Despite its intriguing premise, this book is let down by a dull romance and a convoluted plot.
Liz Carlyle is one of my auto-buy authors, and I’m still in the process of reading her backlist. The blurb for A Woman Scorned intrigued me—the heroine, Jonet Rowland, Lady Mercer, sounds like one of those independent widows who have turned their backs on society’s rules, and the hero, Captain Cole Amherst, is the straightlaced gentleman who is undone by lust and love.
Sadly, the characters aren’t nearly so interesting.
Rumour has it that Jonet poisoned her husband, and her eccentric ways haven’t dispelled the rumours. Cole is sent by his uncle—Jonet’s brother-in-law and co-guardian of her children—to tutor Jonet’s two sons and determine if Jonet is an unfit mother. Cole isn’t so easily manipulated, but he senses something amiss in the Mercer household and, despite his misgivings, decides to do it. Jonet fears that her sons’ lives are in danger from the same person who murdered her husband, and she’s unwilling to trust a stranger, especially one sent by a brother-in-law who’d like nothing better than to get his hands on the children’s trust.
Jonet is an erratic heroine, and a tight grip on her character might have saved the story, but Carlyle never really seems to fully understand her heroine, who is in turn vulnerable, irritating, irrational and ridiculous. It’s clear she’s suffering from shock and stress, but I couldn’t muster up enough empathy to care about her.
Cole, on the other hand, is unnaturally controlled and, well, proper. The kind of hero who needs a pond scene. Unfortunately, I could only feel pity for him as Jonet batters at him from every angle.
I did like Jonet’s attempts to ask Cole to marry her, although even then I suspect the entire business was totally unrealistic.
Cole sounded so sweet, so truly concerned. Jonet did not know why it inspired her to such devilry and made her forget her pride. “You are very good, sir,” she said calmly, her gloved hands folded demurely into her lap. “Not to mention practical and clever—and exceedingly attractive. Are you perfectly sure you’ll not reconsider my offer of marriage?”
At the crux of it, the romance between Jonet and Cole lacked any real emotional depth. I could almost pinpoint to the page when they would fall into lust and start seducing each other. And there were pages and pages of lusty lovemaking which … I skipped! All the moaning and ah-ing just weren’t doing it for me. I found it hard to believe that Jonet could be so naive to fail to notice the many admirers in her midst, yet be so shockingly assertive in bed. I found the sex scenes combative and so strange, what with the random light bondage and bits of ‘You know you want this’ dialogue thrown in. It was all a bit of a mess, really.
Also a mess was the suspense plot. It was convoluted, the red herrings were wildly obvious, and the perpetrator came as no surprise to me. Carlyle shows some subtle touches, but they’re overshadowed by heavy-handed attempts to misdirect the reader. I suppose if discombobulation passes for misdirection the author does well enough.
Yay or nay?
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