In the 19th century, marrying well is Lady Emily Bromwell's obligation, according to her mother. But Emily refuses the men her parents consider suitable--until she meets Philip, Viscount Ashton, who offers her a way out. But Emily is soon widowed--Philip dies under mysterious circumstances while on safari--and she finds herself mourning a husband she barely knew.

Guilt over her lack of sincere grief prompts Emily to learn a little about Philip, who was an avid collector of antiquities. In doing so, she meets his friends Andrew Palmer and Colin Hargreaves, who claims to have been with Philip at the end. Soon, Emily begins to suspect that Philip was in-volved in illegal activities. Then rumors that he's still alive surface, and Emily feels honor-bound to investigate.

Alexander's debut title is tightly plotted, with a large cast of well-defined characters. The narrative is strong and unrelentingly draws the reader into Emily's world, which, despite its constrictions and perils, seems a fine place to spend time. (Oct., 320 pp., $23.95)
Reviewed by: 
Catherine Witmer