As part of Bas Bleu’s 2015 Book a Month program, each month we’re offering discussion questions, author interviews, or other bonus materials to enrich your reading experience—for book clubs as well as thoughtful individuals. (We’ll do our best to avoid plot spoilers, but you should proceed with caution!)
Emily, the heroine of April’s Book a Month selection, And Only to Deceive, is a girl after our own hearts: She uses the Victorian period of obligatory mourning for her dead husband (she hardly knew him!) as the perfect excuse to stay home and read. But waiting until after your husband is dead to really get to know him is tricky stuff, as Emily soon finds out when surprising truths about Philip, the late Viscount Ashton, begin coming to light in this mystery.
1. How does the moral code of Victorian England impose itself on Emily’s social life as a recently widowed young woman? How does it impact her interactions with male and female acquaintances?
2. To what extent is Emily’s marriage to Philip one of social convenience, and how does his early death affect her appreciation of his character?
3. What accounts for the complicated friendship that develops between Emily and Colin Hargreaves, and why might Emily be unwilling to trust Colin?
4. Why do you think the author chose to incorporate excerpts from Philip’s journal into the body of the novel, and how would you describe the effect of these passages on you as a reader?
5. Throughout the novel, Emily grows more interested in translations of Homer’s Iliad. How would you characterize the significance of Emily’s fascination with this epic poem to the novel as a whole?
6. Emily has never entirely bought into society’s rules, yet it is only after her intellectual awakening that she begins to deliberately break them. How do her intellectual pursuits empower her?
7. Forgeries are not considered works of art, even if they appear identical to the original. What makes a work of art a masterpiece? Why do ancient copies “count” as art in the modern world?
8. Of the many mysterious and suspenseful moments in And Only to Deceive involving stolen antiquities, which was most exciting to you and why?
Want more from this month’s selection? Check out this interview with author Tasha Alexander that we stole–er, borrowed–from her publisher!