Dear Ms. Heath:
This is the first book of yours I’ve read in probably 4 years or so. I really liked your Western historicals and was disappointed when you moved to write Regency romances. It’s clear, though, that you aren’t going back West so I decided to give your books another try.
Some of the story relies in cliches (Devil Earl named Lucian?) and contraventions (independent society miss?) and some rises above it. On the whole, it’s a better historical than most on the market but there were issues that prevented me from embracing the book wholesale.
Catherine’s best friend’s husband needs killing and unlike Jane Krakowski and Lauren Holly (Dixie Chick’s Goodbye Earl) they can’t do it themselves. Catherine seeks out Lucian Langdon, Earl of Claybourne, a man who grew up with a band of thieves and who is purported to have murdered his own uncle. She offers him money to kill someone for her but refuses to tell him who it is.
Lucian declines. He has no desire to kill anyone and in fact tries to explain to Catherine that killing someone would take a piece of his soul. Catherine is remarkably untouched by this. Her need for his killing skills is greater than his soul, I guess.
But for all that this bothers Lucian he later offers her a bargain- teach a young woman from the bad part of town to fit into the ton so she will agree to marry him and he’ll kill whomever it is that needs killing. Catherine agrees.
This change of face seems so odd to me, as if Lucian has so little regard for his soul but if he does have so little regard for his soul, why throw it out as an excuse for not killing someone. Despite the intent, I think every treated killing others a bit cavalierly.
Another inconsistency that constrained my pleasure was in Catherine’s character. She was supposed to be a woman who would likely not marry, who was completely managing, and who really did not care for society’s opinion. The difficulty for me is that Catherine’s character at the beginning acted very conventionally, notwithstanding her plea to Luke to kill someone on her behalf. I wasn’t convinced that she was really that independent when there wasn’t anything in her life before the “let’s kill someone” event that showed her to stand outside and against society. The character that Catherine is supposed to be “”I’m well aware that I’m not. But I’ll not spend my life cowering. That would be no life at all.” is a wonderful one. I wasn’t sold, though, that she really played out that role well, particularly in the beginning.
There were several scenes that I liked quite a bit. There was a moment when Luke was sharing what made him into the man he is. He questions Catherine at one point about who she would die for. She doesn’t really know how to answer but Luke does because that was something that he and his friends confronted daily on the streets. Problematically it explains why he is so tied to Frannie and not why he’s attracted to Catherine. I actually felt that Luke, in particular, had stronger emotional ties to other people than he did to Catherine.
At one point Catherine and Lucian kiss and I wonder WTF! If Lucian cares so deeply for this other woman that he’ll give up a piece of his soul for her, how is he going to fall for Catherine. AND, if he loves this other woman so deeply, what is he doing kissing Catherine and having carnal thoughts about her? This seems terribly inconsistent to me.
Interestingly I found I was more engrossed when Catherine’s actions lived up to her talk. She confronts, she leads, she directs. She becomes that person who is unafraid to live. There was a point in which she accuses Lucian of being a coward that really marked the turning point of the book for me. I was totally engaged by the end of the story. C+