Tell Me No Lies, by Elizabeth Lowell

>> Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Continuing with my trip down memory lane (which I shouldn't be taking at all, considering the size of my TBR), I read Tell Me No Lies, by Elizabeth Lowell.

I'd last read it over 10 years ago, when I'd borrowed it from my high-school library. That library had some truly interesting stuff. I first read Woodiwiss's Shanna there, too!

PUPPETS ON A STRING

China's most priceless artifacts are being smuggled into the U.S. An international crisis is about to explode -- unless a desperate trap to catch a thief succeeds. And one woman is the key . . .

Lindsay Danner. Her worldwide reputation as an expert in ancient bronzes and her love for China make her the perfect pawn in a deadly game. But she needs protection.

Jacob MacArthur Catlin. The Dragon. A renegade ex-CIA agent whose name is still whispered in tones of hatred and admiration throughout Southeast Asia. Now it is his job to make sure Lindsay Danner succeeds . . . and lives.

Two puppets on a string. In a maze of intrigue where each deadly twist and turn leads deeper into deception and forbidden desire, friends can be enemies. Truth may be lies. Trust is a dirty word. And the only chance of getting out alive is to cut the strings . . . and grasp the only truth that remains .
Like Paradise, this was another successful experiment. I liked it just as much as I remember doing back in high school. An A.

If I were to guess when Tell Me No Lies was written, I'd never say 1986. It's radically different to what Lowell was writing back then, which was basically series books like Fever, books full of hateful men who mistreated the doormat heroine, heroes who reveled in making the most asinine assumptions and acting on them.

I found TMNL more comparable to her latest romantic suspense novels, like the Donovan series, for instance, with heroes who are tremendously macho and alpha, but who nonetheless, treat the heroine respectfully and are actually intelligent. These books have strong, immensely capable heroines, who are admired for it by the heroes, as well as excellently developed, fascinating suspense subplots.

The one difference I found in TMNL is in its favour, actually, and it's that the romance gets much more space and development (and it has better love scenes, too!). It was even my favourite kind of romance.

Catlin's the type of alpha I adore, a tough guy whose machoness manifests not through aggression but through protectiveness. He knows right from the beginning that Lindsay is exactly what she seems to be: an honest woman who's been placed in an unbearable situation through no fault of her own, and he falls for her right there.

The main barrier between them is that Catlin knows that it's not always possible to tell real feelings from fake ones when one is working undercover, living a lie, and he's sure that this is what's happening to Lindsay, that her apparent feelings for him won't last past the end of their charade. He believes that once she's back in her world, he'd be the last person she'd have feelings for. So, he tries very hard to stay away from her, which is especially difficult given the fact that they're pretending to be lovers.

Juicy conflict indeed, and the sexual tension Lowell manages to create here is amazing. She builds it brick by brick, until it's thick enough to be cut with a knife. And when, pretty late in the book, they finally act on their feelings, oh, wow! What a scene!

The whole international intrigue deal Catlin and Lindsay find themselves int he midst of is truly fascinating. It's all reminiscent of Jade Island, with its Chinese angle, and whether this is accurate or not, it feels as if Lowell did a shitload of good research.

I also really, really liked Lowell's writing here. Especially her dialogue. It's not particularly realistic (I mean, no one is that quick-witted), but it was brilliant to read, and the way she interweaves the concepts of truth and lies throughout every aspect of the book is great.

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