Dear Ms Alexander,
I was delighted with my impulse buy of your first novel “And Only to Deceive.” Luckily for me I didn’t have to wait too long before book two in the series was released. Now all I can say is write quickly so I don’t have to mope too long before getting to read more about Lady Emily Ashton and her beau Colin Hargreaves.
London’s social season is in full swing, and the Victorian aristocracy can’t stop whispering about a certain gentleman who claims to be the direct descendant of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. But he’s not the only topic of wagging tongues. Drawing rooms, boudoirs, and ballrooms are abuzz with the latest news of an audacious cat burglar who has been making off with precious items that once belonged to the ill-fated queen.
Light gossip turns serious when the owner of one of the pilfered treasures is found murdered, and the mysterious thief develops a twisted obsession with Emily. But the strong-minded and fiercely independent Emily will not be shaken. It will take all of her considerable wit and perseverance to unmask her stalker and ferret out the murderer, even as a brewing scandal threatens both her reputation and her romance with her late husband’s best friend, the dashing Colin Hargreaves.
It makes sense to me that Emily would still stumble a little in her investigation, have trouble fitting pieces together, would need some assistance with code breaking and yet I can see that she’s learned from her previous adventures. She still needs Colin to look over her shoulder every now and then but she’s progressing nicely.
How did the mysterious admirer always manage to get away? There are police around Em’s house, her loyal servants are on the watch yet this man waltzes up to her in public, approaches her carriage and gets inside her house many times yet he’s never caught until the plot needs it. That got more than a little hard to believe. And how did he know of her dead husband’s pet name for her?
Colin’s courtship is so understated yet powerful. Deep waters and all. I love his final enticement to get Em to agree to marriage. Only someone who knows, loves and appreciates her could come up with that approach. Oh, and the engagement ring too. The way he proves his love — by rushing straight to her house after break-in, searching the house then standing guard over her the rest of the night — seems more Real Man to me than a lot of what we see in Romance books.
The book progresses slowly, as seems fitting for the setting, yet I couldn’t stop reading and was glued to it for last 50 odd pages. I felt that it seemed realistic that Em will face some public censure for her eccentric actions yet also makes sense that her dragon of a mother can tip the scales in Em’s favor — tea with the Queen ought to be enough to silence any busybodies. And though sad, it makes sense that her pursuit of her studies and growing dissatisfaction with restrictions of Victorian life would cause some rifts with Ivy who is trying to make her own way as a young matron and wife of a man with political ambitions.
At the end of two books, I feel that Em is ready to move on in her romantic life as she realizes that a husband can compliment and enhance her as a person, not just society-wise. After her more or less arranged first marriage of convenience, I think she needed to know this as I doubt she would settle for what she had in her first marriage. I look forward to reading more about Lady Emily and Colin and seeing what lovely cover you’ll have next. Dare I hope a wedding trip to Greece is in the cards?