A Poisoned Season (Lady Emily Series #2)

A Poisoned Season (Lady Emily Series #2)

by Tasha Alexander

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Stolen jewels, secret identities, and death abound in this sparkling tale of suspense set in Victorian England, from New York Times bestselling author Tasha Alexander.

London's social season is in full swing, and Victorian aristocracy can't stop whispering about a certain gentleman who claims to be the direct descendant of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. But he's not the only topic of wagging tongues. Drawing rooms, boudoirs, and ballrooms are abuzz with the latest news of an audacious cat burglar who has been systematically stealing valuable items that once belonged to the ill-fated queen.

Light gossip turns serious when the owner of one of the pilfered treasures is found murdered, and the mysterious thief develops a twisted obsession with Lady Emily Ashton. It will take all of Lady Emily's wit and perseverance to unmask her stalker and ferret out the murderer, while faced with a brewing scandal that threatens both her reputation and her romance with her late husband's best friend, the dashing Colin Hargreaves.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061749711
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/13/2009
Series: Lady Emily Series , #2
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 14,412
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

When not reading, Tasha Alexander can be found hard at work on her next book featuring Emily Ashton.

Read an Excerpt

A Poisoned Season

Chapter One

There are several things one can depend upon during the London Season: an overwhelming barrage of invitations, friends whose loyalties turn suspect, and at least one overzealous suitor. This year was to prove no exception.

Having recently come out of mourning for my late husband, Philip, the Viscount Ashton, I was determined to adopt a hedonistic approach to society, something that I imagined would involve refusing all but the most enticing invitations and being forced to cull disloyal acquaintances. This would allow me to enjoy the summer months instead of trudging from party to party, feeling like one of the exhausted dead, finding myself the subject of the gossip that fuels young barbarians at play.

However, it became clear almost immediately that my theory was flawed. Declining to attend parties proved not to have the desired effect. Instead of dropping me from their guest lists, people assumed I was in such demand that I was choosing to attend events even more exclusive than their own, and there are few better ways to increase one's volume of invitations than by the appearance of popularity. So for a short while—a very short while—my peers held me in high esteem.

It was during this time that I found myself at the home of Lady Elinor Routledge, one of the finest hostesses in England and a long-standing friend of my mother's. By definition, therefore, she was more concerned with a person's societal standing than with anything else. Despite this, I had decided to attend her garden party for two reasons. First, I wanted to see her roses, whose equal, according to rumor, could not be foundin all of England. Second, I hoped to meet Mr. Charles Berry, a young man whose presence in town had caused a stir amongst all the aristocracy. The roses surpassed all of my expectations; unfortunately, the gentleman did not.

When stepping into the garden at Meadowdown, one was transported from the gritty heat of London's streets to a sumptuous oasis. For the party, lovely peaked tents were scattered between hedgerows, trees, and beds of flowers, ensuring that guests would never be more than a few paces from refreshment, and the sounds of a small orchestra wafted through the grounds. Young ladies flitted about, their brightly colored dresses competing with the flowers for attention and rarely losing the battle. The gentlemen, turned out in dark frock coats, were elegant, too, keeping their companions well supplied with ices, strawberries, or whatever delicacies might catch their fancy. Et in Arcadia ego. It would take little effort for one to imagine in this scene an eligible prince, all courtesy and ease, graciously bestowing his favor on those around him. But there was no such gentleman at Lady Elinor's that day. The only prince present—if he could be called that—was a grave disappointment.

The romantic ideals swirling around the heir to a throne are seldom capable of surviving close scrutiny. In the case of Charles Berry, these ideals hardly stood observation from afar. His appearance was not unpleasant, but his manners were dreadful, and to say that he was prone to drink more than he ought would be a very diplomatic statement indeed. The young ladies who followed his every move with admiration happily ignored all of this; they were captivated by the notion of marrying into a royal family. The situation was rendered all the more ridiculous when one considered the fact that the throne to which Mr. Berry aspired no longer existed.

"I hoped he would be more handsome." Cécile du Lac formed opinions of people quickly and rarely changed them. We had known each other for less than a year, but she had become one of my closest confidantes almost from the moment I'd met her, despite the fact that she was nearer in age to my mother than to me. She watched him as she continued. "And he lacks completely the generous spirit one likes to find in a monarch. If he could not claim a direct relation to Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, society would hold him in much less regard."

Almost from the moment Louis XVI's son and heir had died in a French prison during the revolution, rumors that the boy had escaped began to circulate. Now, nearly a century later, gentlemen were still coming forward, insisting that they were descended from Louis Charles. Charles Berry was the most recent to make the claim, and his story was filled with enough details to convince the surviving members of the Bourbon family to accept him as the dauphin's great-grandson.

"Don't judge him too harshly," Lady Elinor said, moving her hands gracefully in a gesture designed not to emphasize her words, but to show off the spectacular ruby ring on her right hand. "He's led a difficult life."

"Do you know him well?" I asked her.

"He was at Oxford with my son, George, although they didn't move in the same crowd. George has always been very serious. He takes after his father." Lady Elinor's husband, Mr. John Routledge, had been a steady if somewhat humorless man, who served in the government as chancellor of the exchequer until his death some years ago. George, who was much older than his sister, had taken a position in the diplomatic corps and had been stationed in India for so long that I could hardly recall what he looked like. "Let me introduce you. I think you'll find Mr. Berry most charming."

The gentleman in question stood not far from us, surrounded by several very eligible heiresses whose mothers watched, hawklike, from a safe distance, eagerly trying to gauge which girl garnered the most attention from the purported heir to the House of Bourbon. I wondered if any of them gave even momentary consideration to what it might be like to actually be the wife of such a man. None of the mothers tried to hide her irritation when Lady Elinor pulled him away.

A Poisoned Season. Copyright © by Tasha Alexander. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. <%END%>

Reading Group Guide


London's social season is in full swing, and Victorian aristocracy is atwitter over a certain gentleman who claims to be the direct descendant of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Adding to their fascination with all things French, an audacious cat burglar is systematically stealing valuable items that once belonged to the ill-fated queen.

But things take a dark turn. The owner of one of the pilfered treasures is found murdered after the theft is reported in the newspapers, and the mysterious thief develops a twisted obsession with Lady Emily Ashton. It takes all of Lady Emily's wit and perseverance to unmask her stalker and ferret out the murderer, while faced with a brewing scandal that threatens both her reputation and her romance with the dashing Colin Hargreaves.

Questions for Discussion

1. How is the modern perception of the Victorian era as full of innocent young ladies at odds with the fact that girls were pressured to marry young and grow up quickly?

2. Do you think Emily made the right decision concerning her pregnant maid? Is this a situation where it's acceptable to lie?

3. Why are the ladies in London so willing to accept Charles Berry? How does a class system foster an environment where a man of such dubious character can rise to such high standing, and why is society willing to stand for it?

4. Do you believe that a person has an obligation to carry on responsibilities taken on by earlier generations of his family? Did the true Dauphin's protector have the choice to walk away?

5. Victorian women had very little independence handed to them. Do you think that, because they had to fight for it, they appreciated it more and made better use of the freedom they earned than their modern counterparts?

6. How do you feel about Lady Bromley assisting Emily? Does it soften your feelings for her or make you view her as more manipulative than ever? Given the society she lives in, a place where women had few options, have her actions in general been in best interest of her daughter?

7. What do you think about Emily's decision at the end of the book? Do you think she's agreeing to something that will lead to enormous compromises in her independence? How enlightened can a Victorian man truly be?

Customer Reviews

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Poisoned Season 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 109 reviews.
Debbie-J-1970 More than 1 year ago
When an author is passionate about a particular subject or time, it comes through in their work. Tasha Alexander's 'A Poisoned Season' is my first venture into Victorian Suspense, and I'm glad it was. She captures the time period so perfectly, that one must wonder if she lived during that time and is merely recording her experiences. At the heart of the novel is the 'curse of Marie Antoinette', and the theft of her belongings that have been spread throughout since her imprisonment and death. Each page was an effortless read, with each conversation building from the last making for a real page-turner. I am an avid horror/thriller reader, so this was a real detour for me, however I was so impressed, that I would recommend 'A Poisoned Season' to fans of any genre who is aching for a good, smooth, passionate read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love Lady Emily, a modern woman in Victorian dress. She's intelligent, courageous, and perceptive. The turn of the century setting is interesting, the characters well-rounded, and I enjoyed the mystery.
Titian More than 1 year ago
I loved the concept of a mystery with a 19th century heroine. The characters are complex and the story is not predictable. Lots of fun and I recommend this book highly. The heroine has a very modern idea of what a woman's life should be and she won't give up her freedom easily. There are two plots - that of the mystery to be resolved and that of the heroine. It is interesting that she must make compromises to stay within the social norms of her times, while her inner self wants to break out. There are many struggles to be resolved. Enjoy this book - I did!
lilshai More than 1 year ago
Since this was the next book in the Lady Emily Series, and I was already enraptured with the story line, I was not expecting it to be about what it was. The plot itself has been present in many other books, but the mystery behind discovering the truth that Lady Emily unravelled was quite different. For the time period that this story was set in, I find that the techniques used and the threats apparent were very attention grabbing. It's not every day that a Lady uses cryptography to discover the hidden truth that history left unwritten. Being the headstrong woman that she is, Lady Emily threw herself into solving this mystery, regardless of the threats made on the life of those around her (herself included). I was completely caught off guard at what she discovered, but in a sense, not surprised. It is still a mystery after all, so one can't expect to know where the leads will end up at. This book was just as enticing as the first and I immediately started the next book in the series after finishing this one.
cameling on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lady Ashton gets caught up in another murder investigation but this time, she's also managed to find herself the recipient of romantic Greek messages from a secret admirer. Accidents, strange thefts and malicious rumors abound in this novel, keeping the readers on their toes and entertained.
rlsalvati on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An enjoyable outing, glad I found Tasha Alexander listed in my recs here at LibraryThing. I missed the first in this series; And Only to Deceive is now on my to-read list along with the rest of the Lady Emily books.
cbl_tn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
At the beginning of the London season, young widow Lady Emily Ashton hopes to avoid as many social obligations as she can to allow her more time to pursue her newly found interest in Greek literature and antiquities. It doesn't take long for her to find other distractions from the superficialities of the season: catching a cat burglar who specializes in items once owned by Marie Antoinette, solving the murder of an acquaintance who was also one of the cat burglar's victims, and identifying the mysterious suitor who leaves her gifts and notes written in Greek.I enjoyed the book, but not quite as much as the first book in the series. It took a while for me to become fully absorbed in its pages. I attribute this to the number of plot threads and the setting that needed to be created for each thread. At various points Emily had trouble deciding which investigation was the most pressing, and I shared her puzzlement. There were an awful lot of characters to keep track of, yet surprisingly few suspects among them. Some of the characters disappeared from the action for long periods of time only to reappear again many chapters later, like in a Dickens novel. Emily's sudden passion for scholarly pursuits seemed more out of place in this novel than in the first. It has been quite a while since I read the first book in the series and I would have benefited from a reminder of Emily's motivation for her Greek studies, which the previous book explained.Readers who like the characters in the Victorian Mysteries by Robin Paige will likely enjoy reading about Lady Emily Ashton and her circle.
jemerritt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A Poisoned Season has Lady Emily Ashton returning to the whirlwind of London¿s society only to be quickly embroiled in the fascinating intrigue of a gentlemen claiming to be Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette¿s great-grandson.Is the gentlemen the genuine heir of the French dauphin, Louis Charles who was highly rumoured to have survived the revolution, or is the gentlemen an impostor with grandiose ambitions?When precious items once owned by or directly connected to the ill-fated French Queen Marie Antoinette are stolen in London by a brazen thief and then murder is committed Lady Emily feels compelled to help solve the crimes.Discovering a series of letters written between Marie Antoinette and her hairdresser Léonard, Lady Emily is convinced that if only she could decipher the letters she would unveil the true identity of the dauphin¿s heir.Open threats, attempts on her life, a nefarious admirer and her reputation on the brink of ruins all conspire to ensure that Lady Emily does not succeed in unravelling the mysteries. But finding the truth and exposing the murderer is only the beginning.Once more, A Poisoned Season is not just a story of intrigue and mystery with a backdrop of English high society. This time around the reader is inspired to delve into the history of Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution.I enjoyed A Poisoned Season even more than And Only to Deceive. There were plenty of twists and turns, and more surprises than I could have hoped for. The return of Madam Cécile du Lac and Margaret Seward was an added bonus. Those two characters are rare gems. I highly recommend A Poisoned Season and look forward to Lady Emily¿s next adventure.
nabhill on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed 'A Poisoned Season' much more than the first in the series. The mystery, subplots, characters all seemed more interesting, better developed, however, sometimes the writing seemed 'flat' though less so in this book than the first.
thornton37814 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lady Emily Ashton is back. It's the beginning of the social season, and she has a mysterious admirer who is sending love notes written in Greek. There's also a burglar who is stealing items which had once belonged to Marie Antoinette. When Mr. Francis turns up dead, his wife asks for Lady Emily's help in clearing her maid of the charges against her. There are lots of plots and subplots in this novel, perhaps a bit too many at times. However, I enjoyed this novel more than the first in the series. There are some elements in the novel that remind me of the story lines in "romantic suspenses" such as those crafter by Phyllis Whitney although I would not characterize this story as one of those.
allureofbooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Like I said in my review of this first book of this series, And Only to Deceive, I absolutely love this series. I have re-read the books several times and always look forward to a new one being published. Tasha Alexander has created wonderful characters, and it is impossible not to fall in love with them. (Especially Colin, who may very well be the perfect man).This is my favorite book of the series so far, and one of my favorite books of all time. I love the way Emily and Colin butt heads as far as the detective side of the story goes. There are a couple of hilarious interactions! Colin does not like the thought of Emily putting herself in danger, and Emily doesn't like being told what do do. I understand her desire for independence, believe me. Her strong head is one of the best things about her...but she really needs to get it through her thick skull that giving up a little control for the sake of being with Colin: worth it. The mystery in this one is just as captivating as in the first novel, if not more so. Who is stealing Marie Antoinette collectibles? Who is sneaking into Emily's bedroom in the dead of night and leaving her creepy notes and flowers? What intelligent-but-reckless thing will Emily do next to try to solve the mystery? Will Colin have a heart attack from worry? And finally...the last page of this book. Possibly my favorite scene from any book. Ever. I want to blab, I really do. I want to tell you what happens because I know you would all swoon with me. Big time. Suffice it to say, it is romantic and involves books.Intrigued? Good. Read this series, you absolutely won't regret it!
wagner.sarah35 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Tasha Alexander's second historical mystery featuring Lady Emily lives up to the promise of this series. Lady Emily, a wealthy nineteenth-century widow, becomes quickly embroiled in scandal and a mystery surrounding a pretender to the French throne and Marie Antoinette's jewels. The persistent Emily uncovers secrets long kept by families and must deal with several determined admirers in addition to her love interest, the dashing Colin Hargreaves. A Poisoned Season was a fun and enjoyable read, highly recommended to fans of historical mysteries.
punxsygal on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another light read in the Lady Emily series (book #2). A tale involving stolen jewelry, secret identities and murder. Lady Emily is being snubbed by society for the appearance of some improprieties. And yet, there is a mysterious thief with obsessive behaviors who keeps invading her home leaving notes in Greek. Her mother continues to meddle in her affairs and Lady Emily has a bet with her romantic friend, Colin Hargreaves, involving the identity of her secret admirer. Lady Emily's life is never dull.
TheLibraryhag on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It is the Season in London and Lady Emily is once again under pressure from everyone, including the Queen, to marry again. She certainly is not at a loss for admirers, including a mysterious thief who specializes items that once belonged to Marie Antoinette and another person who claims to be the heir to the French throne. When one of victims of the thief is murdered, Emily is drawn into the investigation. I enjoyed this second Lady Emily Ashton mystery. The Victorian age and all it's silly rules comes to life in these novels. Emily and her friends are great fun too. If there was such a thing as a Victorian chicklit mystery, this would be it.
ddelmoni on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Though Book 2 of the Lady Emily Ashton series is better than the first book, I have the impression that Alexander isn't quite sure if she writes social commentary, romances or mysteries. I think this author has a lot of promise but needs to narrow her focus or improve her outlines. The mystery is languishing!
clue on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I throughly enjoyed this second book in the Lady Ashton series. The main character is very likeable and the story, involving stolen antiquities and murder, is interesting. In fact, I think this is the best of the two book series. I'll be reading number three when it comes out.
francescadefreitas on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A great sequel. Emily gets involved in the mysterious theft of objects once belonging to Marie Antoinette, and suddenly her life is in jeopardy. The mystery takes precedence over the romance here, and Colin is a less prominent character, but that is all for the better, as Emily shows she can handle herself on her own. I'd give this to fans of the first Emily Ashton book, everyone else I'd direct tot he first book in the series.
phalaborwa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Writing style is clunky especially with abrupt sentence and paragraph transitions, but a well-conceived plot and strong characters. Ending was a bit too predictable.
hlsabnani on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book quite a bit. I thought it was a good continuation of Alexander's first book. I also didn't figure out the "bad guy" until almost the end of the book which was a nice change.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Looking for a good read while waiting for the next CS Harris book to come out, I thought I would give this a try.. I had a hard time liking Lady Emily and I felt that it was a very slow read. So in the end it was little better than okay.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great series to escape to when i want to solve a mystery in Victorian England. Strong, independant female characters make this series tolerable for the modern gal.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Love,love Tasha Alexander books!! The Lady Emily books are a fun reading experience!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This wasn't fluff. You had to think about what was happening, But it was very interesting.
LillMagill More than 1 year ago
A great follow-up!