Never Lie to a Lady, by Liz Carlyle

>> Saturday, January 26, 2008

TITLE: Never Lie to a Lady
AUTHOR: Liz Carlyle

PAGES: 432

SETTING: Victorian England
TYPE: Straight romance
SERIES: First in Carlyle's latest trilogy (what is it called? The Never trilogy? The Neville trilogy?). Though there's a short story in the School for Heiresses anthology which introduces the characters.

REASON FOR READING: Autobuy author.

In her dazzling new historical trilogy, New York Times bestselling author Liz Carlyle plunges readers into the steamy underworld of nineteenth-century London. Among the swirling glitter of English high society, a scandalous rogue gets more than he bargained for in the lady of his desires.

Lord Nash is a creature of the night -- his wealth and title provide but a tenuous entrée into polite society. Notorious for his sophisticated manners and a dark, dashing elegance, rumors abound of the men he has bankrupted and the women he's left heartbroken. But when Nash leaves his lair for a rare foray into the ton, he faces a lure of temptation all his own -- an extraordinary moment of passion with a mysterious lady in the moonlight -- and an obsession that will lead him into a hellish world of smugglers, spies, and intrigue. And as for his damsel in disguise, the witty and beautiful Miss Xanthia Neville, he soon learns, is as unattainable as she is tempting. And now Nash must decide if she is also dangerous...
THE PLOT: Xanthia Neville and her brother own a very succesful shipping business, which they started when they were living in the West Indies. Xanthia has been involved in it from the beginning, and she isn't about to let those strict English rules about ladies not working keep her away. She's not particularly interested in marriage, anyway, so what does she care?

When she meets the Marquess of Nash in a ball and an unexpectedly steamy encounter takes place between them in a balcony, Xanthia is tempted, but makes herself strong and determines to keep away from him. But she'll soon have the perfect excuse to come close to him, when she's asked to help her country. She's to befriend Nash and investigate whether he's involved (on behalf of his mother's motherland) in some operations in Greece which threaten British interests in the region.

Sounds strange, but the reasoning on the part of the powers that be (which include our old friends Max Rohan and George Kemble, from many past Carlyle novels) is that as the owner of a shipping company, she can dangle the possibility of using her ships in front of him, and see if he'll take it. Makes sense, I suppose.

So anyway, now that she can tell herself she has a reason to be near Nash, Xanthia keeps close and she's quickly convinced that the man is innocent of any wrongdoing. And of course, their relationship soon turns into more than she would have expected.

MY THOUGHTS: I liked many things about NLTAL, but it just didn't have the absorbing quality Carlyle's books usually have for me. I suspect it might have been because I started reading it on the plane on the way here to England (the original flight from Uruguay... yes, it's been months since I read it and I'm only now getting to the review) and finished it while worried about my luggage, not the circumstances most conducive to being able to sink into a book. Maybe if I'd tried it again it would be better, because thinking back about particular elements of the book, none of my memories are negative.

Xanthia is a very interesting heroine... a woman for whom her business and her role in running it is intimately tied to her image of herself. This might have been hard to accept in a historical heroine, but Carlyle pulls it off, by helping us understand the way her past shaped this aspect of her personality. Now, whether it's believable or not that a woman would have been able to do this at the time, with as little trouble as Xanthia seemed to have had... doubtful. I was willing to suspend disbelief, but really, doubtful.

She's also someone who actually has a sexual past, no less! I thought her relationship with her former lover, Gareth (hero of the second book in the series) was very intriguing, and I enjoyed the kinda-triangle when Gareth first became aware of Nash's and Xanthia's involvement. Strange, really, since jealous exes usually make me groan.

I enjoyed Nash, too. What I found most interesting there was that when we first see him, he seems to be just like any other romance hero... a nobleman, a rake, etc., etc. But he's still very much an outsider, and not just because of his ancestry. This gave him much in common with Xanthia, and I thought it was a solid foundation for their relationship.

The actual suspense plot, with Xanthia's investigation and Kemble and Max running around? Meh. Not too interesting, but not bad, either. Still, this is one to read for the romance, not the plot.



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