Sarah Cooper breathed a sigh of relief when Christian Trent, the Earl of Markham, hired her as a governess for his ward, Lily, the orphaned daughter of his former business partner, Mr. Pearson. Sarah, really Lady Serena Castleton, needed to hide her true identity and get as far away from North America as possible to escape prosecution for murdering her abusive husband. The Earl had his own demons, after being scarred in a fire while fighting the French and then being impressed on a ship to Canada after a duke’s daughter accused him of rape. His disfigured face and the false charges lead him to Calgary, Canada, but now it is time to return to London and clear his name.
On The Doreen, Lord Markham’s ship, Christian finds himself attracted to the governess and plans to make her his mistress. Serena has had a secret infatuation for the Earl since before her come out when she would watch him from the stairway at her father’s, the Duke of Hastings, social events. Even though he is disfigured, Serena still considers him a handsome, virile man. When she hears his nightmarish screams, she goes to comfort him while he sleeps. This just spurs him to further his plans of seduction. However, Serena’s only experiences in sex were with her sadistic husband who not only treated her as a slave, but beat her. She and the Earl both have battle scars, physically and emotionally. Slowly Christian wins Serena’s trust and shows her how wonderful lovemaking can be. Despite her determination to maintain her distance, Serena finally agrees to be his lover, but only until they reach England. Lord Markham, not wanting to give her up, proposes marriage, but Serena doesn’t want him tainted by her criminal acts, so she refuses. Of course, once the truth is revealed, although hurt by her lack of trust, the Duke vows to protect his love. She returns the favor and protects him from his accusers.
A Kiss of Lies by Bronwen Evans is Book One in the Disgraced Lords Series where the Libertine Scholars are introduced. Christian is not alone in his struggles, and his friends assist him in clearing his name. Of course, they immediately recognize Lady Serena who was a debutante when the Earl was fighting in France. When they hear her dilemma they vow to speak out in her behalf, especially those who had witnessed the vile behavior of her former husband Peter Dennett. Evans explores the role of men and their domination over women, with the laws which ignored the human rights of even an abused wife.
While the author has an interesting premise, the delivery doesn’t meet the promised potential. Yes, there are some interesting plot twists, but the reader has to wade through too much repetition of the main characters angst. Their continuous professions of love and lamentations about their private issues gets annoying. Even their lovemaking is overdone to the point where it loses its effectiveness. Cut the repetition in order to pay more attention to the plot details and keep the readers’ interest. Some witty dialogue would also be a good addition. True love is a worthy subject, but not when it gets too sappy. Maudlin, love sick characters lack a sense of excitement. I was also put off by how selfish the main characters could be and how nasty Christian was, in various situations, to the love of his life. Serena was already brow beaten by one husband, she didn’t need to make excuses for the behaviors of another perspective spouse. Expanding and creating a more compelling plot with less introspection along with the addition of some clever interchanges would really spice up the story. A little more attention to the details of the Regency Period would also endear the author to fans of that era.
I’m willing to allow some leeway since this book sets up the premise for the rest of the series, introducing us to some of the featured characters. Since Christian’s friends have peaked my interest and the over riding mystery plot has potential, I’m looking forward to Sebastian’s story in A Promise of More.
2 1/2 Stars