My False Heart
Some romances are like popcorn – a light snack before you move onto something more substantial. Others are wonderful confections with spun sugar or air inside. And some are more substantial treats, where it’s not just what you are tasting but how you partake of it. If I had to equate reading My False Heart to a culinary experience, it would be that of making real hot chocolate, beginning with milk in a saucepan and real cocoa, ending with a big fluffy marshmallow, then sitting under a blanket on the couch with a mugful, watching the fire in the hearth. It’s the entire sensory experience, in other words, not just the fleeting taste. My False Heart is a delicious story you can immerse yourself in.
Elliot Armstrong, the marquis of Rannoch, similarly immerses himself in the warmth and vitality of Evangeline van Artevalde’s unusual household in the English countryside. He finds himself there by accident after losing his way in the rain. Once there, however, Elliot is drawn not only to Evie but to her whole way of life, so different from his own life of joyless drinking, gambling, and carousing with mistresses in London. A case of mistaken identity allows him to keep coming back, but how long can the charade last, and what will Evie and her family do when they find out who he really is?
Liz Carlyle has created a memorable hero and heroine, and placed them against a rich backdrop of life in Regency London and a warm country household. It’s one of those books where you can feel the weather, hear the household sounds, and see the textures of clothing, drapes, and furniture. I found myself reading slowly to savor the descriptions and the conversations. Unlike many new authors, Carlyle does not fall into the traps of hyperactive or kitchen sink-style plotting. She trusts her story and her ability to tell it, and unwinds it at a pleasant, leisurely pace.
Much of the narrative centers on Elliot, a tortured hero of the “I’m not good enough for her” variety, and at first he’s right – he isn’t. He’s a dissipated rake with a terrible reputation, punishing himself and his society for a scandal that shattered his innocence ten years earlier. He knows he needs healing, and his need is what draws him to Evie and her family, but they can’t do it all. He has to change himself as well, and the author’s subtle handling of those changes is one of the best parts of this story. Nothing sudden or dramatic; it’s evident in the little things, like his changing relationships with his daughter and his employees.
Evie is a wonderful heroine in her own right. She is independent, sure of herself and what she has to accomplish in her life to take care of her family. She has her impulsive moments but they never detract from her believability or likeability. If anything, she’s almost unbelievably wonderful, but it works nonetheless because it makes her such a good foil for Elliot and his messed up life.
My only small complaint with this book was the pacing. Although I enjoyed the languorousness of it for the first half of the book, once a suspenseful mystery plot came to the forefront in the latter half of the book, the pace didn’t keep up with the rising tension and suspense. And after the mystery is resolved, the story takes just a little too long to wrap. I found myself growing a bit impatient toward the end.
However, that is a very small complaint. My False Heart is a very impressive debut for a new author. I can’t wait to see what Liz Carlyle does next.