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REVIEW: Never Lie to a Lady by Liz Carlyle

Dear Ms Carlyle,

Never Lie to a LadyI haven’t read many of your books (though I do have most of them on various TBR mountains scattered throughout my house) but the ones I’ve tried, I really liked. Which is why I was disappointed with the main characters and plot of this one.

The notorious Marquis of Nash is a creature of the night; his wealth and his title provide but a tenuous entrà©e into polite society. With his Eastern European manners and dark elegance, Nash tempts women even as he tempts the scandalmongers. Rumors abound of the men he has bankrupted and the hearts he has broken. But when Nash leaves his lair for a rare foray into the ton, and enjoys a moment of heated passion with a mysterious lady in the dark, he develops an obsession which will lead him into the hellish world of smugglers, spies, and political intrigue as the Continent edges nearer to war.

Xanthia Neville has arrived in London to expand her family's most lucrative business holding–"Neville Shipping. With her brother Rothewell all too happy to waste his life in debauchery, Xanthia opens up shop in London's grimy Docklands, and sets about expanding the family fortune, all the while flaunting the ton's silly strictures about how a lady ought to behave. But London, she soon learns, is not Barbados. And when the British Government approaches Rothewell to ask the family's help in exposing a dangerous arms dealer, Xanthia must enter society after all, only to find her loyalties torn. Someone in London is fueling the conflict on the Balkan Peninsula by smuggling illicit weapons into the Aegean–"and there is only one likely suspect. The Marquis of Nash has the resources, the contacts and, quite possibly, the deeply divided loyalties. But can Xanthia's subterfuge prove him a traitor to the Crown before her heart is broken?

Zee is initially presented to readers as a woman who doesn’t care what Society thinks of her. She not only works but also owns almost a third of the family business. Our initial view of her shows her wistfully trying to think of a way to have a discrete affair. She wanders off, alone, outside just because she wants to and allows a stranger to kiss her. But then she gets missish. And whenever the plot calls for it, she does it all again. She lets Nash finger her up on Sharpe’s balcony then flees. Then she propositions Nash out of the blue at Henslow’s river party. Then suddenly she’s an oral pro (the first time too) at the masque then it’s whoopee on the tabletop. Then she comes to Nash’s house and, yet at a certain point during the disrobing, gets shy. She’s not a virgin. It’s not even the first time she and Nash have been intimate. Why fall to this standard romance heroine behavior checklist? On the other hand, I liked the parts that show her as a competent business woman.

You did a great job explaining the complex politics behind the plot. A lot better than Madeline Hunter did in “The Rules of Seduction” last year. But then the actual spy and spying bit is boring. After a short time, Zee all of a sudden just “knows” that Nash is innocent. Kemble has some good arguments to refute this but Zee “just knows.” Well, shit, you can’t argue with that. I guess. And the final fallout shows just how much effort Kemble and Vendenheim put into investigating anyone besides Nash. None, or so it would seem. Some investigators these two are. But then you don’t tell readers certain pertinent facts until almost the end either. It keeps the story from being directed away from the growing relationship between Nash and Zee but it makes this part of your plot end up looking ridiculous as well. I wanted to slap Zee for being so stupid about going out to Nash’s house to send him a note. WTF was she thinking? She says she’s been around docks for years and seen everything yet she stupidly heads out late at night then wants Nash to meet her by the docks! What an idiotic move. You didn’t do her any intellectual favors with that scene.

I adore Mr Kemble with his flirtatiousness and his practical mindedness. He can go from decorator to ruthless spy in 7.3 seconds. Yet, see the above paragraph for my thoughts on how well he helped conduct this investigation. I love Kieran and his dry sense of black humor ( the exchange with Kemble about whorehouses and French pox was a scream). But what did he blackmail/bribe his Aunt Olivia with to get her down to see to Cousin Louisa’s comeout?

I found myself skimming the bits about Zee spying on Nash. And some of their love scenes. And their goo-goo moments at Brierwood. This is not a good thing to do in a romance. I was far more interested in scenes with Kieran and Zee or Kieran and Kemble or Kieran escaping into the gardens at Brierwood than many of the ones between the hero and heroine of the book. Even Phae hauling her mother back into conversational line with the references to the weather were better. Though Nash and his valet Gibbons were hilarious too. Sigh…yes it sucks when the secondary characters are the ones mainly keeping me interested in a story.

I’m also not a great fan of most epilogues and this one is almost total waste, except for skirmishes between Phae and Kemble. On the whole, the total book is hard to grade. I loved bits and skimmed a lot as well. C+ maybe?

~Jayne

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.

11 Comments

  1. Angela
    Jul 05, 2007 @ 04:25:41

    I’m having the same issues with this book and I still haven’t been able to finish it despite purchasing it the day it was released! Nash was especially boring to me because he felt like a tepid version of Max from No True Gentleman (and I found Max watered down in this book–perhaps because he “lent” his personality to Nash?). Keiran…sigh…I’m hoping Carlyle pulls something spectacular out of the hat for him because I found him boring as well, and the few “oh so tortured” heroes the author has written have had eeeevil women in their pasts.

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  2. Kristie(J)
    Jul 05, 2007 @ 05:42:50

    I adored her earlier books. Then I started falling off with her last trilogy. It’s sad but when I heard about this one, the excitement I used to feel for a new release was nowhere to be found. I’m real tired of English historical spy books and I have enough unread historicals as it is. Sadly – and not just because of this review – I’d decided anyway, I don’t think I’ll be reading this series. You’re review just confirmed it for me.

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  3. Tara Marie
    Jul 05, 2007 @ 05:54:30

    This is what I posted on my blog re: NLTAL

    There are a handful of authors that always work for me, Liz Carlyle is one. I am a huge fan of Liz Carlyle’s writing style and voice. Once again she delivers a winner, with smart and interesting lead characters and visits from some old favorites. And honestly, is Kemble not one of the best secondary characters in romances today?

    I didn’t write a review for this one, but obviously I liked it more than you. I often read more for voice than story, though I liked this one because Zee isn’t the average debutant miss. The spy plot didn’t bother me and like you I find her secondary characters very interesting. I do think that’s the point, she carefully series baits with characters that are worth following to their own story. I do wonder if Kemble will ever get his own story, he’s been floating around her books for quite a while.

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  4. Jayne
    Jul 05, 2007 @ 06:00:07

    Keiran’s book isn’t due out til next summer. o-O Why, since the second book is out next month? Who knows but I have our arc of it and will dutifully give it a go. Since it’s a “commoner turned Duke” story, it will need something more to make me like it since I hate those kind of plots. Usually.

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  5. Tracey
    Jul 05, 2007 @ 08:34:54

    I’m badly confused. A woman running a business in the DOCKLANDS? Not that docks aren’t a sensible location for a shipping business, but the Docklands were a horrible and hideously dangerous area for a very long time. Any woman setting foot in Limestone or Rotherhithe would have been raped and most probably murdered.

    And when, oh when, is this supposed to be taking place? “The Continent edges nearer to war” and “the conflict on the Balkan Peninsula” seem to suggest that the book is taking place pre-World War I. The heroine’s lack of virginity and sexual expertise, as well as the outfit on the cover, surely indicate a late-20th century to early 21st century woman. The blurb describing Xanthia as “flaunting the ton's silly strictures,” however, speaks of high society of the Regency period–though the author and the proofreader should really learn the difference between “flaunt” (to exhibit ostentatiously) and “flout” (to show contempt for). The misuse doesn’t give me a great deal of confidence in the author or her attention to detail.

    Frankly, I like historical novels to be historically accurate, not elements of various times tossed together in a mulligan’s stew. Based on the blurb and the review, I’d find this thing simply maddening.

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  6. Robin
    Jul 05, 2007 @ 10:39:35

    I loved seeing George Kemble again, as he was one of my favorites from The Devil to Pay. And like Jayne, I thought the political aspects of the novel were well done. And I liked that Carlyle wasn’t myopically focused on the two leads (that being one of my chief complaints in Romance these days, along, of course, with the contradictory not enough romance complaint). And the love scenes between Nash and Zee were emotionally and physically powerful.

    My biggest problem with the book, I think, was that the voice felt different to me from Carlyle’s other books. For lack of a better word, it felt ordinary. I also felt the book started slowly, and not in the savor the buildup way. And yes, some of the changes in Zee’s character, especially the classic Romance heroine moment of “I know he’s innocent and I MUST save him!” felt off to me. Like one moment Zee was a maverick heroine, and the next she was the typical “feisty” historical miss. Overall, it felt like Carlyle was trying to fit a more complex book into a pre-stamped historical Romance mold, and the fit was VERY uncomfortable. If her editor/publisher is encouraging her to conform more to the market (whatever that may be), they may just end up ruining a unique voice in the genre.

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  7. Jane
    Jul 05, 2007 @ 11:32:58

    Like one moment Zee was a maverick heroine, and the next she was the typical “feisty� historical miss.

    This was my main issue with the book. I felt like the characterizations were very inconsistent for Zee. Like Carlyle didn’t go far enough. Zee was supposedly this woman with experience but we find out that her experience was one night and that was it. I wasn’t sure why that made her “experienced”.

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  8. Jayne
    Jul 05, 2007 @ 12:12:28

    Tracey, the book starts out in “Late Winter 1828.”

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  9. Angela
    Jul 05, 2007 @ 14:13:34

    Tracey, I’ve always felt Carlyle’s books were better suited to the Edwardian era in tone and subject matter (I must call out my favorite Carlyle Beauty Like the Night for having the heroine be a child psychiatry in Regency England when the practice of CHILD psychiatry wasn’t recognized until the 1930s), but c’est la vie, especially when the Regency era has had such a chokehold on the historical romance for a long time.

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  10. Elle
    Jul 05, 2007 @ 16:06:03

    Zee was supposedly this woman with experience but we find out that her experience was one night and that was it. I wasn't sure why that made her “experienced�.

    Actually, IIRC, she had had an affair that lasted for several months (but that episode was *years* in the past, just so no one would think that she is on the rebound or not giving her former lover enough notice that their little fling is *over*.)

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  11. Docklands Classifieds
    May 23, 2008 @ 08:55:31

    I think Tracey means Limehouse rather than Limestone.

    ReplyReply

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