And Only To Deceive is Alexander's first book in the Lady Emily series. The series focuses on our heroine, Lady Emily Ashton, who is a young, rich widow living in Victorian England. She was married only a short time to a man she knew almost nothing about and had very little interest in changing that fact once she was married. She married only to escape her nightmare of a mother (think Mrs. Bennet on steroids with bit more public decorum). The book's main focus is following Emily on her journey to know, understand and truly mourn her stranger of a husband, Philip, while at the same time coming into her own as an independent woman. After coming out of full mourning and beginning to re-enter society, she finds the social strictures as confining as the blasted corsets and unpalatable as the sherry.
As she learns more about her late husband she begins to take an interest in his passions. She begins to learn Greek, read Homer (Lord, deliver me from ever having to pick Homer up again), and develop an interest in Greek antiquities. Through this she finds that her husband had been caught up in a mystery which leads her to question his integrity. She, of course, along with her two friends simply must get to the bottom of things. I must admit that this part did get a bit Nancy Drew and her BFFs, George and Bess, for me but I could fight through it.
Enter the love interests, Colin, her late husband's nearest and dearest and Andrew, another friend of Philip's. The reader is supposed to be far more swoony for Colin even though his unknown part in the mystery makes him seem a bit shady. I'll give him some swoon, but he's no Mr. Darcy or Captain Wentworth or even Brisbane if you read Deanna Raybourn. I have a feeling his swoon factor will improve in the next books.
I liked this book very much. I enjoyed Tasha Alexander's voice and characters. Emily, who I did not care for much at the beginning of the book, grew on me as she continued to evolve and mature. She had her moments of knuckleheadedness but overall she was likable, and I cared about what happened to her. One of the strongest parts of the writing was the excerpts from Philip's journal. It really let the reader get to know him. It felt like we were sharing Emily's journey of discovery along with her. I look forward to reading the next book in the series.