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REVIEW: Never Deceive a Duke by Liz Carlyle

Dear Ms. Carlyle,

Never Deceive a DukeAt this point, I think I’m going to stop with this trilogy even though the hero who’s left is a character I initially had the most interest in. I had problems with Never Lie to a Lady and they’ve only got worse with Never Deceive a Duke. For one thing, the plot of commoner suddenly being raised to the height of the British peerage is not a favorite of mine and for another, none of the main characters in this book ended up appealing to me. I got tired of their angst, I didn’t see them fall in love and the suspense plot was even weaker than in “Lady.”

First thing: Need does not equal Love. Gareth needs to be needed and Antonia is very needy so in the end, I guess they found the Right Person and might be very happy together – as long as Antonia doesn’t become the independent woman she tells Gareth she wants to be.

Antonia – you tell us she so strong (actually she tells us that) but Gareth is always rushing off to make sure she isn’t struck by lightening, doesn’t fall through the stairs, isn’t afraid of the storm…..need, need, need — he certainly doesn’t seem to really believe in her “strength.” Overbred domestic turkeys also don’t have the sense to come in out of the rain either. Most of Antonia’s scenes are cry, cry, cry me a river. She did survive the nasty things that Daddy Dearest had done to her to snap her out of her postmortem depression but overall much of what I took away from this book about her is her tremulousness, her Barbara Cartland heroine speech hesitations (okay maybe not that bad but just read a few pages of her dialogue to see what I mean), and her dissolving into tears throughout first 150 pages.

For years Neville Shipping is Gareth’s life and yet he barely even thinks about it once tremulous Antonia starts sucking him dry with her need. And at the end Gareth suddenly decides he’s in love? No, he’s in need and he admits that he thought he loved Zee until he decided she didn’t need him. Antonia wants to be an independent woman and Gareth supposedly wants this for her yet he prattles on (when he tells her about conditions on board) that women need to be protected, cared for, swaddled in swans down and isolated from the horrors of life…..and why the fuck does he tell her about life for him on board the “pirate” ship? Why? You said he’s never told anybody and he just spills it all to her? Because he trusts her? Needs Loves her? Then he wails on and gnashes his teeth over having poisoned her feelings for him. WhyTF tell her dude? Oh, that’s right, the plot requires it.

Did Robert Altman lie to us about servants in “Gosford Park?” How in the hell could two servants (one of whom hates Gareth and would be sure to pass on juicy gossip of Kemble arriving as friend of Keiran and the debate over whether or not Kemble should be upstairs or down and what the hell would a footman have to say in where Kemble would be roomed?) see Kemble arrive and then have Kemble expect to coax their secrets out? Oh puhleeze. Gareth goes on about how he worked his way up the ranks as a business person and respects the working man and yet he expects to try to insult and hoodwink his own staff that way? Oh puhleeze. Servants knew the pecking order of life, knew who was above them in station and how fellow servants were supposed to act. This whole section just felt wrong to me from the beginning. Then we find out what really happened and I’m left thinking, “I spent this amount of time reading this section for this resolution?!” And why have the debate over whether or not to fire a particular servant? Gareth knows that servant is preying on the female staff, hates him, and is causing trouble yet he whinges on for pages over what to do then boom fires him. Why take so long for no purpose?

I had high hopes with prologue but just like “Lady” I ended up more interested in everything but the main romance. Until, that is, I read to the end of the book and saw who actually killed the old Fart Duke. I guess Gareth and Antonia will be happy together. They both have angsty backgrounds but 1) Antonia is the only one who actually might have progressed a bit in dealing with her issues while 2) Gareth mentions his to her but nothing seems to come from it except to make her feel sorry for him. I read over 400 pages and finished
it wishing for my time back.

~Jayne

****

Dear Ms. Carlyle:

Never Deceive a DukeThis will be a “dueling” review because while I was on the fence about this story, I did think it was more compelling than Jayne. The reason I am on the fence about this book is because on the one hand there was a point that this book drove me to tears. On the other hand, it was almost an unrelentingly depressing book. Each chapter except for the very last two started out with a vignette of Gabriel/Gareth's former life and it was all very negative. He had a very very sucky life.

The lighthearted moments were provided by Kemble, the intrepid valet turned master spy/antique dealer/decorator. It is clear to me that you, the author, love this character. He is richly drawn and provides good comedic value to the story. The problem is I just have a hard time buying into his character progression. As Jayne so rightly points out, the character of the servants, including Kemble, seemed so at odds with what my perception of conduct that is historically accurate I find myself jarred from the story. Maybe it is too many viewings of Gosford Park or Georgette Heyer, but the portrayal of the servants in this story, particularly Kemble, never sat right with me.

As for the love story, I believed it because of the very reasons Jayne disliked the story. Antonia is an emotionally vulnerable woman who needs to rely on someone and Gabriel/Gareth needed to be important to someone. Antonia’s need resonated with Gabriel/Gareth and so while this relationship was uneven and unhealthy, it worked for them and I felt that, as a unit, they were better off together.

There was a societal issue that I thought was important but not brought out sufficiently and that was Gabriel/Gareth was part Jewish and he was reviled by some of his servants and some of society for it. I felt that if it was important enough to bring up as a plot point, then something more should have been done to address it instead of making the “good” servants not care and the “bad” servants despise him for it.

The main problem for me wasn’t that Antonia and Gabriel/Gareth had suffered so tremendously throughout their lives, but the fact that so much of the book dwelled upon these dark, unhappy moments. With each chapter end, I grew to dread turning the page because I didn’t know if I could stomach one more depressing scene from Gabriel/Gareth’s life. Despite the darkness of the story, I still read each subsequent chapter and I was emotionally moved so I have to give it a B-.

Best regards

Jane

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

16 Comments

  1. Angela
    Jul 26, 2007 @ 06:36:24

    I was so bored that I ended up skimming the last 2/3 of NLTaL. I was intrigued by Gareth’s Jewish heritage, but despite AAR gving this book a decent review, I was still on the fence about. I’m going to have to go with Jayne because her review hit the type of stuff that is destined to bug the hell out of me. Ah well, it was good while it lasted, but I don’t think I can keep Carlyle on my auto-buy list anymore.

  2. Jayne
    Jul 26, 2007 @ 06:59:37

    Angela, I wanted to like this book and as I said, it started well. For the prologue and maybe the first 2-3 chapters. Then it was downhill all the way.

    One thing I forgot to mention was someone (I think it was Gareth) using the term “Jewess” to describe his mother. I have been told by someone who knows that this term is considered an insult so for a seemingly sympathetic character to use it (honestly I can’t recall just now who actually used it) was like a slap. And as Jane says, the issue of his staff and Society’s feelings about his background was never dealt with. So why have it in the book at all?

    It looks like I’m going to have to go backward with Carlyle’s books in order to find good ones.

  3. Tara Marie
    Jul 26, 2007 @ 07:27:11

    I am 60 pages into this book and enjoying it, so once again I wont be reading the reviews until I’m finished :)

  4. Erastes
    Jul 26, 2007 @ 07:45:21

    I find any mention of servants rather incongrous in regencies, as servants were invisible in the main. I wouldn’t take either a 20th century representative file or Georgette Heyer as source material.

    And OMG that cover. That would put me off even lifting the thing off the shelf.

  5. Angela
    Jul 26, 2007 @ 08:26:16

    That’s too bad Jayne, as I’m really interested in the romance genre including non-Christian protagonists. The Jewish heritage of a few of her characters both main and secondary that made me enjoy Nita Abrams’ spy series so much.

  6. Emma
    Jul 26, 2007 @ 10:20:45

    And OMG that cover. That would put me off even lifting the thing off the shelf.

    This is interesting to me, because I’ve seen discussions elsewhere on what a lovely set of covers she has been given for this series. Would you have preferred a clinch cover? What is it about the cover that turns you off?

  7. MCHalliday
    Jul 26, 2007 @ 11:18:11

    Dueling reviews are such a great idea, perfectly illustrating the differences in reader enjoyment; one may be moved to tears and another be so unmoved, as to think the book a waste of time. Kudos, Ja(y)nes!

  8. jaq
    Jul 26, 2007 @ 11:18:56

    once tremulous Antonia starts sucking him dry with her need.

    I found this sentence funny as hell. :-D

    Sorry, I don’t have anything relevant to add to this comment thread. I’m fairly sure I have read a Carlyle book at some point, but nothing is comes to mind so she might have been one of those INYIM authors. On the other hand… Tara and I have close tastes in reading matter. On the other, other, hand having just read the YA book CRANK I think I’ve had my fill of dark/depressing reads for the time being.

  9. Jane
    Jul 26, 2007 @ 16:22:51

    The more I think about the Jewish character issue, the more that it bothers me. I almost felt (but I don’t think the author intended this) that the prejudices were resolved by them agreeing that he was English, not just Jewish.

  10. Jayne
    Jul 26, 2007 @ 19:17:35

    Jane remember at the end of the book Gareth tells Antonia (?) that “he’s as English as you are” or something like that and that he’d been baptised in the Church of England and went to church just like everyone else.

    One thing that I think is strange, looking back, is during the chapter openings when both his grandfather and grandmother, despite their promises to their daughter to raise Gareth as a Protestant Englishman, kept saying to him things like, “When will you learn that you’re not like them (the Protestant English)?” Kind of defeats the whole purpose.

  11. emdee
    Jul 27, 2007 @ 10:50:52

    I’m almost at the end of this book and I am enjoying it. I’ve read all of Carlyle’s books and they are all keepers for me. Indeed, it was a Carlyle book that brought me back to the romance fold 3 years ago after a long absence. I don’t understand the negative comments on the covers, I think they are lovely. As for the story itself, it is depressing but reminds me more of something Kinsale would write than anything else, just takes me back a bit to The Shadow and the Star.

  12. Kerry Allen
    Jul 27, 2007 @ 11:12:57

    I like the covers, too. I used the “Never Lie” cover (the blue dress) in an upcoming blog entry about good romance novel covers. I think I chose it over the yellow one because it goes better with my color scheme, but I admire them both.

  13. Sybil
    Jul 27, 2007 @ 13:13:25

    I loved the covers. And loved the second book and really enjoyed the first one but I know Lawson has had a hard time even starting the first book.

    So I think reviews are gonna be all over. The big thing I am sad about it the last book will not be out until NEXT YEAR. le sigh… and that is the book I want, want, want to read.

  14. Jane
    Jul 27, 2007 @ 13:48:13

    Jane remember at the end of the book Gareth tells Antonia (?) that “he's as English as you are� or something like that and that he'd been baptised in the Church of England and went to church just like everyone else.

    Yep, that’s what I was thinking about too. It was like Carlyle went out her way to make a big deal about his half Jewish nature and how it was supposedly drummed out of him by his grandparents in their passive aggressive way but the resolution was that his English nature blotted out that ugly stain? Weird and I don’t really think Carlyle has meant it that way because her inclusion of past non-English characters.

    I thought the covers were lovely.

  15. Robin
    Jul 29, 2007 @ 21:04:52

    I liked this book much better than both of you did. I didn’t take that last statement of Gabriel/Gareth’s as rejecting his Jewishness at all; in fact, I loved that he wanted so much to be a Jew, that he respected the Jewish traditions and was able to appreciate them despite the fact that he was neither accepted as Jewish or Christian. I felt that when he made that comment to whatever member of the staff he was talking to at the time that he was simply stating a fact — in a sense he was both Anglican and Jewish, and in fact, I felt that he was sort of angry when he made that comment, exasperated both by the circumstances (that he wasn’t completely Jewish and yet also resented how “foreign” the Jews were seen) and by the fact that he was not allowed to be fully in one religion or the other. Because there were so many wonderful moments he had with Antonia when he was telling her about the Jewish way of honoring the dead by sitting Shiva and by respecting the process of grief. To me, NDAD was way way above NLTAL in both the quality of the narrative and the compelling nature of the story. It reminded me of several of Jo Goodman’s novels, especially in the way Gareth was tortured but still responsible and kind. Great communication between he and Antonia, as well. Two smart characters who didn’t act dumb.

  16. Jayne
    Jul 30, 2007 @ 07:14:03

    Robin, I’m resigned to being in the minority on this book.

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