For Emily, the sudden proposal of Philip, Viscount Ashton, freed her from her overbearing mother, set on a grand match. When the new groom died on safari, she felt little grief. Two years later, his journals reveal surprises, a gentleman scholar and antiquities collector deeply in love with his wife.
In his beloved quiet British Museum, she finds a dangerous secret while juggling two suitors, one whose intentions may go beyond marriage. Her search to solve the crime leads to more surprises about Philip, and questions about her role as a woman in Victorian society.
This was everything I wanted The Pink Carnation to be: exciting historical shenanigans with a mystery and a strong lead.
Admittedly, Emily drove me up the wall sometimes. She’s not afraid to go against the grain of Victorian society, which is great! But she’s also naive and a little foolhardy. I’m thinking particularly of the last half of the book where her dead husband might be not-so-dead and she proceeds to go to a foreign country with obviously unscrupulous people. She acts in such a way that she very nearly became a TSTL heroine; I spent a lot of time screaming at her to THINK BEFORE ACTING, DAMNIT.
She’s such a fun character, though, that she won me over again by the last few chapters. Everyone does stupid things sometimes, and I can totally forgive them for that as long as they can get themselves out of whatever ridiculous situation they’ve put themselves into. (Asking for help is allowed, of course.)
There is romance in this book! Well, kinda. Most of the romance comes from Emily learning about her deceased husband and falling in love with him through his journals. It’s tragic, because she didn’t love him when he was alive and never got the chance to know him IRL because he died so quickly after they were married.
On the other hand, as Emily herself says, would she have fallen in love with him if he’d stayed living? Personally, I think not. He married someone he saw as shy and inexperienced, and kept her up on a pedestal. He was interested in her beauty, not her brains. She didn’t even know she HAD any brains for anyone to be interested in until after his death, as all she cared about was getting away from her terrible mother. She had no interest in him or his work. They weren’t a very good match.
So it’s sad, but it’s also kind of a dud (not least because he’s DEAD). There’s a secondary hero, though, in the form of Dead Husband’s Best Friend. Now THERE’S someone with potential: he sees her brains and her beauty, and he’s totally suave and handsome and smart! Wowza!
So there’s all kinds of great stuff in And Only to Deceive. Early feminism, romance, mystery, fun history touches like Renoir and the early Parisian artsy people, deception, betrayal and scandal! I had a grand time reading it, and I’m definitely picking up the sequel.
Read: October 11-14, 2014