Review: A Woman of Virtue by Liz CarlyleThursday, December 25, 2008 13:00
There are some books I like to gulp down, because they are exciting and quick and allow me to lose myself for a few hours. Then there are the books that slowly sink their hooks into me, and I find myself reluctant to read quickly lest the story come to an end. I found Liz Carlyle’s A Woman of Virtue to be one of these latter stories. Unfortunately, that need to savor meant that it took me much longer to finish the book, and by the time I did I was kind of ready to be done.
Lord David Delacourt is a dissolute rake with a horrible reputation. Cecilia Markham-Sands is from one of the oldest and nmost respected families in the ton. If this sounds familliar, well, I thought so, too, at first, and then was surprised by the direction the book took. David and Cecilia meet when David mistakes Cecilia for a whore that a friend had procured for him, and they are caught in a compromising position. But Cecilia is stubborn and refuses to wed David, and so, with the help of David’s brother-in-law, the Reverend Mr. Cole Amherst, she concocts a scheme to retain her reputation by becoming engaged to David for real and then crying off.
Six years later, David is thrown back into Cecilia’s path when Cole tricks him into losing a card game, the consequence being that now David must take over the running of a mission for former prostitutes that Cecilia also works at. When these two meet again, sparks fly, and they are soon forced to examine their relationship and to work closely together, especially when residents of the mission begin turning up dead.
There’s a lot that I liked about this book. Ms. Carlyle’s writing style feels very authentic, and I never felt like I was reading about some modern reenactors. I also appreciated that Ms. Carlyle didn’t insult my intelligence by overexplaining the motivations of her characters. And what nuanced characters they are! Both David and Cecilia were well-drawn, and I believed wholeheartedly in their romance. Both of them had serious issues to deal with, as opposed to the kind of issues that could be explained with a few minutes’ conversation. And given the length of this book, I felt convinced of the evolution of the characters from mutual antagonism to attraction to blossoming love.
The secondary characters are interesting as well. I’m definitely going to go read Cole and Jonet’s book sometime soon, as, while I was able to keep up fine not having done so, they both intrigued me. I also loved Inspector De Rohan, and I hope that somewhere out there his story is told. And then, of course, there’s Kembal, David’s valet, and Etta, Cecilia’s maid, who provide moments of comic relief.
Unfortunately, parts of the book did drag on a bit. The mystery of the deaths of the prostitutes took up time that I would have preferred to spend learning more about David and Cecilia. And David does take just a shade too long revealing his secrets. In fact, the middle dragged so much in places that it took me a good two weeks to finally finish the book.
Aside from bits that sagged too much, this is a lovely book, with characters I came to care about, and a compelling romance. It didn’t entirely work for me because of the parts that dragged, but I do appreciate reading an author with such a definite talent, and I’m hoping her next book will catch me in a moment when I can appreciate it and savor it more.
In the months since her husband’s death, Cecilia, Lady Walrafen, has hidden her emptiness by devoting herself to a charity mission for the poor women of London’s slums. But when the man who once tried to ruin her reputation turns up at the Nazareth Society, Cecilia is outraged.
The womanizing Lord Delacourt is vain, vindictive, and merciless. But he’s a man who honors his wagers. And when one of them goes wrong, landing him in a charity mission for prostitutes, he comes face-to face with the young woman whose reputation he once nearly ruined—and whose lips he has never forgotten. Soon, however, evil is stalking the women of the Nazareth Society, and only Delacourt knows how to guard Cecilia from the consequences of her own principles.