A Deal With The Devil, by Liz Carlyle

>> Wednesday, July 07, 2004

So, with A Deal With The Devil (excerpt), I finally get to my last Liz Carlyle and have no more of hers to read. A real shame. I've enjoyed my reread of her backlist very much.

Aubrey Montford claims to be a widowed housekeeper. Desperate to keep her new post - and her secrets - she transforms desolate Castle Cardow into a profitable estate. Yet soon after her employer, Lord Walrafen, returns from long years of absences, Aubrey is suspected of murder. Sparks and tempers ignite whenever she and the smoldering earl meet, but he may be her only hope.

Walrafen returns reluctantly to the childhood home he loathes. Cardow is said to be haunted - by more than the earl’s sad memories - but it was no ghost that murdered his uncle. Is the castle’s beautiful chatelaine a murderess? At the very least, she’s a liar - he has proof. Yet the truth of his soul is that he’s drawn to her with a fierce passion he’s never known...
My first impulse is to say that this one was thisclose to being an A-range book, but compared to other of Carlyle's, it just didn't deliver as much emotional punch. However, when I compare it to other books in the market and having let a couple of weeks go by, which has allowed me to "mature" my impressions of the book, so to speak, I feel I need to give this an A-.

Like the way it explores the fine line existing between a romance between boss and employee and a story about sexual harassment. I like that Carlyle didn't shy away from showing that even having Giles not blackmail Aubrey into giving in to his requests isn't enough, because Aubrey fills in the blanks herself. She doubts whether he can trust his assurances that he wants her to be willing, and he can never be sure that she understands that she won't be fired for refusing him. Both are very aware of this, and the best parts of the book are when they are dancing around this issue. It gives the book a piquancy, an element of the forbidden that I liked and an angst and sexual tension that I really enjoyed.

In the last part of the book, once things are more settled between them, this source of tension mostly disappears, and the emotional power of the book diminishes a bit, but it was still very satisfying.

Also, very fortunately, Carlyle continues the tendency she started in The Devil You Know and moves away from the heavier and heavier suspense subplots present in her previous books. The emphasis here was wholly on Giles and Aubrey, not on the suspense subplot. And what there was of it, was actually enjoyable, giving us a chance to catch up with some characters from previous books. This was really enjoyable, because the appearances by these characters weren't pointless, as they often are in other books. They had roles that made perfect sense in this story. And at last! A hero and heroine who are happy to leave the investigation of a crime to the experts!

I was actually a sad to finish this one. Now I can only wait for The Devil To Pay next year...

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