste but doesn't have time to repent at leisure as her husband dies shortly following their marriage. It is then she learns more about him and thus falls in love with the man she will never know. But is he dead? Lady Emily is convinced that he is not, and her desire to find him places her in danger. As it says on the book blurb, "To complicate matters, she's juggling two very prominent and wealthy suitors ..." at the same time.
This is a truly engaging story. There are one or two Americanisms considering the book is written from an English point of view, but they do not prevent this from being an excellent first novel.
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VINE VOICEon 16 February 2010
This book is part of a trend for English historical mysteries written by American authors. This one suffers from the same small niggles as the others - people visit with rather than just visit, say fall for autumn etc but otherwise is a very superior example of the genre. The author has included a set of very interesting notes at the end showing her research and why she chose the heroine she did.
Lady Emily Ashton is a widow after a very short marriage and becomes involved in unravelling both a mystery of ancient greek artifacts and forgeries, as well as trying to get to know her dead husband. The author has woven a good yarn that keeps the pages turning - the story twists and turns very satisfactorily throughout. Emily is a good heroine, she is stubborn and inclined to be arrogant but uses her intelligence well. The misunderstandings arise due to lack of information.
I thoroughly enjoyed it, it was well written and the female characters richly drawn. I would agree with another reviewer that the males were a little more lightly sketched, but in the Victorian world we are visiting the main contacts of a respectable widow would be her female friends and relatives. I would definitely recommend this.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 29 January 2015
I just completed all the Lady Julia Grey Mystery Series and enjoyed them so much, I thought why not get started on the Lady Emily Mysteries. Much to my surprise, I had the first two books in the series already downloaded onto my Kindle. I suppose that's what happens when one reads as much as I do - you forget what you've purchased. So, I immediately set forth into this book but realized that the first part seemed a bit familiar. As time went on, I decided that I had apparently begun reading the book at some point and then lost interest and moved on.

But, no - after reading the entire book, I then realized that I had read it previously, but... - it. just. never. stood. out. in. my. mind. - at least not enough to remember that I had read it until I actually finished it again. What does that tell you about how well I liked the book? Nah, it didn't do a lot for me. It appears that Lady Emily's future love interest will be Colin Hargreaves, but how in the world can I ever consider him now that I've spent all that time considering Nicholas Brisbane from the Lady Julia Mysteries. Ah well, I'm still going to press on. I'm currently reading the second book in this series, which I had not previously read by the way. It is A Poisoned Season (A Lady Emily Mystery) and so far I'm finding it a bit more interesting than the first book in the series.

Perhaps the first book was a foundational book, setting up the reader with an understanding of Lady Emily's widowed status, her relationship - or lack of relationship might be a better term - with her first husband, Philip, who was absolutely supposedly head over heels in love with Lady Emily. Whereas she was just marrying him because Mama Dearest was pressing her so hard to get married. In fact Lady Emily came across as quite lanquid in her marriage to Philip giving the reader the notion that she was a real dud of a wife. But, on the other hand, Philip - who was purportedly crazy in love with Emily, was still willing to spend months away from her traveling, hunting big game and collecting antiquities in Greece. So, perhaps, his first real love was hunting big game instead of Emily. Who knows? Those marriages were often strange.

Anyhow, she's apparently a beautiful widow who is as rich as Croesus with the handsome Colin Hargreaves hard on her trail. We'll see what the future holds in this series.
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on 26 October 2013
I read a lot of books but I tend not to review them very often. Truthfully, I find it hard for many stories written today to live up to the standards of my old favorites, such as the Dorothy Sayers or Ngaio Marsh novels. It is not very often that I read a debut novel of such eloquent and seemingly effortless style--even as the author combines styles: telling the narrative in the first person, but also giving us snippets of diary entries, and behind it all, a comparison of the protagonists to Homer's Iliad.

In a word, this is utterly brilliant. I love layered storytelling. I love a story that gradually builds, that doles out information in measured amounts, never hitting you over the head with it but assuming you are intelligent and mature enough to wait for the story to unfold in good time. Tasha Alexander pulls you in immediately to the life of Lady Emily, a Victorian woman who married because of the conventions of the day, only to become widowed shortly thereafter. Life as a widow allows her freedoms she did not possess in the unmarried state--and would not have possessed in most marriages, either. She is quietly enjoying her widowhood and in no hurry to re-enter society, content to surround herself with her books and studies. When the story begins, we know as little of her dead husband as she did--but circumstances cause her to start going through her husband's belongings, and gradually, both Lady Emily and the reader fall in love with him. Lady Emily adopts his interests and studies, traveling in her quest to find out more about her husband, and becomes even more independent and unwilling to go back to the conventions that society (and her mother) demand, as her period of mourning is gradually drawing to a close.

I shan't spoil this for you by telling you more. All I can say is that Lady Emily begins to doubt the story she's been told about her husband's death on a safari in Africa, to the point where she thinks he might even still be alive. Author Alexander draws you into this story masterfully, in such a manner that you feel everything Lady Emily herself is experiencing, and you are holding your breath as you race through the final scenes. I was not only delighted with this story, I was ecstatic to discover there are more in the series.
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