Yes, its literature! A historical spy/adventure/romance. And its fantastic.
Tasha Alexander presents an independent, naive widow that through her journey to discover more about her deceased husband uncovers intrigue, forgery and the criminal underbelly of antiquities. She also discovers a lot about herself in the process.
Is it really hist-ro? Granted, the romance is not the center of the plot, but rather subjugated to minor scenes. But then again, aren’t all hist-ros really about more than the romance?
I like to think about media as a layer of an onion. Take Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Sure, its about a chick who hunts down vampires with her buddies. But the subtext is really about the sorts of trials and tribulations teenager face and how friendship, integrity and truth can beat almost anything.
Same thing with romance. While I may sink my teeth into a juicy Regency romp, relishing in the romance, I also know sub-consciously that the books are usually about the fine line women walk between virgin/whore in Western culture…and how all women battle with wanting a fulfilling life but need to figure out how to balance that with family too.
So, I definitely categorize And Only to Deceive as historical romance (or maybe her prettier stepsister).
It was hard to put down, engaging, and filled with wonderful independent feminine spirit. It also had one of the staples of the hist-ro genre: strong sisterhood.
I love the foil of the mother character, who is truly one of the best, most realistic villains I have read in a long time. I also love that Lady Ashton is fairly indifferent to her suitors (well, with the exception of one). There is something nice about a female character who has little use for dandies and rakes.
I highly recommend this one as a break from the norm, and look forward to reading the sequel A Poisoned Season. Fans of Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series will also thoroughly enjoy Alexander’s dive into Victorian underworld.