Pandora's Box

No True Gentleman

Liz Carlyle
2002, European Historical Romance (Regency England)
Pocket, $6.99, 464 pages, Amazon ASIN 0743437845
Part of a series

Grade: N/A
Sensuality: N/A

There is a staff review of this book as well

Widowed Lady Catherine Wodeway comes to town to keep an aunt company, and perhaps find a new companion. On her first week there she meets Max de Rohan, a former policeman and current employee of the home office. Max has a somewhat mysterious past, and a definite desire to avoid an entangling relationship with a woman from the noble class. But their paths cross during a murder investigation, and Max soon finds himself hopelessly enthralled in Catherine's spell. As they close in on the killer, they become more determined to become a couple, even if they become the targets of a murderer.

Blythe:   I've been hearing good things about Carlyle's books for years, but No True Gentleman is the first that I've tried. For the most part, I enjoyed it. At times I felt a certain distance from the characters, but I never lost interest in the book, and overall I found it to be a good read.

Linda:   This is a very enjoyable book, and both lead characters are lovable. Max was an incredibly complex hero with plenty of angst; his internal monologues were great. Catherine was so valiant. It was terrific watching her interact with the often-difficult Max.

Blythe:   I thought all the secondary characters were well developed here. I particularly liked Catherine's younger brother Bentley and Max's Italian Grandmother. The Italian characters in this book worked for me - it was a much different experience than last year's contemporary, What To Do About Annie. Max's Nonna seemed very authentic to me, even though she was quite dramatic.

It's worth noting that this book is very readable for a first time Carlyle reader. I was intrigued by the characters that had evidently appeared in other novels, but they weren't token characters showing up for fun; they were fully-fleshed out. At the same time, I didn't feel like their stories were so central to the plot of the current book that I was lost without them.

Linda:   As I was reading the adventures of Max and Catherine I was pleasantly reminded of Anne Perry's Victorian- era detectives, Charlotte and Thomas Pitt, although Max and Catherine are much sexier with very sensuous (and hot) love scenes. One can only hope that we will see many future books involving them as the Pitts.

Blythe:   I mostly enjoyed the love scenes, except for the way they kept saying, "Aha." I didn't quite get that. I also have a problem with the word "c_ck," which I hate, but that's really just a personal thing. For the most part I found the love scenes to be both explicit and tasteful, a difficult thing to achieve. They were never extraneous; they always fit right in with the plot and moved the relationship forward. I especially liked the way Catherine was both innocent and nervy; I think Carlyle struck just the right balance.

Linda:   I liked the love scenes too and I am with you on using "c_ck," but it did fit Max's character. I thought his internal monologues rang true with a mix of upper and lower class words. I am looking forward to digging into Carlyle's backlist, which is in my humongous TBR pile. I look forward to reading Carlyle's book about Cecilia and the Nazareth society - A Woman of Virtue. I'd also like to get to Beauty Like the Night, featuring Catherine's brother and the kidnapping of her niece. One character I would like to see a book about is Kemble - I have a feeling he may be a Zorro-like character - he changes from fop to man of action very quickly and I would love to read a romance with him as the hero, if my hunch about his true character is correct.

Blythe:   I'm glad to hear that Cecilia's story is A Woman of Virtue. I have that (of course) TBR.

I thought Kemble was supposed to be gay, and that his "assistant" from his shop was his lover! I guess we'll find out, huh? At least I hope we will.

Linda:   I got the impression that his gayness/foppishness was for show - I noticed how quickly it disappeared when he came to Max's rescue - there just seems to be more to his character then meets the eye.

I enjoy Carlyle's writing style. She manages to tell a great mystery and still keep the couple front and center. Romantic suspense is not as easy to pull off as one might think - as the general disappointment in several old favorites who have switched to this sub-genre points out. Her story in the recent Tea for Two anthology with Cathy Maxwell was good. Carlyle's style is easily accessible, she creates interesting characters and tells a good story - with some nice love scenes thrown in - what more could one ask for?

Blythe:   Well, the identity of the villain never seemed terribly mysterious to me - at least not for long. The villain seemed like the only choice out there. But I did like how the "how" of it was revealed. The reasons for the crime were indeed a surprise to me, so it worked on that level.

Linda:   Well, Carlyle fooled me - I was focusing on the wrong villain right up to the end, and I'm not easily fooled.

Good lord, this is several months in a row we have agreed on liking the book - amazing . The nice thing is that the authors were new to me (even though I had their books in my TBR based on word-of-mouth online) and now I'll have the fun of digging their books out of my TBR pile and reading them!

Blythe:   Well, don't forget Hot Rain - we didn't see eye to eye on that one at all. Other than that, we really have had a string of good luck with our choices. No True Gentleman was about a B level read for me. I found the language a little modern at times, and didn't feel totally absorbed in the characters' lives. But I did find them likable and the book held my interest right up to the end.

Linda:   That's right - I loved Hot Rain and you didn't. But, we have been lucky in other recent columns. I would give this one a B+, which is probably equivalent to your B. I literally couldn't put this one down and finished it at 2:00 in the morning.

What are we reading next month?

Blythe:   Next month we are reading two of the Harlequin Blaze books: Double the Pleasure by Julie Elizabeth Leto and the connected story Double the Thrill by Susan Kearney. I have read only one Blaze previously - Alison Kent's Bound to Happen, and for me, it definitely lived up to the "Burning" reputation the Blaze line has.

Linda:   I've enjoyed the Blaze line and look forward to reading these two new-to-me authors. Till next month - happy reading.

Blythe:   See you next month.

--Blythe Barnhill and Linda Hurst, for

-- Pandora's Box

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