Author: Tasha Alexander, 2005.
Genre: Historical Fiction. Cozy Mystery. Romance.
Other Details: ebook. 321 pages.
For Emily, accepting the proposal of Philip, Viscount Ashton, was an easy way to escape her stifling home life so when her new husband dies on safari, she feels little grief for she barely knew the man. Now, two years on, when she finds his journals she discovers a very different man to the one she thought she had married - one who was a gentleman scholar who was very much in love with his new wife. Emily becomes fascinated with this new image of her dead husband and immerses herself in his intellectual pursuits, studying Greek and spending time in the quiet corridors of the British Museum. But there, amid priceless ancient statues, she uncovers a dark, dangerous secret involving stolen artefacts from the Greco-Roman galleries. and as she sets out to solve the crime she discovers even more surprises about her dead husband. - synopsis from UK publisher's website.
A promising start to this series set in 1890. In addition to this quest for answers, Emily is coming to the end of her official mourning period and her dominating mother is already starting to push her towards making another advantageous marriage. Emily has some suitors but is rather enjoying the independence that widowhood has granted her and is unsure about giving it up. In her end notes about the novel, Tasha Alexander writes about the position of aristocratic women in the late Victorian period and that she "was determined not to create twenty-first-century characters, drop them into bustles and corsets, and call them historical."
I felt for the most part that she succeeded in this though there were times when the period setting felt a little strained though I was willing to overlook this given the author's end notes and this being a début novel. I also wonder if there are cultural factors involved. One of the key differences often noted about USA and UK cultures is the emotional openness of the former in contrast to the reserve of the latter. So it may just be harder for USA writers to place themselves in the Victorian mind-set where it can seem so natural when a writer has that innate reserve to call upon.
Overall this was a fun read and I don't regret committing to the series as thanks to a Kindle sale last year I snagged the first seven for less than the price of a normal paperback.