The Lady Lies
The Lady Lies, Samantha Saxon’s debut novel (The Lady Killer follows in December), suffers from too many ingredients in the recipe. There is a really good story in here waiting to burst free but too many side plots and characters weigh it down.
At the age of ten, Aidan Duhearst learns from the Duke of St. John that his father, the Earl of Wessex, died in battle. He is now the Earl and this event shapes the rest of his life and his actions. Fast-forward to 1811: Aidan is being held prisoner by the French in Portugal. Is the angel appearing before him real…or has he joined in his father in a noble death?
The angel in question is Lady Celeste Rivenhall, French spy, English traitor, and Napoleon’s mistress, a beautiful seductress who is a half-English siren. Only she’s not – she’s a double agent for England, and while the reader learns this very quickly, Aiden does not. Celeste has a great respect for Aidan and doesn’t want to see him swing, so she arranges for his escape. He has no idea who freed him, and takes Celeste hostage, sort of, and flees.
A month later we find Aidan alive and well in England suffering through a ball. His sister has decided that he can recover from the war by getting married. While this plan is being explained to him by Aiden’s sister’s husband, Aiden sees a woman and runs off half cocked to follow her. The woman, naturally, is Celeste, and the two renew their acquaintance while being voyeurs to their host and some random woman getting it on. As Aidan is now, shall we say, "fully cocked," he takes the opportunity to feel up Lady Rivenhall and she takes the opportunity to drug him.
Celeste’s official mission is to find the big unnamed baddie who keeps popping up throughout the story doing evil things. When Aiden attempts to turn her in, he is told he is wrong, to drop it, that she is clean, move along…there is nothing to see here. Being the smart chap that he is, Aiden doesn’t buy it. So he is going to do the only thing a good solder can do for his country, seduce the spy. And at the same time, Celeste’s spymaster "orders" (explanation for those quote marks later) Celeste to seduce Aidan to get him out of the way so she can figure out which of several peers are really traitors to the crown. All this while Sarah and her pals plot to get Aiden hitched.
While Aiden seduces Celeste, he is also trying to prove that she is a traitorous whore. While Celeste cozies up to Aiden, she runs through her list of suspects to discover the baddie. All the while the spymaster sits back, watching and playing matchmaking mama. Some people die, some are seduced, and Sarah and company are just in the way.
In The Lady Lies, characters who are supposed to be very intelligent keep thinking with the wrong body parts. Lust is fine and dandy, but occasionally use your head, please! Everyone is a matchmaker – even the spymaster – and just about every man Celeste encounters wants her. It got a bit silly, particularly with so many secondary characters, and while the book’s best scenes are between the hero and heroine, it would have been nice had there been more of them.
The book is also seriously in need of further editing. English aristocratic titles are misused – Celeste, among other unmarried women, is referred to as Lady Rivenhall, often Celeste, but never Lady Celeste Rivenhall, which is proper. Even worse, the heroine refers to herself by name in a scene instead of her maid…if the author can’t keep up with her characters, how can the reader?
This isn’t a horrible debut, in fact, it shows promise. More focus and time spent fleshing out the main plot and characters would have made a world of difference. Perhaps if the author weren’t setting up the next book in her series, she’d have been better able to do so. As is, there are too many things going on in this book that didn’t come together.