RogerBW's Blog

The Lie and the Lady, Kate Noble 17 December 2018

2015 American Regency romance, second of a linked series. During the deception of the first book, John Turner took on the persona of the Earl of Ashby, and was pursued by Leticia Herzog, fortune-hunting widow of an Austrian Count. When the game was discovered, she fled in public shame. But they each felt a spark for the other, and now they're going to meet again.

As before, one keeps tripping over small phrases which probably sound quite reasonable to an American but mark the book to a British reader as alien; in particular I was struck by the way that everyone says that someone "passed" when what they mean is "died". (I think of that as a 1990s Americanism, though I dare say it was in use earlier and I just didn't meet it. "Pass away" and "pass on" are of course somewhat older.)

But as before, the book is worth it. Leticia, thrown on her own very limited resources, has snared an ageing and gouty widower and is planning to marry him (and, while not in love, genuinely intends to do her best to make his life happy), only to discover that his home is close to the town where John is resurrecting the family grain mill. Other complications are the widower's daughter (not happy to have a stepmother sprung on her, mostly interested in plants, and perhaps in love with John herself), gossip and social backstabbing in the town, and to my mind the one serious mis-step, an out-and-out villain who's determined that the mill shouldn't re-open, but sometimes acts to his own disadvantage when doing so would let him be more villainous.

The viewpoint is mostly with Leticia, who was portrayed in the first book as simply out to snare a rich Earl, but was somewhat redeemed even there and is more so here; something I find unusual in a romance is her realisation that, yes, she has acted badly at times, and it might be an idea to change that. I'd have liked ideally to see a bit more interaction between Leticia and John; both of them feel strongly enough about the incidents at their last meeting that it's sensible for them to agree, as they do, to interact as little as possible, but the way they strike sparks off each other is such fun that it's a shame to have so little of it.

All right, some details don't really work – for example, how is Letty living in the same house as her intended during the month while the banns are read, with no other woman apart from his daughter and the servants? There really needs to be a female companion for propriety to be observed, and of course a separate roof.

But as with the first book, the characterisation is solid even if some of the details slip, and the people are why I pick up books in the first place. It's particularly important to start this series at the beginning, since a fair chunk of John and Letty's story happens in the first book. This one is followed by The Dare and the Doctor, but there's also a novella which I'll read first.

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