Sunday, January 22, 2006

Two Little Lies and The Romantic

After several weeks of not really being interested in reading anything new, I picked up a couple of titles this past week that got me going. I breezed through a couple of them rather quickly actually. The first was Two Little Lies by Liz Carlyle. I have enjoyed the books I've read by her in the past. I think she has a very distinct voice. Her characters and plotlines seem to have more of a edgy, darker feel. Her heroines are a particularly refreshing bunch, even if young and virginal they tend to have a self-awareness and strength that distinguishes them from the usual feisty, impetuous regency yet self delusional miss. TLL is the story of Viviana Alessandri, an Italian opera singer, and Quinten, the Earl of Wynwood, who have a tumultuous, passionate affair which ends abruptly when Viviana returns to Italy, taking a piece of Wynwood with her (nudge, nudge, wink, wink). Ten years later, they meet upon the now-widowed Viviana's return, along with her pops and three kids, to England. Still bitter over what he perceives as her betrayal, Wynwood soon realizes he's not over Viviana. She still loves him as well, but is torn because of the lies she has told him and the big secret she's been keeping (I'll give you one guess...) Can these two crazy kids find their way back to each other? Quin and Viviana were two very passionate people and the tension and the emotion were pretty smoking hot. I'm even willing to forgive the secret baby plot, as I am more apt to do with historicals, because I actually felt the reasons for keeping the secret were compelling ones for the time and place. The 20 y.o. heir to an earldom was not likely to marry his Italian opera singing mistress. This was sexy, fast read. The one lingering problem that I had was that both the first and second time around, the overriding thing that drew them together was their passionate physical connection. They never seemed to get to know each other that well.

The Romantic was my first book by Hunter, and stylistically, she reminded me of Carlyle. This is not shiny, happy Bridgerton England, y'know what I mean. As in Carlyle's books, the ever-present constraints of class, gender and ethnicity figure prominently in the characters lives. The Romantic was the last in a series, apparently and it features Julian Hampton, a solicitor and friend to the titled and wealthy. He is very reserved and inscrutable, but of course still waters run deep and he has long nursed a secret passion for Pen. Pen is a longtime friend and client, and he has spent a long time helping her extricate herself from the evil clutches of her husband, the disgusting, sadistic Earl of Glasbury. Now the Earl is looking for his conjugal rights, and Julian and Pen will take the risky step of embarking on an affair to try and force a divorce. This book really pulled me in the first couple of pages, wherein Julian mentally dictates letters to his hostess concerning the guests seated on either side of them, then he goes home and writes this passionate letter to his love, only to put it into a drawer filled with letters and poems. It was great and I love the set-up: the idea of this totally controlled, reserved guy just eaten up with love inside, now putting himself into such proximity. I liked the plot, which moved along nicely, but I can't quite put my finger on what was missing. There was some sort of distance there, I just never felt the passion or tension. I don't know, I wanted it to be more intense.
Maybe that reserved Englishness came across too strong. I just wasn't feeling it. I'm going to give Hunter another try, though. I've got The Charmer, and Lady of Sin,out in February, looks good and features two characters that stood out for me in this book.