Wow - this book is great. One of Tanith Lee's best - and I love Tanith Lee. I don't really understand the pseudonym - the conceit is that she wrote these stories as if she were an imaginary author called Esther Garber - but, believe me, the style is all Lee.
A woman, after agreeing to do away with a couple of abusive husbands, finds herself emotionally obsessed with the bereaved mistress of one of the men she's killed.
Virgile, The Widow
An elderly woman who, for years, has run a salon for women at her manor house, decides to retire before dying - and to hire an infamous courtesan to be her companion in her last days. One of the young habituees of her salon develops an unhealthy obsession with the courtesan...
The Umbrella/The Woman Under The Umbrella/Rain
A story in three parts. This was apparently co-written - Lee did the first part (which is by far the best), another author wrote the response, and then they collaborated on the conclusion. Love at first sight, thwarted by misapprehensions...
A typist, after encountering an alluring woman at a party, inveigles her way into being hired to type the woman's husband's work (he's an author). Unfortunately for her, the wife seems to have no inclination toward women - but the husband sets his sights on pressuring his typist into becoming his mistress.
A ruthless and wealthy collector is bent on pressuring a poverty-stricken woman into selling him a valuable drawing by a famous artist, which he is sure that she owns. The only blatantly 'fantastic' piece in the book, it speaks eloquently about the pricelessness of art, and the richness it brings to our lives.
All of these stories are incredibly beautiful. There are few writings that I read and say, "YES - that is how I think." This did that.
The 'official' description of the book makes much of the lesbian content, but none of these are really erotic - though they are certainly sensual. At time I was reminded of both Anais Nin and Sarah Waters (the salon in 'Virgile' reminded me quite a lot of Diana's house in 'Tipping the Velvet.')