Welcome to our Pandora’s Box on Meredith Duran’s Luck Be a Lady

They call her the “Ice Queen.” Catherine Everleigh is London’s loveliest heiress, but a bitter lesson in heartbreak has taught her to keep to herself. All she wants is her birthright—the auction house that was stolen from her. To win this war, she’ll need a powerful ally. Who better than infamous and merciless crime lord Nicholas O’Shea? A marriage of convenience will no doubt serve them both.

     Having conquered the city’s underworld, Nick seeks a new challenge. Marrying Catherine will give him the appearance of legitimacy—and access to her world of the law-abiding elite. No one needs to know he’s coveted Catherine for a year now—their arrangement is strictly business, free from the troubling weaknesses of love. Seduction, however, is a different matter—an enticing game he means to ensure she enjoys, whether she wishes to or not…


 

Dabney: Where to start? Luck Be a Lady is my favorite book Ms. Duran has written in several years. There’s almost nothing about it, I didn’t love.

CazFool Me Twice was a big hit with me, and I thought Luck Be a Lady packed just as much of a punch as that one did, albeit in a different way.  Fool was edgy and intense, what with the darkness surrounding the hero, whereas this book, while every bit as superb in its storytelling, plotting and characterisation is much more understated.

Dabney: Luck Be a Lady isn’t a dark book—except for that one part which we musn’t spoil because it is so wonderful.

Caz:  The curse of the reviewer’s  lot :(  Having to avoid spoilers about the GOOD bits you want to rave about!

Dabney: My husband read it and, I have to say, I think he’s a bit jealous of Nick.

Nick, oh Nick, he is such a stellar hero.

Caz: Nick – *sigh*.  I would be surprised if there was a man alive who wouldn’t feel just a tad inadequate when compared to Nick! There are a lot of gutter-born heroes in the genre who have dragged themselves up by their bootstraps in order to become wealthy and powerful Robin Hood type figures to the people they grew up amongst. It’s a common trope, but what I liked particularly about Nick is that while he’s certainly had a tough life and has done things he’s not particularly proud of, he isn’t weighed down or haunted by it.  He’s not dark and tortured and doesn’t need the heroine to save him from his inner demons.  He know who he is and has plenty of real self-confidence rather than bravado, and for the most part he’s content with his lot. It’s true that Catherine accuses him of cowardice late on in the story, but that’s because she sees that he has more potential than even he knows, and it’s her way or forcing him to look beyond what he’s accomplished.

Also – he’s damn hawt. ;)

Dabney: As I was reading Luck Be a Lady, I was struck by how masterfully Ms. Duran writes sex scenes. Nick pushes Catherine to allow herself pleasure and yet he does so by, in the best way possible, getting her consent at every turn (or kiss). The love scenes between the two do all I want a love scene to. They’re sensual, they illuminate the relationship between the leads, and they make me feel all melty inside.

Caz: It’s always good to read sex scenes like that, ones that add something to what we know about the characters rather than just feeling as though they’ve been added in because “it’s time.” Oh – and the part with the sheet?  (I wonder how many readers initially thought the package Catherine insisted on bringing with her was an enticing nightgown or something?!) Her naivete was rather sweet in a way, and fit her character perfectly.  It’s still difficult for women to be taken seriously in some workplaces and for Catherine it would have been even more so.  As a business woman, she’s competing in a man’s world, and so is in the habit of viewing herself as sexless (to a point).  And with that whole episode, she’s trying to get Nick to see her in the same way, as just a transaction.  And I loved the way Nick dealt with the issue; forceful without being overbearing, completely perfect for that moment in their relationship and in very much in character.

Dabney: Yes. That dynamic, where Catherine wants to see everything in her life as a business transaction and Nick is equally determined she see what happens between them as a relationship, is one of the reasons their romance has resonance for me. Catherine has the higher IQ—or at least is far better educated—but Nick has the superior EQ (emotional intelligence). It’s a lovely way to make them equals as lovers.

I wanted Nick to have a woman who is worthy of him and he does in Catherine. She’s smart, determined, and prickly in wonderful ways.

Caz:  Yes, so often one reads a book where one comes out at the end liking one protagonist more than the other and feeling as though perhaps they didn’t quite deserve the other, but that’s absolutely not what happens here. As Nick can be seen as a tropish hero, so Catherine is a tropish heroine – or could have been in the hands of a lesser author. She’s all about the business (or so she thinks – I love the moment when Nick identifies her drive to succeed as passion!) and actually believes herself to be incapable of anything more.  She’s a bit of a puzzle at first though, because she seems to have grown up having a father who doted on her and it’s only later that we come to see how his treatment of her has affected her.  I like that she’s strong and confident, but also that she is quick to admit the effect Nick has on her.  So often heroines in this sort or situation persist in self-denial when it comes to the way the hero makes her feel, but Catherine doesn’t do that; she refuses to let Nick see it, but knows she’s in trouble almost from the start.

Dabney: And then there’s the story which is complex and rewarding. Part of the joy of reading historical romance is to learn stuff. In this book, Ms. Duran makes the workings of the parish politics and the Water Board intensely interesting. This is a book that argues strongly for the poor and does so in ways that are believable, compelling, and innate to the story.

Caz: The thing about the story which makes it stand out so strongly is how utterly plausible the whole thing is. I read a LOT of historicals (as you know) and there is almost always some element that stretches my credibility a bit too much, whether it’s a virginal heroine suddenly morphing into a sex-kitten, or a miraculous recovery from trauma or whatever; but here there’s none of that.  The whole story is solid and tight-as-a-drum – so much so that I couldn’t find a single thing about it that didn’t ring true (and it’s a sad fact that sometimes, as reviewers, we DO look for those things rather too often!)   Ms Duran’s research into local politics must have been extensive and the political corruption angle rings entirely true.  The asylum plot – also eminently believeable.  I couldn’t find a single plot hole or dangling thread in the entire book.

I’ve seen criticisms of the scene towards the end when Nick – in order to protect Catherine who is recovering from an injury – refuses outright to let her go with him and, knowing she will likely follow him, locks her in her room.  Personally, I didn’t find that upsetting; it made sense in the context of the story and of Nick’s feelings for Catherine.  Did it bother you?

Dabney:

The asylum plot. So good. It’s why I read. Just masterful.

No, Nick’s actions at the end didn’t bother me. Given what had previously happened to Catherine, I can completely understand Nick’s desire to keep her safe at all costs. That’s one of those things where, if he hadn’t locked her in her room and she’d, again, come to great danger, he’d have lost the thing he loves the most. Ms. Duran makes it clear Nick understands how his actions alienated the woman he loves. I was left believing that he’d never do something like that again… unless he was sure it was necessary for Catherine’s safety.

Caz: I’m glad it wasn’t just me that saw it that way!

Dabney: After I finished Luck Be A Lady, I reread all of Ms. Duran’s books. This book is now my fourth favorite of hers, coming in after (in ascending order) At Your Pleasure, Bound by Your Touch, and (tied for first) Written on Your Skin and The Duke of Shadows.

I can’t wait for her next book. You know whose story I’m hoping for next…. (no spoilers, but, oh!)

Caz: Heh. I hope this doesn’t lose me my MD fangirl card, but I actually have a couple of books by her that I haven’t yet read.  In my defence, this is because I hoard them for when I want to read something I KNOW will be awesome and that I will enjoy.  Written on Your Skin is one of those hoarded books. I agree about the others on your list – Bound By Your Touch was the first book of Ms Duran’s I read and it made me an instant, die-hard fan.

Dabney: So many books, so little time…. I’d give Lucky Be a Lady an A-. What about you?

Caz: From me, it gets an A.