One Touch of Scandal, by Liz Carlyle

>> Thursday, November 18, 2010

TITLE: One Touch of Scandal
AUTHOR: Liz Carlyle


SETTING: Victorian England
TYPE: Romance
SERIES: Starts a new trilogy, but I'm not quite sure what it's called.

REASON FOR READING: Autoread author.

Against the glamorous backdrop of Victorian high society, Liz Carlyle paints a dramatic tale of dangerous desire, the first in her sizzling new trilogy.

All Grace Gauthier ever wanted was the security of a good marriage, family, and home. Instead, despised by her aristocratic father’s family because of her mother’s foreign birth, she’s taken a “safe” position as a governess. Now, unprotected and alone in London, accused of the shocking murder of her employer, she has no one to turn to except the mysterious—and possibly dangerous—Lord Ruthveyn.

A dark-eyed Lucifer, Ruthveyn guards his secrets carefully. His shadowed past is a source of pain and rumors—only whispered. Grace’s plight—which echoes his own—moves him, as does her quiet beauty. Ruthveyn is determined to save Grace by unmasking a killer. But his growing passion places his own heart at risk and threatens to expose his dark gifts to the world.
Grace Gauthier is in trouble. Things seemed to be going so well... she'd been working as a governess for two little girls she adored, and their father had proposed marriage. She didn't really love Ethan Holding, but she respected and liked him and yearned for a family, so she had said yes. They were about to announce their engagement. Then one night, after receiving a strange-sounding note from Ethan, Grace comes downstairs to his study only to find him murdered. Her two beloved charges are swiftly taken away, she must leave the house and go live with her horrid aunt, and worst of all: it soon becomes clear that the police suspect her of the murder.

At the end of her tether, Grace decides to an old friend of her father's. But when she seeks him out at the St. James Society, she finds Lord Ruthveyn instead.

The St. James Society is the home of the mysterious and ancient Fraternitas Aureae Crucis. With powerful bloodlines on both sides of his family, Ruthveyn is one of its premier members and has got powerful gifts. When he touches people he can both see into their souls and find out exactly how they're going to die. Understandably, this makes physical contact something not to be undertaken lightly.

When he meets Grace and realises he can't read her at all, and sees nothing when he touches her, Ruthveyn is fascinated. He's determined to help her out, as tells himself his friend would want him to, and solve the murder to make sure she's not a suspect anymore.

I confess I started out the book with some misgivings. I knew there was a secret society and paranormal elements involved, and that's something I felt would be a weird departure for Carlyle. And though the book did improve quite a lot in the second half, I'm afraid this was a bit of a disappointing read, especially disappointing because Carlyle has written some of my favourite authors.

On the surface, this sounds like there should be quite a lot of angst going on. There's Grace's worry that she might end up accused of murder, however innocent she might be, and there's Ruthveyn's struggles with his paranormal gifts. He's very strongly drawn to Grace, he wants her an likes her, and is very tempted to look at the fact that he can't read her at face value and just assume it's all fine, he'll be able to have a relationship with her because of it. But he knows that it's very possible that once they start becoming more and more intimate, the veil will lift, which would be intolerable.

Good, no? But for the first half of the book, I just didn't feel it. I had to almost force myself to carry on reading, because I wasn't too engaged. Somewhere around the halfway mark, though, the emotional intensity started getting across, and I enjoyed the book more, although it never managed to lift itself above average. I still don't exactly get what the whole secret society is about, and I found the mystery of who killed Ethan Holding remarkably uninteresting, but oh well, at least the romance ended up being ok.

I also wish Carlyle had done a bit more with the paranormal aspects. If you're going to have a paranormal plot, and have Ruthveyn constantly worry and angst about his powers and how they didn't allow him to have a normal life and so on, and so forth, at least show us how exactly they work. As with the secret society thingy, I'm still not 100% sure of how they work. I think he basically uses them once in the entire book, and that was very unsatisfying and vague.

The most interesting element of the book, in the end, was that about Grace and Ruthveyn's mutual friend, Rance (what's with the weird names, by the way? Rance, Royden, very silly), his past troubles with the law and the journalist who is hounding him. It all feels a bit irrelevant for most of the book, because I kept wondering what this whole thing had to do with anything else, but I found myself really riveted by a shocking revelation near the end. Still didn't have anything to do with the rest of the book, mind, but I found it really intriguing and would very much like to see what Carlyle does with it.

MY GRADE: I'm going to be generous and go with a B-, but it could just as easily, if I'd been in a different mood, been a C+.


Victoria Janssen,  18 November 2010 at 17:06  

I read this one last week.  Carlyle's also an autobuy for me, but like you, I think it didn't quite coalesce, perhaps because it's a new departure for her to include paranormal elements (though she had a little bit in NO TRUE GENTLEMAN, it wasn't directly involved in the plot).  I do plan to read the next one.  I am sure there will BE a next one, given all the sequel-bait I tripped over!

Danielle C.,  18 November 2010 at 18:32  

Ouch. Your well-reasoned thoughts confirm my impressions. Normally I shy away from paranormal elements but for Carlyle I was willing to make an exception. Throw in blandness, lack of focus, an indifferent mystery, and sequel-baiting (the messages I have picked up from reading excerpts and reviews) and this becomes the first book by Liz Carlyle for which I cannot work up any interest. I think I will have to go and console myself with "My False Heart"... Fingers crossed for the success of the next one.

rosario001,  19 November 2010 at 07:54  

Victoria: I'm planning to keep reading, as well. I've loved some of her past books so much that it'll take more than one ho-hum read to knock her off my autobuy list. There was rather a lot of sequel-baiting, wasn't there? Have you heard anything about what the next one's going to be about? And what's up with Rance and the reporter (I'd love to read an m/m from Carlyle, but I have some slight suspicions that that reporter is not what he seems!)

Danielle: Same here, fingers crossed. The one before this was good, so at least it's not like she's on a downward trend!

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