A Woman Scorned, by Liz Carlyle

>> Friday, November 12, 2004

I've loved everything I've ever read by Liz Carlyle (and I've read all her historicals, at least), but A Woman Scorned (excerpt) is probably the one I've reread the most times.

Jonet Rowland, the Marchioness of Mercer is lovely, rich, and—it is rumored—an unrepentant adulteress. And when her philandering husband is murdered in his own bed, it's whispered that Jonet is a femme fatale in more ways than one. It will take a dashing and honorable soldier to get Jonet out of this one.

When his scheming uncle begs Captain Cole Amherst to investigate the death of his brother, Lord Mercer, Cole flatly refuses. But it is soon apparent that treachery stalks Lady Mercer's two innocent children. A man of God and a scholar, Cole reluctantly plunges into the viper's pit that is Jonet Rowland's life, and finds that nothing could have prepared him for the lust she inspires...or the danger which surrounds them.
A Woman Scorned is very much a comfort read for me. It's the perfect book to read on a stormy night, sitting in my favourite armchair, with a glass of good wine at my elbow. My grade: an A-.

The romance and main characters were really great. There was a bit of a role reversal here, in that the tortured character was the heroine and the hero was the one who had to bring a little sweetness and light into her life.

I did like Jonet, very much, even though I'm aware of the fact that she might come across as hard and abrasive at first. She has good reason to be distrustful of Cole, considering he's supposed to be James envoy, but she's not above using common sense and realizing that she was wrong and she can relax and be a bit softer.

As for Cole, Carlyle has succeeded in creating a hero who's honourable and idealistic and yet doesn't cross the line into weak or indecissive. He's a strong beta. He has his principles, behaves the way he believes someone honourable should, and doesn't hesitate to stand up to people and not let them manipulate him. My respect for him started when he refuses his uncle's "mission" to spy on Jonet in order to prove that she's a bad mother, and instead takes the post simply to make sure things are all right and refuses to report to James. I think my favourite scene in the book is one near the end, a love scene, actually, in which Cole pretends to be this very take-charge alpha and Jonet plays along, ending in both dissolving into laughter.

The initial situation between the was a steamy lust-at-first-sight, in spite of the fact that neither thought very well of the other. This has the potential to be irritating, if handled wrong, but it was done very, very well here. I loved the way this mix of feelings developed into love, for both of them, in spite of themselves.

The supporting cast was very strong. I was very intrigued with David when I first AWS, and even after having read his book, he's still a fascinating character. The children are also very well characterized and feel quite real. As for the suspense subplot, I liked that it was just important enough to motivate the story, but unobtrusive enough to let the focus be squarely on the characters and the romance.

In spite of being very engaging, this is not a fast-paced read. None of Carlyle's are, and the fact that she can handle a leisurely pace without dragging is one of the reasons I like her books so much.

Having reread all of the author's books within the past year, I really can't wait to get her new one!


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