Abibliophobia: the fear of running out of books to read
Okay, I admit that I may have abibliophobia even though I have an ever-growing stack of books to read along with an ever-growing list of books to read. A recent addition to my list of books came as a recommendation, but now I cannot remember who recommended Tasha Alexander’s Lady Emily series, so forgive me in advance.
Tasha Alexander’s first book in the Lady Emily series is And Only to Deceive. Alexander has followed it with eleven other books starring Lady Emily and one novella. The most recent book is Death in St. Petersburg set to be published in October 2017.
Emily feels pressure from her overbearing mother to find a husband, but Emily really wishes only to get out of her mother’s clutches. After turning down several marriage proposals, Emily accepts Viscount Philip Ashton’s proposal. As soon as the trousseau can be assembled, the two are wed. Emily remains indifferent to the preparations and to Philip’s professions of love for her.
Philip collects ancient Greek and Roman art, but he is also a big game hunter. Before the wedding, he had planned a safari, and Emily feels only to glad to tell him to keep his plan even though they are newlyweds. Sadly, on the safari, Philip dies of a terrible fever, leaving Emily a rich and titled widow after six months of marriage.
Emily learns more of Philip after his death than she has even cared to know when he was alive. She falls in love with Philip after his death and wishes she had not been so indifferent to him. She reads his journals and finds that he loved her greatly, even giving her the Greek name Kallista, a term of endearment he never mentions to her.
Emily, never one all that interested in education, suddenly wants to know as much as she can about Philip’s art and desires to learn the background as well. She begins reading the Greek classics, takes lessons in ancient Greek as well as Latin and takes drawing lessons from an artist. She frequents the British Museum where Philip has donated many of the artifacts he acquired and has long talks with the museum director.
Lord Palmer, another wealthy aristocrat, is also interested in the art and was a friend of Philip’s. His two sons, Andrew and Arthur, are not at all interested in their father’s art or literature, but only in acquiring money. To that end, Andrew pursues a relationship with the widowed Emily.
Emily enjoys conversing with Philip’s best friend Colin Hargreaves, another member of the safari and who was with Philip when he died. Hargreaves shares Emily’s interest in the history of the artifacts and is knowledgeable on the subject.
Here, the plot device that Alexander uses becomes a bit tiresome. The one person Emily should trust is Colin Hargreaves; however, because Andrew is so charming, Emily allows him too much access and too much freedom in their friendship. Andrew plays on the confidence Emily places in him and does his best to keep Emily’s suspicions of Colin in the forefront.
Emily enjoys being a widow even though she realizes she and Philip might have had a good relationship. She is also aware that his death is what pushes her into learning about the artworks, literature, and languages. Would those interests have risen to the top if Philip had survived?
As a widow, Emily is in charge of her own household and her money. Her mother keeps pushing Emily to marry again, of course, finding many suitable men to suggest. Emily keeps finding excuses to keep her mother at bay, often citing it is too soon to think of marrying again. As Philip’s widow, Emily has a lovely home and servants in London, a palatial estate in the country, and a villa in Greece. Why should give control over all these properties and her money to another man? Of course, the convention of the time means that women should be married and serve their husbands.
In the course of learning about Philip, reading his journals, and also learning about the antiquities, Emily discovers some disquieting information that leads her to believe Philip had been involved in some illegal purchasing of antiquities and of also being involved with forgeries of ancient artifacts.
Arthur Palmer, Andrew’s younger brother, brings a letter purportedly from Philip and posted from Cairo only a few weeks ago, long after Philip’s death. At first, Emily hopes that the letter is real and that Philip has escaped death in Africa. Then a missionary brings Emily the picture of Emily and Philip from their wedding day, saying Philip has given him the picture for her. Her hopes rise that Philip is alive. Later events reveal that Andrew has stolen the picture and hired a man to pretend to be the missionary with the picture.
Clever Emily and Cecile du Lac conceive a plan to trap Andrew in the fraud. The plan puts Emily in some danger, but other events have also placed her in danger. She feels she must go through with the plot in order to know the truth. Is Philip really still alive? Does Andrew know more about Philip and his death or whereabouts than he lets on? Is Colin Hargreaves somehow involved in the plots?
And Only to Deceive gives readers clear pictures of late Victorian social life of aristocrats. In fact, Emily’s mother reminds Emily frequently about how the dear Queen acts in her mourning for Prince Albert. I will read another book in the series, but that will have to wait since some required reading calls my name at present.
I am interested in what writers like to read; on Tasha Alexander’s Web site, I discovered the following about the authors she likes to read:
“I’ll read pretty much anything I can get my hands on, but some of my favorite authors (in no particular order) are Jane Austen, David Mitchell, Leo Tolstoy, Vikram Seth, Meg Wolitzer, Haruki Murakami, Elizabeth Peters, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Anthony Trollope, William Thackeray, Naguib Mahfouz, Arthur Phillips, Pablo Neruda, Homer, Dorothy L. Sayers, Carol Shields, David Lodge, William Boyd, James Thurber, Margaret George, Pauline Gedge, Mika Waltari, Robert Harris, Jeannette Winterson, Henry James, Evelyn Waugh, Orhan Pamuk, and Saki (H.H. Munro).”
The Baltimore Sun reviewed the Lady Emily series in this way: “Alexander excels in depicting the social mores of a society uncomfortable with the independence of women, and deftly allows the plot to develop in tandem with Emily’s growth.”
Tasha Alexander describes herself as a “reluctant master of packing light. Lover of beautiful shoes & spicy food. Lapsed ballerina. Cook. Book junkie.” Read her thought-provoking blogs at this link: http://talexanderbooks.blogspot.com/.