Sunday, August 10, 2014

{Heather #Review} Historical Romance: A Kiss of Lies by Bronwen Evans

Genre: Historical Romance
Series: The Disgraced Lords #1
Format: ebook via Netgalley
Length: 309 pages
Publisher: Loveswept (January 14, 2014)

In Bronwen Evans’s Loveswept debut, a pair of damaged souls ignite each other’s deepest passions—even as they tempt fate by deceiving the world.

Desperate to escape her abusive past, Sarah Cooper disguises herself as a governess in the employ of Christian Trent, Earl of Markham, the man who, long ago, she fantasized about marrying. Despite the battle scars that mar his face, Sarah finds being near Christian rekindles her infatuation. A governess, however, has no business in the arms of an earl, and as she accompanies Christian on his voyage home, Sarah must resist her intense desires—or risk revealing her dangerous secrets.

One of the renowned Libertine Scholars, Christian Trent once enjoyed the company of any woman he chose. But that was before the horrors of Waterloo, his wrongful conviction of a hideous crime, and his forcible removal from England. Far from home and the resources he once had, Christian believes the life he knew—and any chance of happiness—is over . . . until his ward’s governess sparks his heart back to life, and makes him remember the man he used to be. Now Christian is determined to return to England, regain his honor, and win the heart of the woman he has come to love.

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A Kiss of Lies is a Regency-era historical romance, different in that the story begins in Canada instead of England. Youngish Sarah Cooper, widow and lady, needs a lift back to England where she plans to live quietly to avoid her dastardly family and criminal past; Christian Trent, Lord Markham, a disfigured war hero and former rake of the ton needs a governess for his young ward as he returns back to England to face down those who exiled him. It’s a story full of secrets, romance, exotic locations, and more.

I wanted to like this book. I love when a Regency novel moves beyond the lavish London scene, and this story ranges from Canada to Jamaica to England. But over and over again, I found myself pursing my lips in disapproval. Some of that was because of characters that do stupid things, and some was because of bits of story that don’t fit the Regency period.

First off, Christian is all kinds of jerk. He’s jealous, he jumps to conclusions, and he doesn’t give Sarah the basic respect of an honest conversation. Instead he uses his erroneous assumptions to be all cold and gruff with her. Marriage isn’t on his mind, although having an affair with Sarah is – but his social standing is far too exalted to marry a mere governess. Despite thinking she has “the bone structure, speech, breeding, and intelligence of [his] class.” Despite that he killed a man in a duel and was shanghaied to Canada for it. He’s bitter about his scars and that he has to pay to have sex – a fact he mentions several times in the story – but he’s still too good to marry a governess. Ugh. Of course, he changes his mind, but that kind of classism is off-putting.

Sarah herself is no fair maiden. Sold by her family into an unjust and horrifying marriage, she does what she has to in order to survive – even though it means she’ll spend the rest of her life in hiding. Why she wants to go back to England instead of staying in Canada is beyond me. Especially considering her fears that her family will (lawfully) regain their control of her. Once Christian is set on marrying her, she declines, even though it would solve the problem of her family’s control. She lies to Christian from the beginning, and I don’t really understand why. When she first met him, sure. But once they are in love? It just seems like his money and position would put him in a position to help her, and she has literally nothing to lose. The entire book, even her name is a lie. That’d be hard to forgive. Especially as she gets outed in exactly the way she feared (of course).

Finally, several plot pieces had me irritated. First, unprotected and frequent sex with no pregnancy consequence? Not to mention he’d been visiting prostitutes before sleeping with her, so who only knew what potential diseases he had. Second, Sarah’s ability to help heal some of his physical wounds when no one else could? Unlikely. Throughout the story a shocking lack of concern/attention is paid to Lily, the actual ward Sarah is supposed to be governing, which is too bad, because she could have been a great secondary character. Christian’s mood changes are lightning fast and he says some really crappy stuff to Sarah, who never thinks to take offense, but rushes to convince him that she really isn’t that bad. She has no self-respect in that regard and it is infuriating. She has several too-stupid-to-live moments (including deciding to stop a duel single-handedly) and in all, I just didn’t like her.

If you ask me, there are many wonderful Regency novels out there; this isn’t one of them. Give this one a pass.

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