Tea For Two, by Cathy Maxwell & Liz Carlyle

>> Monday, April 24, 2006

Tea For Two contains the only Liz Carlyle story I had left to read. Actually, rather than a "short story", this one would be a novella (I think. Am I getting the terms right?), since it's almost 200 pages long, so I had no problem getting the book for her contribution alone. Can you tell I haven't liked the couple of Cathy Maxwell books that I've tried?

Cathy Maxwell's In a Moonlit Garden comes first in the book, but I read it second.

Posing as a tea merchant, Colonel Michael Sanson infiltrates an eccentric chemist's household in search of a stolen formula. But as soon as he lays eyes on the thief's niece, Lady Jocelyn, he is sidetracked into doing the fair lady's bidding. Little does Michael know that assisting in Jocelyn's scheme to make her former suitor jealous will send him into a tailspin of love and white-hot passion.
Did I say "read it"? Well, read part of it, at any rate. This was a DNF for me. I read about a third of the story: 60 pages, and it took me two weeks to work my way that far into it. Me! The person who reads over 200 books a year!

By the time I got to page 60, I was hating the book, the characters, the plotting, the writing style, and even the complete historical inaccuracy (this is so not like me! I'm not one of those creatures who get all upset if the author dresses her characters in a style that didn't become fashionable until the following year).

And I was bored. Bored! Bored, bored, BORED. And did I mention I was bored? Writing "bored, bored, bored" in my blog is more entertaining than reading that story. So, considering that a) at the point I left the story Maxwell seemed to be setting up to take the plot in a particularly annoying direction, and b) my past experiences with this author gave me no hope that things would improve at all, I just put the book down, and good riddance to this silly story.

The Liz Carlyle was miles better. Hunting Season is actually kind of related to other books by the author, and we catch up with the characters from books like A Woman Scorned and Beauty Like the Night, two of my favourite Carlyles.

Christian Villiers, the Marquis of Grayston, returns to England determined to ruin the man responsible for his beloved sister's suicide. Seducing the cad's intended, Lady Elise Middleton, would be a bonus. But during an elaborate house party, Christian realizes he has met his match in the fiery and passionate Elise...and soon he must decide whether a moment of vengeance is worth risking a lifetime of love.
I've said before that I'm not the biggest fan of revenge plots, especially when the hero (and it always seems to be the hero, doesn't it?) sees nothing wrong in ruining innocent people to gain his objective. That blurb made me fear this could be the case, but fortunately, it wasn't. Christian is totally justified in wanting revenge against this man, and his plans don't include ruining the man's fiancée (our heroine, Elise), but to flirt with her enough to make her fiancé challenge him.

It's quite a sexy story, and while I thought the lust was a bit better done than the love, I found Christian and Elise's relationship really engaging.

Also, I loved Carlyle's writing style here. This is a 2002 book, so it was before her voice started becoming more and more muted and undistinguished (her last book that I've read, Two Little Lies, seems to mark a return to her old style, hopefully), and it was as rich and lush as it was in my favourites.

My grade for this particular story: B-.


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