Garden of Lies
Garden of Lies gave me exactly what I was expecting – an older, strong-willed heroine who refuses to by hemmed in by social mores, an alpha hero with a dark past, and an interesting murder mystery. While yes, the author is definitely formulaic at this point, it’s a formula I enjoy. The tension is hit-or-miss at times, but I found the romance to be well-woven into the mystery, and it definitely starts off with a bang.
Slater Roxton, our intrepid hero, is an archaeologist. Bastard son of a noble and an actress, Slater has grown up on the outskirts of polite society, but his father’s regard for his mother (and for him) still gives him an in with said society, and gives him some leeway in regards to his business affairs. His life, as well as his general philosophies, change after he is trapped in a ruin and left behind for a year on a supposedly deserted island. He seems determined to live a relatively quiet life before he meets Ursula.
Ursula Kern is a strong, independent woman. After a scandal involving the death of her husband, she has remade herself, including a new name, new home, and a brand-new business of providing professional secretarial help. She is determined to investigate the death of her good friend and coworker Anne, but has no idea what she’ll find. Turning to Slater for assistance turns out to be a bit more than she bargained for as well – instead of just giving her advice, he quickly takes over her investigation. Which, it turns out, involves an international drug ring, organized crime, prostitution, assassins, and more.
There are a lot of little touches with both the characters that make them seem more real – Ursula (and I really love that name!) is straight-forward and logical to the point of almost too abrupt, Slater is a vegetarian after his experiences on the not-so-deserted island, both of them have things in their past that they want left alone, but neither is particularly frightened by it. Ursula even has a somewhat non-TSTL plan to deal with a potential blackmailer. On her own. No shy young miss here!
On the downside, there were times the writing went a bit too purple for my taste. For example, “the dragon claws of impatience tore ragged holes in [Slater’s] self control” is a bit much. Dragon claws? Really? And our main villain of the piece is almost Disney-esque he’s so over the top, just with more bloodshed and brutality. But I was able to ignore those for the most part.
In the end, I really enjoyed this. Many people, including myself, have said that the author’s books tend to be formulaic, but in this case, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’d rank this about the same as Mystique, maybe a bit above – you know exactly what to expect, but you can’t help but enjoy the process. As I’ve said about many movies lately, it’s not the best ever, but it was fun.