A Woman Scorned
“A Regency tale of terror, tenderness – and dangerous temptation.” So goes the tagline for A Woman Scorned, which is a terrific description for this second book by Liz Carlyle.
Jonet, the very recently widowed marchioness of Mercer, is twenty-eight and the mother of two children. Rumor has it she murdered her philandering husband to be with her lovers, among which Lord Delacourt is her favorite. Her late husband’s brother would like nothing better than to take the children away from Jonet, and enlists his nephew, Captain Cole Amherst, as reluctant help. Cole arrives at Jonet’s house to find a very different woman from that shy bride he met a decade ago, and is furious when he realizes his uncle has not explained the situation to Jonet – as far as she knows, Cole is there to spy on her, and once he has proof of her unsuitability as a mother, he will help take her children away.
The mutual lust ignited at their first meeting smolders throughout this book, but it must take a backseat to the danger that envelops Jonet and her children. If Jonet seems excessive in protecting her children – believe me, she isn’t, and once Cole realizes that she is not the hysterical murderess that his uncle (who is also the children’s ward) claims she is, he, too, becomes not only the children’s steadfast protector, but Jonet’s as well.
Although the villain’s identity is clear to the reader early on, it is not obvious to Jonet, Cole, or anyone else in the Mercer household. Danger lurks everywhere, the targets are many, and the author manages to instill suspense until the very end, although the timing of the climactic scene was a little too perfect and the outcome was never in doubt.
Jonet started off arrogant, rude, nearly hysterical, and I spent much of the first part of the book disliking her – until it became clear just how justified she was in her feelings. If anything, she was too trusting in one instance, which proves nearly fatal to her and her children. What I did not understand was her reasoning for keeping a secret from Cole until the very end. Once she realized how much she loved the man and how much he loved her in return, it seemed unnecessary.
Cole was a delightful hero. He was sweet and honorable, unwilling to be his uncle’s pawn, persistent where others might have told Jonet to go to hell, unwavering in his mission to keep the family safe, and that rare hero who has to be seduced by the heroine. Although his station in society (he is a second son and a soldier) is lower than Jonet’s, do we really doubt this will be resolved by the end?
The secondary characters are well drawn. Jonet’s children are typical boys who pound the heck out of whomever gets in their way, yet, at the same, we see the difference in their ages. The innocent, carefree younger child is tempered by the slightly older brother who understands more than he should.
There are some pacing problems, though, which make the book flow unevenly. A simple conversation will get “interrupted” by paragraph after paragraph describing the characters’ thoughts and what the situation is, so that when dialogue resumed I had to go back and check what the last spoken line had been. I like introspection, but here, it occasionally gets in the way. Nevertheless, the characterization and plotting were quite strong, and make this a worthy follow up to Carlyle’s successful debut, My False Heart.