And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander

When Emily agrees to marry Philip, the Viscount Ashton, she decides to do so because she wants to escape her authoritative mother and also because she has to submit to the rules of Victorian society. Thus, when she learns about her husband’s death while on safari in Africa soon after their wedding, Emily feels little grief, since she barely knew the man she married.

However, nearly two years after her husband’s death, Emily begins to show interest in Philip and she is eager to find out more about his passion for artifacts. This has to do with the fact that she discovered his journals, and since then, the young widow longs to learn everything about Philip. While she reads more and more, she is surprised to find out how much her late husband really loved her. But Philip’s passionate love for her doesn’t seem the only thing that was unknown to Emily. As she digs deeper into Philip’s world of antiquities, the young widow finds herself entangled in a dangerous web of intrigues, mysteries and deception. Just when Emily realizes that she has fallen in love with her late husband, she begins to suspect that Philip might not be the man everyone believed him to be. Was Emily’s late husband really involved in a shady business concerning rare stolen artifacts? And what do his two attractive and wealthy friends have to do with this matter? What are their real motives for courting Emily? As she tries to find the answers to all of these questions, Emily has to be careful, because danger awaits her everywhere and people are not who they appear to be.

And Only to Deceive is a very suspenseful novel set in the late Victorian period and while the book’s main theme is a mystery involving stolen artifacts, it also strongly deals with issues such as a woman’s search for independence and it shows how a woman’s attempt to gain freedom impinges on her role in society. And Only to Deceive successfully displays Emily’s struggle for independence in a male-dominated world where a woman’s role was to be a good wife and mother, sacrificing her own needs for her family. The ultimate goal for every aristocratic woman in Victorian England was to marry well, and to marry in a short period of time. If two or three years passed and a woman had not found a suitable husband, she would be considered a failure. Thus, Emily, like every other aristocratic young woman at that time, is pressured by her mother to find a wealthy husband. In order to avoid any unpleasantness and to escape her mother’s controlling behavior, Emily defers to her mother’s will. She doesn’t really know her husband when she marries him and she doesn’t show any interest in getting to know him, as she does not love him. It is only after Philip’s death that Emily begins to show interest in him (and to eventually fall in love with him), as she discovers his journals and begins to read Homer and to visit the British Museum in order to learn more about her late husband. In doing so, she gains a lot more than just finding out about Philip’s passions. Emily begins to yearn for more freedom; she longs to do whatever she pleases, to read what she likes and to wear what she wants, regardless of society’s rules. (Widows had to spend at least a year in deep mourning and to dress in black; once a widow entered the period of half-mourning, she would be allowed to gradually return to society and to attend events that were appropriate for a widow). Thus, Emily starts to rebel little by little and to show her strong-minded side more often. There’s a particular scene in the book that highlights her rebellious character and her rejection of society’s rules: After dinner, Emily and her friend Margaret, prefer to stay with the gentlemen and drink port with them instead of retiring to the drawing room as ladies would normally do. This was of course a very shocking thing to do, because it disregarded society’s rules that were imposed on women at that time and it did not please Emily’s mother and the other guests. (Although I must admit that I found it very amusing). As the story unfolds, Emily embarks on a journey of self-discovery and refuses to remarry again, knowing that marriage would put an end to her newfound independence.

And Only to Deceive was the perfect book for me, as I really liked reading about Emily’s journey and her fight for independence. I am very interested in this subject, as it’s a major issue when it comes to Victorian Literature and Culture. I must admit that although I found it very interesting to read about art forgeries and the intrigues and deceptions involved (which are actually the main themes of the novel), I found it more interesting to read about Emily’s rebellious way and her desire to learn more about the world, to read and to explore new places. I just enjoyed reading about her attempts at escaping the submitting role that Victorian society has forced upon her and I loved that Tasha Alexander has chosen this path for the heroine.

Overall, I really loved this engaging book and I recommend it to everyone who is interested in Victorian Literature and to everyone who likes to read a suspenseful novel set in the Victorian period.

Note: I would like to thank the author and her publicist Danielle Bartlett from Harper Collins for giving me the opportunity to read and to review this wonderful book!