The title: A Poisoned Season
The author: Tasha Alexander
Publication: HarperCollins, 2007
Got it from: TWBB, Toronto, April
This is the second book in the Lady Emily Ashton series, the first being And Only To Deceive, which I read and loved last summer. A Poisoned Season takes place the summer following the last novel's close. Emily has since returned from a holiday from her estate in Greece, undecided whether to accept the proposal of Colin Hargreaves, her late husband's best friend and spy for the royal crown. Meanwhile, a pompous gentleman has been making the rounds in London claiming to be a descendant of Marie Antoinette, and Emily has picked up a secret admirer who may be the thief stealing Marie Antoinette's property. Like every good British mystery, a murder occurs early on in the book and the victim's widow entrusts Emily with the task of solving it.
As usual, the charm of this series lies with the details of Victorian life. If you, like me, daydream about elegant balls, fancy dresses, tea parties, leisurely promenades and traveling the continent one art gallery at a time, you will not be disappointed. If you crave excitement, there's plenty of that too. The heroine is forever getting involved in dangerous situations that involve drugged wine, thieves in the night and attempted carriage overturnings.
Be warned, though: even if you've read the first book, the cast of characters in huge and difficult to keep track of. Thankfully there is a listing of them in the front of the book to help sort them out. Emily continues to be an enjoyable heroine. She only slightly borders on Mary Sue territory (another man in love with me? ho hum), but her intelligence and curiosity help redeem her.
Sadly, I will probably not be continuing on with this series. The except from book three at the back of this one did not seem like my cup of tea, and from the descriptions and reviews of the rest of the series I've read online, I don't think I would enjoy them all that much to put in the huge amount of concentration it takes to appreciate them. Still, I enjoyed these first two books and have already recommended them to others with very positive feedback.