>> Monday, June 29, 2009
TITLE: A Wicked Liaison
AUTHOR: Christine Merrill
PUBLISHER: Mills & Boon Historical
SETTING: Regency London
SERIES: No, although I believe some characters first appeared in an earlier book.
REASON FOR READING: Heard good things about it.
Constance Townley, Duchess of Wellford, has always been impeccably behaved. So why does she suddenly feel a wild urge to kick over the traces?I haven't had the best of luck with M&B Historicals. Most of them sound just fascinating... exotic settings, original plots, interesting characters. And yet, most have turned out to be distinctly blah and even hard to plow through. A Wicked Liaison has been one of the exceptions. While it had some flaws, it had a to-die-for hero and some of my favourite plot elements, not to mention good writing that flowed really well and had me turning the pages.
Anthony de Portnay Smythe is a mysterious figure. A gentleman by day, he steals secrets for the government by night.
When Constance finds a man in her bedroom late at night, her first instinct is to call for help. But something stops her. The thief apologizes and gracefully takes his leave…with a kiss for good measure!
And Constance knows that won't be the last she sees of this intriguing rogue….
Anthony de Portnay Smythe is a former thief, now working for the government. His latest mission is to recover stolen money-printing plates, which could bring down the whole British economy if not found. He has a very good idea of who's responsible, though, and his first step is to go after the woman gossip currently links this man to, a woman who happens to be his first love.
Constance is the widow of a duke, and at her last tether. Her economic situation is extremely precarious, and she's become the target of a disgusting man, who seems to think that because she's a widow, she is therefore obviously desperate for sex. Even though she finds this man repugnant and has done nothing to encourage him, he has still succeeded in creating gossip about them, and her chances of making a good marriage are rapidly sinking.
Anthony has always considered himself to be too far below Constance's station to ever have a real chance at being with her, but when she surprises him searching her bedroom, something develops with the mysterious spy she believes him to be.
I'm a sucker for romances where the hero has been in love with the heroine for ages, so I really enjoyed this element of the romance. Tony is just lovely, so determined to help out Constance, and he's doing it for selfless reasons, too, since he doesn't think he'll be getting anywhere with her.
Constance I liked a bit less. I was perfectly happy with her completely mercenary marriage objectives, but she was too much of a damsel in distress for most of the book, powerless and resigned. I just found it hard to understand what was so great about her, what has Tony so far gone and head over heels.
Well, maybe it wasn't the characterisation of Constance that bothered me, but the fact that I didn't completely buy the situation. What I mean is, Merrill paints her as actually being powerless to stop Jack Barton and vulnerable to his threats, but I just couldn't believe that she was. She's a dowager duchess, for heaven's sake, and she does have friends! This is a man who's not particularly influential and he's basically just making shit up. Am I supposed to believe that it was so easy for a nobody to destroy the perfectly spotless reputation of someone with a high position in society?
I did like, though, that at the end, Constance snapped out of it and took steps to save herself. All in all, it was a good read, and I'm planning to seek out more of Merill's books.
MY GRADE: A B.