Monday, 3 February 2014

A Woman of Virtue by Liz Carlyle

A Woman of Virtue (2001) (Pocket Books)
Liz Carlyle
Grade: C+
Genre: historical romance
Sex scenes: a little shy of hot
Source: own 
Lorimer Family and Clan Cameron series 

As the widow of the late Lord Walrafen, Cecilia Lorimer has free reign over her life. Her short, two-year marriage was anything but a love match and she now revels in the freedom that widowhood affords her. She has chosen to devote her time to the Daughters of Nazareth Society – a charity mission for former prostitutes, run by an old friend. When that same friend ropes in his brother-in-law David Branthwaite, Lord Delacourt to take over in his absence, both Cecilia and David are disgusted. Just six years before, David  compromised Cecilia against her will, which led to a hasty proposal. Adamant that she wouldn’t let society’s derision dictate her life, Cecilia jilted David publicly and he has never forgotten – or forgiven – her.

The womanising, vain and merciless Lord Delacourt might hate the position that he’s landed in, but by God is he a man who honours his wagers. He’s adamant that the Mission will be run as straight and clean as a whistle, even if the dastardly Cecilia is shadowing his every move. As dangers haunt the Mission and place everyone within its walls in danger, David and Cecilia are determined to get to the root of the issue and find a solution. Much to their initial dislike, the pair are forced to spend more and more time in each other’s company, soon coming to realise that time has only reignited the attraction between them …

Liz Carlyle is generally a bit of a hit-or-miss author for me: I loved Tempted All Night and Wicked All Day, but there have been a few other books that I thought only merited an average rating. Annoyingly, A Woman of Virtue sits uncomfortably in the middle. There were parts that I really liked, but there were also some continuously recurring elements that just grated my nerves.

David and Cecilia weren’t terrible protagonists, but there wasn’t anything about either of them that stood out. And their inner monologues got tired – fast. They despair of their past treatment of each other, of whether they can trust their current feelings, of whether they should declare themselves or consign themselves to lives apart once this period in their lives are over. Just stop already. David, in particular, flits back-and-forth between conflicting emotions towards Cecilia so often in the first half of the book, you could almost get whiplash! Get a grip!

The highlight of the book was David’s new valet, Kemble. He’s a last-minute replacement when David takes up a suggestion to send his current valet on a break. I picture Kemble like Cantinflas’ portrayal of Passepartout in the 1956 adaptation of ‘Around the World in Eighty Days’. Only, of course, a lot more English. He’s so forward and absolute in his directions that the otherwise-alpha Lord Delacourt is shell-shocked into doing as he bids. It’s wondrous to watch. Cecilia’s new maid Henrietta Healy is another wonderful creation.

I am intrigued at how all the characters relate to one another. I knew AWoV was part of a series, but it wasn't until I got further into the book that I realised how deeply Ms Carlyle has woven these relationships and storylines. A search on Shelfari tells me that Kemble features in ten books, yet I can barely remember him! The hero of Wicked All Day is a secondary character in AWoV, but again, I can't recall any links between the two books. For this reason, I think I'm going to have to explore a lot more Liz Carlyle, including re-reading the handful that I've already read. This is one of the times when reading a series in order is eminently helpful!

Image courtesy of Book Depository.

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