The Devil to Pay, by Liz Carlyle

>> Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Liz Carlyle is one of the very few auto-buy authors I have left, and I've been anxiously waiting for The Devil to Pay (excerpt), ever since I read A Deal With the Devil back in June.

George Kemble, the man forever fixing everyone else’s problems, finds himself plagued by troubles of his own when his sister returns to London after a decade abroad. Sidonie Saint-Godard has lost her husband, but widowhood, unfortunately, bores her. When a thief called the Black Angel begins haunting the hells and alleys of London, robbing rich gentlemen of the ton, Kemble is mystified. He knows every member of London’s underworld, yet he does not know the Angel. But when a battered Sidonie collapses on his doorstep, bleeding from a nasty stab wound, Kemble begins to suspect the truth. Can he stop Sidonie’s dangerous behavior before someone else does?

Perhaps the Marquess of Devellyn can? The man unaffectionately known as the Devil of Duke Street has a watchful eye on his new neighbor, the mysterious Frenchwoman known as Madame Saint-Godard. In fact, he would like very much to seduce her, since he finds the lady lovely, intriguing, and almost disturbingly familiar . . . But when Kemble hears of his sister’s fascination with society’s most reviled nobleman, he is doubly alarmed. The Marquess of Devellyn is the absolute last person Kemble wants his sister in bed with—and for reasons which have nothing to do with Devellyn’s appalling reputation.
Well, this wasn't my favourite of all the Carlyles I've read, but it was quite excellent anyway, a B+.

I really enjoyed both protagonists, who were both very different from the usual. In Devellyn, the author managed to create a hero who really was dissipated and promiscuous (one who we even saw being dissipated and promiscuous), and yet kept him likeable. I think the reason why I wasn't bothered by his womanizing was that he seemed to really like the women he got involved with, and treated them kindly, be them an infuriated former mistress, a dockside prostitute, like Sidonie pretended to be, or a gently bred lady.

Also, he seemed very honest about himself, very aware of what and who he was and of the fact that this might make him unattractive to the woman he thought Sidonie was. He pursued her very much against his intentions, or at least what he thought his intentions should be. His obsession both for Sidonie and for the mysterious Ruby Black was wonderfully done.

Sidonie was a lovely character, too. She was also honest about herself and very clearheaded about her motivations for taking so many risks and about the possible consequences of her actions. For once, I thought that the heroine's risky actions weren't stupid... Sidonie planned well and had the sang-froide to carry out those plans. I guess she could be considered very much a tortured heroine, one who seemed to have a bit of a death wish, even.

I really enjoyed Sidonie and Devellyn's interactions, both with her as Ruby and as the elegant widow, Sidonie. These two had wonderful chemistry, and I felt their mutual obsession developed beautifully into love. Devellyn was a bit stupid when he discovered Sidonie's alter ego, but he soon snapped out of it and dealt with it well.

The only real negative I could find in this book was that Carlyle's writing style sounds a bit different from the one in the earlier books that made me such a fan of this author. The book was still very well written, but I felt the style wasn't as distinctive as it once was, not as sumptuous and rich. Oh, well, I still have the early books to go back to again and again, and they're just so very rereadable!


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