A Poisoned Season (Lady Emily Series #2)

( 90 )

Overview

London's social season is in full swing, and 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 systematically stealing valuable items that once belonged to the ill-fated queen.

Light gossip turns serious when the owner of one of ...

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A Poisoned Season (Lady Emily Series #2)

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Overview

London's social season is in full swing, and 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 systematically stealing valuable 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 Lady Emily Ashton. It will take all of Emily's wit and perseverance to unmask her stalker and ferret out the murderer, while faced with a brewing scandal that threatens both her reputation and her romance with her late husband's best friend, the dashing Colin Hargreaves.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Tasha Alexander returns to Victorian England in the sequel to her 2005 debut, And Only to Deceive, a historical whodunit that featured amateur sleuth Lady Emily Ashton, the spirited young widow of a wealthy viscount, who finds more than a few obstacles in the chauvinistic culture of late-19th-century London.

The high-society circles of Greater London are abuzz with gossip concerning Charles Berry, a decidedly ill-mannered gentleman who claims to be a direct descendant of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette. The intrigue surrounding Berry is intensified when a thief begins breaking into the homes of the aristocracy and stealing only items that used to belong to the infamous French queen. Lady Ashton is drawn in when a mysterious suitor begins leaving strange gifts, including love poems written in Greek and a rare pink diamond that was once owned by Marie-Antoinette herself. When a man linked to Berry is found poisoned to death, Ashton's curiosity gets the best of her, and ignoring warnings from her love interest Colin Hargreave, she investigates…

Blending elements of historical fiction, Regency romance, and knotty amateur detective mystery à la Agatha Christie's Miss Marple saga, Alexander's Emily Ashton novels should appeal to readers who enjoy meticulously researched and vividly described historical whodunits, as well as those who are partial to mysteries featuring courageous and shrewd female protagonists. Fans of authors like Anne Perry and Clare Langley-Hawthorne in particular will thoroughly enjoy Alexander's lavish jaunt through upper-crust Victorian society. Paul Goat Allen
Crimespree
“Immediately engrossing and thoroughly entertaining...Alexander writes with a fullness and richness that leaves the reader extremely satisfied.”
Romantic Times
“Sometimes touching, sometimes funny and always absorbing, this Victorian-era mystery hits all the right notes.”
Publishers Weekly

When Lady Emily Ashton, an unconventional young widow, comes to London for the social season at the start of Alexander's highly enjoyable late Victorian novel of suspense (the sequel to And Only to Deceive), a presumptive heir to the French throne and a slew of robberies by a thief obsessed with Marie Antoinette soon become the talk of the town. The stakes rise after the murder of one of the thief's victims. As Emily risks her reputation to solve the crimes, she must contend with a mysterious beau, who woos her in Greek. The author deftly works in background material pertinent to Emily's life as well as period detail that never slows the narrative. Emily sometimes behaves in unlikely ways (e.g., visiting a man at his bachelor residence, getting on a first-name basis with a woman after a brief acquaintance), but readers looking for a lighter version of Anne Perry will be well rewarded. (Apr.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal
London high society is all abuzz about a mysterious gentleman, a cat burglar, murder, and a stalker threatening Lady Emily Aston in her second historical mystery (after And Only To Deceive). Alexander lives in Tennessee. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Romantic Times BOOKclub
“Sometimes touching, sometimes funny and always absorbing, this Victorian-era mystery hits all the right notes.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061174216
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/8/2008
  • Series: Lady Emily Series , #2
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 158,054
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Read an Excerpt

A Poisoned Season

Chapter One

There are several things one can depend upon during the London Season: an overwhelming barrage of invitations, friends whose loyalties turn suspect, and at least one overzealous suitor. This year was to prove no exception.

Having recently come out of mourning for my late husband, Philip, the Viscount Ashton, I was determined to adopt a hedonistic approach to society, something that I imagined would involve refusing all but the most enticing invitations and being forced to cull disloyal acquaintances. This would allow me to enjoy the summer months instead of trudging from party to party, feeling like one of the exhausted dead, finding myself the subject of the gossip that fuels young barbarians at play.

However, it became clear almost immediately that my theory was flawed. Declining to attend parties proved not to have the desired effect. Instead of dropping me from their guest lists, people assumed I was in such demand that I was choosing to attend events even more exclusive than their own, and there are few better ways to increase one's volume of invitations than by the appearance of popularity. So for a short while—a very short while—my peers held me in high esteem.

It was during this time that I found myself at the home of Lady Elinor Routledge, one of the finest hostesses in England and a long-standing friend of my mother's. By definition, therefore, she was more concerned with a person's societal standing than with anything else. Despite this, I had decided to attend her garden party for two reasons. First, I wanted to see her roses, whose equal, according to rumor, could not be foundin all of England. Second, I hoped to meet Mr. Charles Berry, a young man whose presence in town had caused a stir amongst all the aristocracy. The roses surpassed all of my expectations; unfortunately, the gentleman did not.

When stepping into the garden at Meadowdown, one was transported from the gritty heat of London's streets to a sumptuous oasis. For the party, lovely peaked tents were scattered between hedgerows, trees, and beds of flowers, ensuring that guests would never be more than a few paces from refreshment, and the sounds of a small orchestra wafted through the grounds. Young ladies flitted about, their brightly colored dresses competing with the flowers for attention and rarely losing the battle. The gentlemen, turned out in dark frock coats, were elegant, too, keeping their companions well supplied with ices, strawberries, or whatever delicacies might catch their fancy. Et in Arcadia ego. It would take little effort for one to imagine in this scene an eligible prince, all courtesy and ease, graciously bestowing his favor on those around him. But there was no such gentleman at Lady Elinor's that day. The only prince present—if he could be called that—was a grave disappointment.

The romantic ideals swirling around the heir to a throne are seldom capable of surviving close scrutiny. In the case of Charles Berry, these ideals hardly stood observation from afar. His appearance was not unpleasant, but his manners were dreadful, and to say that he was prone to drink more than he ought would be a very diplomatic statement indeed. The young ladies who followed his every move with admiration happily ignored all of this; they were captivated by the notion of marrying into a royal family. The situation was rendered all the more ridiculous when one considered the fact that the throne to which Mr. Berry aspired no longer existed.

"I hoped he would be more handsome." Cécile du Lac formed opinions of people quickly and rarely changed them. We had known each other for less than a year, but she had become one of my closest confidantes almost from the moment I'd met her, despite the fact that she was nearer in age to my mother than to me. She watched him as she continued. "And he lacks completely the generous spirit one likes to find in a monarch. If he could not claim a direct relation to Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, society would hold him in much less regard."

Almost from the moment Louis XVI's son and heir had died in a French prison during the revolution, rumors that the boy had escaped began to circulate. Now, nearly a century later, gentlemen were still coming forward, insisting that they were descended from Louis Charles. Charles Berry was the most recent to make the claim, and his story was filled with enough details to convince the surviving members of the Bourbon family to accept him as the dauphin's great-grandson.

"Don't judge him too harshly," Lady Elinor said, moving her hands gracefully in a gesture designed not to emphasize her words, but to show off the spectacular ruby ring on her right hand. "He's led a difficult life."

"Do you know him well?" I asked her.

"He was at Oxford with my son, George, although they didn't move in the same crowd. George has always been very serious. He takes after his father." Lady Elinor's husband, Mr. John Routledge, had been a steady if somewhat humorless man, who served in the government as chancellor of the exchequer until his death some years ago. George, who was much older than his sister, had taken a position in the diplomatic corps and had been stationed in India for so long that I could hardly recall what he looked like. "Let me introduce you. I think you'll find Mr. Berry most charming."

The gentleman in question stood not far from us, surrounded by several very eligible heiresses whose mothers watched, hawklike, from a safe distance, eagerly trying to gauge which girl garnered the most attention from the purported heir to the House of Bourbon. I wondered if any of them gave even momentary consideration to what it might be like to actually be the wife of such a man. None of the mothers tried to hide her irritation when Lady Elinor pulled him away.

A Poisoned Season. Copyright © by Tasha Alexander. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. <%END%>
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Reading Group Guide

Introduction

London's social season is in full swing, and Victorian aristocracy is atwitter over a certain gentleman who claims to be the direct descendant of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Adding to their fascination with all things French, an audacious cat burglar is systematically stealing valuable items that once belonged to the ill-fated queen.

But things take a dark turn. The owner of one of the pilfered treasures is found murdered after the theft is reported in the newspapers, and the mysterious thief develops a twisted obsession with Lady Emily Ashton. It takes all of Lady Emily's wit and perseverance to unmask her stalker and ferret out the murderer, while faced with a brewing scandal that threatens both her reputation and her romance with the dashing Colin Hargreaves.

Questions for Discussion

1. How is the modern perception of the Victorian era as full of innocent young ladies at odds with the fact that girls were pressured to marry young and grow up quickly?

2. Do you think Emily made the right decision concerning her pregnant maid? Is this a situation where it's acceptable to lie?

3. Why are the ladies in London so willing to accept Charles Berry? How does a class system foster an environment where a man of such dubious character can rise to such high standing, and why is society willing to stand for it?

4. Do you believe that a person has an obligation to carry on responsibilities taken on by earlier generations of his family? Did the true Dauphin's protector have the choice to walk away?

5. Victorian women had very little independence handed to them. Do you think that, because they had to fight for it, they appreciated it more and made better use of the freedom they earned than their modern counterparts?

6. How do you feel about Lady Bromley assisting Emily? Does it soften your feelings for her or make you view her as more manipulative than ever? Given the society she lives in, a place where women had few options, have her actions in general been in best interest of her daughter?

7. What do you think about Emily's decision at the end of the book? Do you think she's agreeing to something that will lead to enormous compromises in her independence? How enlightened can a Victorian man truly be?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 90 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(45)

4 Star

(34)

3 Star

(7)

2 Star

(3)

1 Star

(1)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 90 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 12, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    PASSION AND SUSPENSE

    When an author is passionate about a particular subject or time, it comes through in their work. Tasha Alexander's 'A Poisoned Season' is my first venture into Victorian Suspense, and I'm glad it was. She captures the time period so perfectly, that one must wonder if she lived during that time and is merely recording her experiences. At the heart of the novel is the 'curse of Marie Antoinette', and the theft of her belongings that have been spread throughout since her imprisonment and death. Each page was an effortless read, with each conversation building from the last making for a real page-turner. I am an avid horror/thriller reader, so this was a real detour for me, however I was so impressed, that I would recommend 'A Poisoned Season' to fans of any genre who is aching for a good, smooth, passionate read.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2013

    Really enjoyed this book

    I love Lady Emily, a modern woman in Victorian dress. She's intelligent, courageous, and perceptive. The turn of the century setting is interesting, the characters well-rounded, and I enjoyed the mystery.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 26, 2010

    A Poisoned Season - Enthralling!

    I loved the concept of a mystery with a 19th century heroine. The characters are complex and the story is not predictable. Lots of fun and I recommend this book highly. The heroine has a very modern idea of what a woman's life should be and she won't give up her freedom easily. There are two plots - that of the mystery to be resolved and that of the heroine. It is interesting that she must make compromises to stay within the social norms of her times, while her inner self wants to break out. There are many struggles to be resolved. Enjoy this book - I did!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 23, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    the lost prince...

    Since this was the next book in the Lady Emily Series, and I was already enraptured with the story line, I was not expecting it to be about what it was. The plot itself has been present in many other books, but the mystery behind discovering the truth that Lady Emily unravelled was quite different. For the time period that this story was set in, I find that the techniques used and the threats apparent were very attention grabbing. It's not every day that a Lady uses cryptography to discover the hidden truth that history left unwritten. Being the headstrong woman that she is, Lady Emily threw herself into solving this mystery, regardless of the threats made on the life of those around her (herself included). I was completely caught off guard at what she discovered, but in a sense, not surprised. It is still a mystery after all, so one can't expect to know where the leads will end up at. This book was just as enticing as the first and I immediately started the next book in the series after finishing this one.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2014

    Very good book

    This wasn't fluff. You had to think about what was happening,
    But it was very interesting.

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  • Posted November 12, 2013

    A great follow-up!

    A great follow-up!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2012

    Highly Recommended

    Love, love, love this series. I have read all of the Lady Emily books and am waiting for the seventh to be released. Intriguing novels with great characters. I look forward to seeing them again and again.

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  • Posted January 5, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Intelligent Mystery!

    The second installment in the Lady Emily mystery series, A Poisoned Season begins with Lady Emily Ashton at the tail end of mourning for her husband. (We learn of his death in And Only To Deceive) As a fresh start, she decides to re-join the London social scene on her own terms. Newcomer to the social scene, is a Charles Berry who claims that he is the direct descendant of Louie XVI and Marie Antoinette. Not only this, but he intends to take Lady Emily as his mistress (although she won’t have any of it!) Additionally, it appears that someone has been stealing items that belonged to Marie Antoinette, and just as the mystery appears to deepen with this new development, the owner of one of the items is murdered, deepening it further. It is up to Lady Emily to find the true burglar and murderer before he or she finds her, as it seems that the thief is becoming exceptionally interested in Lady Emily. She must work quickly as her own life is at stake! Will she be able to make it in time?

    Alexander does a fantastic job with A Poisoned Season. Just like her first novel, I was hanging on the edge of my seat from cover to cover. I thoroughly enjoyed all of the new characters that we’re introduced to. Lady Emily’s childhood friend Jeremy, Duke of Bainbridge was a perfectly added dose of comedic relief. We’re also treated to more of the romantic tete-a-tete between Colin Hargreaves and Lady Emily, as Colin continues to try to convince Emily to marry him.

    As I stated in my review of the And Only To Deceive, had Jane Austen and Agatha Christie been writing partners, Tasha Alexander’s books would have been the outcome. The mystery that Alexander sets up for us is wonderful. I had my thoughts on who the culprits could have been from the beginning, and was shocked to find out how wrong I was by the end. The ending completely blew me away, as I was not expecting it AT ALL. Throw into the investigation some background on Marie Antoinette, fine art, and literary discussions, and you have a mystery that you actually learn things from. This is probably one of my favorite things about the Lady Emily series (I’m currently reading book #4). They’re intelligent mysteries that make comments about the social/intellectual restraints of the Victorian time period, while at the same time providing characters and story lines that encourage you, the reader, to further your own knowledge of the events/people/places mentioned.

    I cannot recommend Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily series enough. It’s literally all I’ve been talking about for the past two weeks, and I have been recommending it to everyone. They’re engaging, intellectual, funny, and sophisticated reads that are sure to please mystery, adventure, and historical fiction fans abound.

    Kimberly (Reflections of a Book Addict)

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  • Posted December 21, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Excellent series and an intriguing mystery

    The Lady Emily series is a delight, and has a number of twists and turns that keep refreshing focus on the mystery at hand.

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  • Posted August 11, 2011

    Book 2 in the Lady Emily series. Great read!

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  • Posted April 28, 2011

    Enjoyable!!

    Although I mostly enjoy a cozy mystery, a historical mystery occasionally crosses my path. "A Poisoned Season" was a bn clearance selection that I picked up on a whim....it was inexpensive! But I don't regret it. It was a wonderful escape to the times of balls, gowns, parasols, and strolls in the park to visit with society. It had the right touch of romance and mystery!! A wonderful read!! I will look for the others in the series!

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  • Posted April 11, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    good series

    The Lady Emily series is one I enjoy. I love the setting of the book and I like the main character's ability to shun the norms set on her by society. The mysteries are always a plus trying to figure out each characters' motivation.

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  • Posted November 15, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Fans of Jane Austen and Elizabeth Peters take note!

    Tasha Alexander goes out of her way to make at least one major change to avoid betraying her influences, but they are undeniable. Though the series is set in Victorian, not Regency England, fans of Jane Austen will notice turns of phrase from Austen's novels that keep cropping up. Likewise, though Lady Emily pointedly loves ancient Greece rather than ancient Egypt (and prefers port to Amelia's beloved whiskey as her unladylike beverage), Elizabeth Peters fans will feel right at home. As though the references to the real-life Amelia Edwards from the first book were not enough, in this second book, Lady Emily picks up a shadowy secret admirer-- a dangerous, clever, but good at heart "Master Criminal" who writes her love notes from ancient Greek texts. This book also has a dash of Scarlet Pimpernel in the possible rescue of the Dauphin from the clutches of the revolution. Don't miss the "History behind the story" section at the end (unless you want to believe the Dauphin got out alive!). Enjoy with a nice cup of tea or a glass of port...

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  • Posted September 29, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A delightful mystery

    A Poisoned Season is the sequel to And Only to Deceive, though it is not necessary to have read the first one to enjoy it. Lady Emily Ashton is back in London, enjoying the freedom of being a young widow. Lady Emily is in love with Colin Hargreaves, but does not wish to marry again. But Colin does not wish to further add to the scandalous reputation of Lady Emily. Lady Emily prefers to spend her time learning Greek and visiting museums than taking part in the London Season.

    Once again Lady Emily becomes embroiled in a mystery as a man claims to be the rightful descendant of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette and seeks to restore the throne to France. Items that had belonged to Marie Antoinette are being stolen by various owners by a cat burglar. One of the owners turns up murdered and Lady Emily seeks to find the murderer, while being stalked by a man who leaves her notes in Greek.


    I love these cozy Victorian murder mysteries. Tasha Alexander is a delightful writer, very similar to the Lady Julia Grey series. Lady Emily is a fun protagonist, very much her own woman; she drinks port, smokes cigars, and meets with men unchaperoned. She reads popular novels and studies Greek. And she solves mysteries.


    These novels have just the right amount of history, mystery, and romance. I highly recommend them. I will soon be starting the next in the series, A Fatal Waltz.


    my rating 4/5
    http://bookmagic418.blogspot.com/

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  • Posted March 4, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    great book! LOVE THESE BOOKS

    great series.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 19, 2009

    Great Book

    This is a really great book. The whole series is new and refreshing.
    Tasha Alexander is a wonderful author.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2008

    Suspenseful yet sometimes confusing

    Sometimes the story line makes so many twists and turns that it's really hard to keep up. All in all, a good read though.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2008

    Lady Ashton is on the case!

    This is a fun and clever mystery that I could not put down until the last page. Lady Emily Ashton is not looking forward to the social whirlwind that is the London Season until Charles Berry comes on the scene claiming to be the lost heir of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. No sooner than Berry arrives an audacious cat burgler starts to rob the houses of London wealthiest, expect the only thing that he takes are items that once belonged to Marie Antoinette. When one of the cat burglers victims winds up dead, Lady Ashton is on the case to find the culprit who starts to give Lady Ashton unwelcome attention.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2007

    Superb and surprising

    This isn't my usual genre, but I liked the first in the series so much, I couldn't help but pick up the second novel. It doesn't disappoint. I was nervous that there wouldn't be enough oomph in the plot to follow up the ingenious romantic and mystery device that made the first book so good. But this delivers in its own way -- and makes clear that this series has a long life ahead of it.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    This is a delightful Victorian amateur sleuth tale

    Widow Lady Emily Ashton comes to London to enjoy the social season. However, as always amidst the Ton, rumors abound as almost everyone enjoys titillating scandal as long as it is not their own. This season the gossipers focus on rude Charles Berry, who insists he is related to the late French King and Queen Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette and should be sitting on the French throne. In fact his often boorish behavior supports his contention that he has royal blood.----------------- At about the same time that haughty Berry is looking down at the English aristocracy, someone breaks into several of the homes of the wealthy and pseudo-wealthy the thief steals only items once owned by Marie-Antoinette in fact leaving behind much more valuable items than those purloined. A bit on the eccentric side, Lady Ashton is curious about the thefts but goes into overdrive when she begins receiving Greek love poems and a valuable pink diamond owned by Marie-Antoinette, but not from her lover Colin Hargreave, who wistfully tells her he wished he gave them to her, but alas did not. Wanting to know who her suitor is she begins to investigate only her inquiry changes when friend David Francis is poisoned to death allegedly by the thief.------------------ This is a delightful Victorian amateur sleuth tale with a nice touch of romance adding depth to the blend. Emily is a delightful eccentric, but it is Berry who steals the show with his mysterious airs that will keep the audience wondering if he is a con artist, a thief, or the real thing. Tasha Alexander's strong investigative tale has a solid deep late nineteenth century anchor so that fans of historical fiction and whodunits will want to traverse London with Lady Emily Ashton (also see AND ONLY TO DECEIVE).--------------- Harriet Klausner

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