After a slow start Beautiful Lies picks up speed and draws the reader into a complex and engrossing tale involving two families and the Pearl of Great Price that has haunted and cursed them for generations.
Most of the book takes place in contemporary San Francisco and the Australian Outback. Liana Robeson and Cullen Llewellyn have been divorced for ten years because of Cullen’s compulsive gambling. They have a son, Matthew, who is fourteen. Matthew is due to spend a month with his father in New York, but he never gets there. Matthew is gone and so is the treasure of the Robeson family – a large and perfect pearl called The Pearl of Great Price.
The story goes back in time to the early part of the 20th century when Liana’s grandfather, Tom Robeson, and Cullen’s great-grandfather Archer Llewellyn came to Australia to escape a court-martial and murder charge and to make their fortune. They signed on as pearl divers and when they found the Pearl of Great Price, Archer killed Tom and took the Pearl. That act caused repercussions that affected their children and their children’s children down to the present day.
Liana and Cullen join together to find Matthew and to find out what happened to the Pearl. In doing so, they discover facts about their families and themselves. They always loved each other, but Cullen had been raised by a neglectful father and had been forced to rely on his charm and wit. His gambling addiction destroyed Liana’s trust and his marriage. Liana was raised by a loving but flighty mother and then by a cold father. She valued security above all and Cullen could not give her that. She began to suffer from panic attacks and became almost agoraphobic. Cullen has to prove his responsibility and Liana has to show that she is no longer fearful.
Beautiful Lies alternates between Cullen and Liana’s search for Matthew and flashbacks that tell the story of their ancestors and the Pearl of Great Price and its malignant effects on the Robeson and Llewellyn families. Richards handles the flashbacks with skill and they serve to illuminate the characters of Liana and Cullen.
The ending is dramatic, suspenseful and exciting. If you want to read a good long multi-generational, multi-character novel, I can recommend Beautiful Lies whole heartedly. The Australian portions are especially well done, with just enough Aussie slang to give the reader a feeling for the country. Richards does not romanticize the Outback either. It’s a big, hot harsh place and she describes it, flies, mosquitoes, floods and all. Good characters, good story, good book.