Lady Phaedra Northampton is a proper English miss but burdened by a dark secret. She's buried her shame in running her wealthy brother Lord Nash's household while hiding behind a sharp wit and dull wardrobe...until a reckless village maid's disappearance pulls her into London's seedy underworld.
A former mercenary and jaded spy-for-hire, Tristan Talbot, Lord Avoncliffe, now does little, and manages to do it scandalously. Though Tristan's an out-and-out rogue, when his dying father begs him to delve into the secrets behind a notorious brothel a perfect task for his talents! Tristan can't refuse. Is the brothel a front for a notorious Russian spy ring? Tristan is on the hunt until his path collides with the oh-so-tempting Lady Phae.
Soon what should be a simple assignment becomes deliciously complicated...when deception and desire lead to an explosive passion and deadly foes!
|Product dimensions:||4.24(w) x 6.64(h) x 0.89(d)|
About the Author
During her frequent travels through England, Liz Carlyle always packs her pearls, her dancing slippers, and her whalebone corset, confident in the belief that eventually she will receive an invitation to a ball or a rout. Alas, none has been forthcoming. While waiting, however, she has managed to learn where all the damp, dark alleys and low public houses can be found. Liz hopes she has brought just a little of the nineteenth century alive for the reader in her popular novels, which include the trilogy of One Little Sin, Two Little Lies, and Three Little Secrets, as well as The Devil You Know, A Deal With the Devil, and The Devil to Pay. Please visit her at LizCarlyle.com, especially if you're giving a ball.
Read an Excerpt
'Tis a vile thing to die, my gracious lord, When men are unprepar'd and look not for it.
LONDON, APRIL 1830
Lady Phaedra Northampton made her way down to Charing Cross, her strides long and purposeful mannish, her mother would have chided as she weaved her way through the afternoon jumble of bureaucrats and shopkeepers. All of them had seemingly set off in search of luncheon at once, crisscrossing her path in a sharp-elbowed frenzy as if conspiring to impede her march across Westminster. But sharp elbows were the least of her concerns.
Desperation and a rash, reckless idea had driven her from the house, and despite the chill, Phaedra had left Mayfair without a hat. How foolish. And how unlike her. Now she pushed back the high collar of her heavy gray cloak, cutting a glance over her shoulder. Just behind Phaedra, her maid scurried along, a hand clasped to the top of her bonnet against the wintry gust. Other than that, there was nothing. Why, then, did the hair on the back of her neck keep prickling so? Phaedra tucked her portfolio closer, and picked up her step.
"Ooh, miss, do slow down!" Agnes complained. "I want to find Millie as bad as you, but I'm taking a stitch."
Phaedra glanced back, realizing in some shame that her maid had been practically trotting since they'd left Brook Street. Checking her pace, she noticed a familiar black and yellow barouche pulled to the pavement ahead. Drat.
Agnes, too, saw it. "That'll be Lady Blaine, miss," she said warningly.
Lady Blaine, indeed! To Phaedra, she was still Eliza, a little slip of a girl from their home village. Unfortunately, there was no avoiding her.
"Do you think she knows the truth about Priss, ma'am?" Agnes's voice trembled. "Or that Millie's gone missing?"
"She could not possibly," said Phaedra with more confidence than she felt.
"Phae! Oh, Phae!" The wheedling cry rang from the door of a milliner's shop. Eliza came with unfashionable haste toward them, her husband staggering in her wake with a stack of bandboxes which nearly reached his nose. The girl wore a dress of yellow trimmed in deep green, and a green cloak which was a bit insufficient for the weather. The cloak's collar was turned up at a jaunty angle, and embroidered with a chain of white and yellow daises which, Phae inwardly considered, looked hideous, and a little silly.
"Phae, what luck!" said Eliza. "When did you arrive in London? Why did you not tell me?"
"Good afternoon, Eliza." Phaedra spoke cordially if a little hurriedly. "We came up some weeks past."
"Oh, how exciting for you!" Eliza had drawn up in front of them, eyes wide. "How very weary you must have been of being stuck in Hampshire the whole winter."
"Actually, I prefer Hamp "
"But London, Phae!" Eliza interjected. "And the season! I have scarcely left Town, you know, since my marriage last autumn." She shot a doting glance back at Blaine, a minor baronet so young his forehead was still pimpled. Phae almost suggested he lift the bandboxes higher.
But Eliza was quivering with excitement. "Listen, Phae! I have quite the greatest news ever. Guess! Guess!"
"Why, I could not possibly," said Phaedra.
"Oh, just try!" Eliza was almost hopping up and down with excitement.
This was the point at which, of course, Eliza would announce that she was enceinte. Phaedra had been through this little post-season ritual many times. "Just tell me, Lizzie." She forced a smile. "I know I will be very happy for yo "
"We're to give a ball!" Eliza interjected, giving Phaedra a swift, explosive hug. "The last Thursday in April!" She set Phaedra a little away. "Now you all must come, Phae! Do say that you will?"
"You know I do not go out much, Lizzie," she said quietly. "I thank you for asking. Mamma and Phoebe will be thrilled to come, I am quite sure."
Eliza's lower lip came out. "Phae, you really are not so firmly on the shelf as all that!" she said. "Indeed, I am quite persuaded that this shall be your year."
"I do not need a year." Phaedra smiled. "Besides, Eliza, this is to be Phoebe's year."
"I cannot think, then, why you bother to come each season if you think Town pursuits so very silly."
"And let Mamma come alone?" The words slipped out before Phaedra could bite them back.
"But she would not be alone." Eliza blinked innocently. "There's Phoebe. They would be together."
Yes, thought Phaedra grimly, and together they would find twice as much trouble.
But she was being churlish. She gave Eliza another hug. "Do get in your carriage now," she said, urging the girl toward it. "That cloak is not warm enough to stand here gabbing. Come round for tea next week. Phee will wish you to see all her new finery."
Eliza's eyes lit up. "Why, I should be pleased to offer my sense of Town style," she said, stroking her gloved fingertips over her daisies. "How excited the dear child must be. Why, I remember my first season as if it were yesterday."
"That's because it was yesterday," Agnes muttered behind her.
In short order, Lord Blaine had tucked his bride back into their carriage, and secured a rug across her knees. "She's still just a flighty little chit in an ugly cloak," Agnes complained as the carriage drew away. "But she's right about one thing."
"I can't think what," said Phaedra, resuming her march toward the Strand.
"This could be your year."
Phaedra cut a stern glance over her shoulder. "Don't be ridiculous, Agnes," she said. "Every year is my year."
She was distracted suddenly by a figure in a dark topcoat and an odd, fur-trimmed hat. He pushed away from the shelter of a doorway far to her right, then his head turned toward Agnes and he stiffened. At that instant a black and red mail coach came clattering up from Charing Cross, fresh horses prancing wildly, passengers clinging to the roof, the box, and all but bursting out the doors. When the dust and clatter were gone, the doorway a tobacconist's was perfectly empty. She had not even seen his face. "Did you notice that man?" she asked Agnes.
"What man, miss?"
"I thought " Phaedra shook off the ill feeling. "No, it was no one, I daresay."
Good heavens, she was becoming as fanciful as Phoebe and Mamma. Phaedra forced herself to stroll down to the Strand. She passed her favorite bookseller's a tatty little shop that sold musty volumes of history and geography. Beyond that was a brass shop where one could buy candlesticks, pokers, and firedogs. A stationer's. A coffin maker and, next door incongruously a pie seller, his window trays rapidly emptying. Phaedra turned right into the doorway of a bay-windowed shop, pausing just long enough to read the shop's only marking, a discreet brass plaque:
MR. GEORGE JACOB KEMBLE PURVEYOR OF ELEGANT ODDITIES AND FINE FOLDEROL
Agnes, too, hesitated. "He might be dining at such an hour, mightn't he?"
"Then we shall simply wait." Phaedra grasped the cold brass handle and pushed in the door. "Have faith, Agnes. It is possible Mr. Kemble can help us find your sister."
Overhead, a discreet little bell jangled as Phaedra's feet sank into an impossibly thick Turkish carpet. Inside, the shop smelled faintly of camphor, polish, and of the vinegar which was doubtless used to shine the glistening acres of glass cases. Phaedra's gaze swept over a row of Imari vases, a collection of Meissen figurines, and an entire shelf of bejeweled perfume flacons. Oriental carpets hung from the walls, chandeliers dotted the ceiling, and suits of armor were tucked into the corners.
"Mercy," said Agnes. "Looks as if half o' Blenheim Palace got shoved in here."
Just then Phaedra's quarry appeared from the rear of the shop, throwing open a pair of heavy velvet panels with more drama than was strictly necessary, and setting the brass curtain rings to jangling. Mr. Kemble was a lithe, elegant man of indeterminate years with quick, dark eyes which always set Phaedra's nerves a little on edge. "Good afternoon, Kemble."
A strange expression passed over his face. "Lady Phaedra Northampton!" he said. "And in my humble shop, no less."
"I wish a moment with you privately, Kemble," she said, laying her portfolio atop one of the glass cases. "A pressing personal matter which "
The door jangled again. All eyes turned to the slight, dark young woman who entered, her jet eyebrows snapped together. She wore a gown of striped yellow muslin under a sweeping green cloak. Her maid had been left standing just outside the door.
"Hullo, George," she said, nodding at Phaedra as she passed.
"Miss Armstrong," said Kemble smoothly, coming at once from behind the counter. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"
"George, I want another of those heads," she said bluntly.
Kemble folded his hands neatly together and smiled. "My dear Miss Armstrong, you already have a head," he answered. "God only knows the trouble you'd get into if you had a second."
"Lud, not that sort of head," she said, passing easily over the insult. "The white china sort, like the one Papa pitched through the window last year. It was one of the Georges, but I can't think which."
"Ah, the Chaffer bust of George II," said Kemble knowingly. "My dear child, I do not uncrate those by the box load, you know. The Chaffer was rare. And since the marquess saw fit to destroy it in his little temper tantrum, I fear you must all bear its absence stoically."
"What, you can't just get us another?" The girl's black brows snapped back together. "Good Lord, George. It's his birthday."
A sort of verbal fencing match ensued, the girl insisting rather tongue-in-cheek that perhaps Mr. Kemble could conveniently steal her a head if he hadn't one in stock, and Mr. Kemble parrying just as tartly that he might as easily steal the Marquess of Rannoch a modicum of self-control, and they'd all be the better for it.
Bemused, Phaedra watched, making several observations at once. Firstly, that the girl had a temper probably got honestly from her father if he'd thrown such a masterpiece as a Chaffer porcelain through a window. Secondly, that the girl was called "Miss" but her father was a marquess, which meant she was either adopted or illegitimate. And lastly, that the girl was dressed to the nines in Parisian fashions which had cost someone a bloody fortune but unfortunately, she had topped the gorgeous ensemble with a cloak embroidered in daisies just like Eliza's. It seems so oddly incongruous on such a dark, elegant creature, and with her nerves already on edge, Phaedra let out a little burst of laughter. Swiftly, she slapped her hand over her mouth.
Too late. The argument sputtered away, the girl and Mr. Kemble turning to look at her.
But Phaedra was saved by the ring of another bell, this time not the door, but a loud clang-clang-clang that seemed to come from above. A hand bell, Phaedra thought.
"George ?" boomed a disembodied voice from somewhere above them. "George? What's Jane done with my book now?" There was a muffled series of bumps, then the sound of glass shattering.
"Oh, Lord!" Kemble cast an exasperated gaze upward. "The Sevres teacup."
"It's Maurice again," said Miss Armstrong irritably. "I swear, George, I have never seen a man savor a broken ankle so."
As Phaedra wondered who Maurice might be, Mr. Kemble gave a tight smile, and turned to bow toward Phaedra. "Ladies, I do beg your pardon. It is the housekeeper's half-day and Jean-Claude is at the post office. I shall be but a moment."
He returned through the green curtains, this time leaving them open to reveal a staircase to the right. Through the curtains Phaedra could see a rear entrance flanked with windows, and several worktables set about a cavernous back room. They watched as Mr. Kemble's elegant trouser hems disappeared up the steps.
Miss Armstrong turned to Phaedra and smiled warmly. Phaedra returned the greeting, but hers was a perfunctory smile. She knew Miss Armstrong's type. Pretty and vivacious. Fashionable and flirtatious. The ton was littered with their beauty, and with the almost-beauties like Eliza, none of them with two thoughts in their heads worth speaking aloud. Amidst her contemplation, however, Phaedra realized Miss Armstrong was...well, quivering.
"You were laughing at me!" she declared.
Heat washed over Phaedra's face. "I beg your pardon?"
"You were laughing," Miss Armstrong repeated. "At my cloak, I daresay."
"Why, I I was not," Phaedra fibbed, face flaming.
"Liar," the girl answered on a strange gurgle.
"No, please, I " Phaedra realized the girl was choking back laughter.
Miss Armstrong burst into giggles. "I daresay I cannot blame you; it's perfectly hideous." Her eyes danced with merriment. "But my aunt Winnie chose it, and I haven't worn it once, and now she's taken notice. So I said to my self, well, it's only George, and after all, he must have something to poke fun at, mustn't he?"
"Oh," said Phaedra vaguely. "Yes, I daresay."
But Miss Armstrong was surveying her more closely now. "I'm sorry," she managed. "Have we met?"
"I think not." But politely, Phaedra extended her hand. "Lady Phaedra Northampton. How do you do?"
To her shock, Miss Armstrong squeezed her hand almost affectionately. "So pleased to meet you," she said. "I'm Zoë. Zoë Armstrong and I do know you, come to think on it. Your mother lives opposite Aunt Winnie in Brook Street. I often stay with her during the season."
"Yes, we reside there when we are in Town," Phaedra replied. "Along with my brother, Anthony Hayden-Worth."
"Oh, yes!" said Zoë brightly. "Mrs. Hayden-Worth left him and went back to America, did she not? A pity, that. One hates to see such a desperately good-looking man going to waste."
Phaedra blinked at the girl uncertainly. She was frightfully plain-spoken, but what she said was perfectly true except that Tony wasn't exactly going to waste. It might be better for all of them if he were. Then Phaedra and Agnes would not be here, dealing with the aftermath, and searching for a needle in a haystack. "Actually, Tony has gone to America, too," said Phaedra abruptly. "I believe his wife wishes a divorce."
"Indeed?" Zoë did not look shocked. "Such things are easier done there, I daresay."
Suddenly Phaedra's thoughts were distracted by something a shadow, she thought, hovering at one of Mr. Kemble's rear windows. She glanced toward it, and just as quickly, it was gone. Perhaps there had been nothing at all.
But Miss Armstrong was still speaking. "In any case, I used to see you coming home from your morning walk," she continued. "How refreshed and brisk you always looked. At that hour, I am still languishing in my nightclothes, of course, and drinking my chocolate. But I do so admire your zeal."
Phaedra was still trying to figure out Zoë Armstrong when a faint noise sounded at the back door a sort of whimper and scrape, like a dog wanting to be let in. A vagrant in the alleyway, perhaps. She turned back to Miss Armstrong. It was very odd. Dashing girls like her rarely gave Phaedra's sort a second glance, writing them off as bluestockings, wallflowers, or just hopelessly unfashionable.
Phaedra was all of those things, she supposed. Indeed, she had embraced them.
But Miss Armstrong seemed to find her interesting, and was rattling off an almost apologetic story about how her father had come to break the Chaffer bust in a fit of temper over her cousin Frederica's having fallen for a terrible rake. But Frederica and the rake had married and, it seemed, were living happily ever after. Phaedra had missed most of the details in between.
"And now that my stepmother is with child again," Miss Armstrong finished brightly, "I'm to stay with Aunt Winnie for the season. Papa is hoping quite desperately that this year I will take but this is my second season well, my third, almost. And I've been in Town most of my life. I really do think it is quite hopeless."
This last was said with a beaming smile which suggested Miss Armstrong was in no way cast down by her lack of marital prospects. The girl went up another notch in Phaedra's eyes. As to Zoë's eyes, they were not just animated, but sparkled with a keen intelligence with which Phaedra would not first have credited her.
"I daresay I could go in the afternoons," Phaedra blurted out.
Miss Armstrong lifted her eyebrows. "Could you? Where?"
"For my walk, I mean," she answered, feeling a little silly. "If you wish to take some exercise, I could go in the afternoon. I...I no longer walk in the mornings anyway." That was not wholly true, but Phaedra did not elaborate.
Miss Armstrong's face lit with pleasure. "Why, how very kind you are."
"And I wasn't laughing at your cloak," Phaedra hastily added. "It's just that, well, a friend of my sister's a rather silly friend, actually was wearing one just like it not ten minutes past."
"No !" said Miss Armstrong hotly. "You can't mean it."
"I fear so," said Phaedra, edging ever so slightly into the girlish spirit. "And the two of you are as different as chalk from cheese."
Miss Armstrong's face had darkened. "Devil take Madame Germaine!" she swore. "I knew that old hag had shifty eyes. An original design, indeed! She knows very well I shan't wear so much as a garter if someone else has one like it."
"I'm very sorry," said Phaedra contritely.
"Well, don't be," said Miss Armstrong. "Now I have a reason never to wear the silly thing again. Daisies, indeed!"
Just then, the bump at the door came again several bumps, in fact, like a slow dirge.
"Oh, bother," said Zoë, walking through the green curtains to call up the stairs. "George ? George! I think you've got a delivery at the rear."
Phaedra followed her into the back, looking curiously over the workroom as Agnes tentatively trailed behind.
Zoë had a hand on her hip, glowering up the stairs. "Oh, bother," she repeated as the thump came again. "Let's just open it."
But as Zoë stepped toward it, the door suddenly gave, the hasp flying back with a crack! A hunched form in a dark coat came staggering in. A gray muffler slithered to his feet, stained blood-red. Eyes wide and glassy, the man collapsed, his knees buckling. He toppled onto the floor along with his fur hat, something tumbling from his outstretched hand as he fell.
Behind them Agnes stifled a scream.
A thick wooden knife handle protruded from between his shoulder blades.
"Good God!" said Miss Armstrong, drawing back. Then, less steadily, "George!" she cried. "Oh, George! You'd best get down here now!"
Her hand over her mouth, Phaedra sank down beside the bleeding man. The man near the tobacconist. The hat...and his face. Oh, dear Lord. Fighting down a surge of panic, Phaedra stripped off her glove and set her fingers beneath his ear.
"Oh, lawks a'mighty!" whispered Agnes. " 'E looks like 'e's...oh, gawd!"
"Hush, Agnes," Phaedra ordered.
"But, oh, miss!" Agnes wrung her hands. "Is 'e dead?"
Phaedra could see an ominous pool of blood oozing from beneath the man's shoulder.
Zoë Armstrong knelt beside her. "Good God," she said again. "Poor devil."
"Yes, he's quite dead, I fear," Phaedra answered, withdrawing her hand.
"Who do you think he is?" Zoë whispered, turning the man's head with one finger to better show his face.
Phaedra swallowed hard. "I...I'm not sure."
"Should we roll him over?" asked Zoë. "Go through his pockets? That's what they do in novels, you know."
"What on earth is going on?" Phaedra whispered, almost to herself. On impulse, she reached for Zoë's hand. "Miss Armstrong, I think we should call Mr. Kemble again. We shall need a doctor or a constable, perhaps."
But Mr. Kemble was already clattering back down the stairs. "Good heavens, Miss Armstrong, what have you done n " Then, upon seeing the prostrate body, he said, "My God! What's happened?"
"George, he just staggered in!" Miss Armstrong rose. "I had nothing to do with it, I swear."
"I cannot feel a heartbeat." Phaedra's voice was surprisingly calm given the terror rising in her throat. "Have you a doctor close at hand, Mr. Kemble?"
"Yes, yes, just round the corner." Kemble was peering down at the body.
"Who is it, George?" asked Miss Armstrong stridently.
Slowly, Kemble shook his head as he studied the man's profile, stark white against the dark, polished floorboards. "No one I know," he said almost disbelievingly, " and I know everyone."
"Everyone who's apt to turn up murdered, you mean," Miss Armstrong added.
Kemble seemed not to have heard her. "My dear ladies, I do beg your pardon," he said. "You must go upstairs at once." Then, springing into motion, he snatched a Holland cloth off a tarnished suit of armor and tossed it neatly over the dead man.
The next half hour passed in something of a daze. Miss Armstrong's maid, who looked to be made of stern stuff, was sent at a run to the Bow Street police station. Despite their protestations, Mr. Kemble whisked Phaedra and Miss Armstrong to his flat upstairs where he seated them in an elegantly furnished parlor, and busied Agnes with the making of tea.
Miss Armstrong glumly watched him go. "This is nonsense," she said, tossing her green cloak disdainfully over a leather armchair. "Tea, indeed! As if we were swooning, faint-hearted females."
"It is rather silly," Phaedra replied, chewing at her thumbnail, her mind racing.
"Now we're missing all the excitement." Miss Armstrong flung herself into a chair and crossed her arms over her chest. "I mean, I'm terribly sorry the poor man is dead, to be sure. But there will be constables now, perhaps even a magistrate. Perhaps we shall have to go and give a statement? He was a gentleman, don't you think, Lady Phaedra? Or something very near it?"
"No, not precisely a gentleman." Phaedra's voice trembled a little. "An upper servant, I daresay."
"Or or a bank clerk!" said Miss Armstrong. "Or perhaps just one of George's disreputable friends. Perhaps he lied to us."
Phaedra lifted her gaze to meet Miss Armstrong's. "Does Mr. Kemble know a great many such people, Miss Armstrong?"
"You must call me Zoë," she said swiftly. "Especially after this. Oh, yes, lots of George's friends are rotters."
Phaedra managed a shy smile. "Have you known him long?"
"Oh, all my life!" she said, waving her hand airily. "When I was little, George was Papa's valet."
"Was he?" said Phaedra, surprised.
"Well, it was mostly an act of mercy on George's part," said Zoë. "To be frank, Lady Phaedra, Papa hadn't any taste."
"Please call me Phaedra," she suggested. "Or just Phae, if you prefer."
Zoë's eyes brightened. "Do you think, Phae, that there shall be something in the Times tomorrow about this?" she asked, clutching her chair arms. "Won't that be exciting?"
"I fear your family will not find it so," Phaedra warned. "My mother shall be mortified. Certainly she will not wish me to speak with a policeman. She would think it much too far beneath us."
A grin tugged at Zoë's mouth. "Yes, just think of the scandal!"
Just then, a commotion rose up from below. Zoë leapt up, and strode from the parlor in a swish of muslin. Curious, Phaedra followed.
A man stood at the foot of the stairs a short, red-faced man wearing a bright green waistcoat fit so snugly across his ample belly it looked as if the buttons might explode. He was trying to push his way past Kemble, who was blocking the steps as they snarled at each other.
The red-faced man pounded a beefy fist on the balustrade. "Aye, an' I 'ave a right ter speak wiv any witness ter a murder," he was shouting. "Stand aside now, Kem, and let me do me job!"
"They did not witness a murder, you dolt." Kemble stuck out a well-shod foot, nearly tripping the man. "The knife was already in his back."
"Even worse!" roared the man, his color deepening. "Now I don't give a cock's tail feather wot manner o' fine ladies these are, I'm ter speak wiv 'em, and speak wiv 'em now!"
"Not in my shop, Sisk," Mr. Kemble retorted. "I shall give you their names as the law requires. Then you may call upon their families and ask permission."
"Aye, and that'll be the end of it," the police sergeant growled. "I'll be sent round back an' left ter cool me 'eels till kingdom come."
"So you would have me permit what their families will not?" Kemble demanded. "You'll rot in hell first, Sergeant Sisk."
Her mouth set in a peevish line, Zoë Armstrong started down the steps. "George, don't be ridiculous. We are perfectly happy to "
"You, Miss Armstrong, will not put one more foot down those stairs," Kemble interjected. He half turned on the staircase, his face suddenly unrecognizable in its wrath. "Get back in that drawing room, miss, or by God I shall come up there and put you in it and your father will thank me for it, too."
Something in Mr. Kemble's expression must have persuaded her. For the first time, the wind went out of Zoë's sails. She turned meekly, and darted back down the corridor, Phaedra on her heels. Copyright © 2009 by Susan Woodhouse
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
In 1830 London Lady Phaedra Northampton's quest to locate a missing woman Millie abruptly halts when Gorsky the Russian she sought to obtain information from is dead with a knife in his back. Rake Viscount Tristan Talbot also searched for the same dead Russian as a death bed wish he gave to his estranged father who begged him to complete his last Foreign Intelligent Office mission.
When Phaedra and Tristan meet, the attraction has both shocked though she denies the feelings having given up on attraction following a scandal. Tristan fears his reaction because he is the son of a failed marriage between his dying dad and a mom his father refuses to speak about. They have a common goal to solve the murder of the Russian, but differing hidden agendas; hers is to find the missing female from her village and his to please his father. Love is a hindrance to each.
This exhilarating early nineteenth century amateur sleuth romantic suspense thriller grips the audience due to the baggage both lead characters carry as they investigate their connected cases and fall in love. Phaedra has a past that makes it difficult for her to trust while Tristan wants to reconcile with his dad. Fans will enjoy their antics as both are used to hanging out with their servants rather than the Ton. Love is a pain in the butt for this pair, but the desire is overwhelming.
I am an avid historical romance reader, and I adore Liz Carlyle's books. You may remember Phaedra and Mr. Kemble from her earlier books. Phaedra is the half sister of Stefan, who married Xanthia at the beginning of the series. The plot is exciting and keeps moving at a rapid pace - no huge twists and turns here, but adventurous all the same. A great read that you will thoroughly enjoy!
I really ended up enjoying this book. It was by no means perfect, or even a favorite Carlyle, but I was pleased. I liked how I didn't really know what was going on at first. We (the reader) found out what Phaedra's involvement in the murdered Russian was at the same time as Tristan did. It was a definite change of pace from the more introspective characters.Phaedra was a well written character. I liked how she was mature and not as needy as a lot of other romance heroines. I enjoyed watching Tristan have to be the one to ask when he'll get to see her again. Her `let's keep it casual' attitude toward Tristan was a nice change of pace. I didn't have a problem with the kinks Tristan found out she had, but I thought it got a little too clinical at times. I wish it would have been a bit more engaging and a little less dry. I was also surprised by her aggressiveness toward Tristan when I found out about her past tragedy. The tragedy was unexpected. Usually I can predict what so-called past tragedy an author is going to assign to a character, but this one was different. I can honestly say I don't think I've ever seen it used before.I did have a minor nitpick about Phaedra's characterization though. She makes a comment about not being sure that Tristan was the drunken gentleman she met in the beginning of the book. It says that she couldn't be sure because she didn't have her glasses on. Later Phoebe mocks her to Zoe (Phaedra's friend) and says Phaedra only wears her glasses to look smarter than everyone else and only needs them to read. Throughout later parts of the story she goes without her glasses and doesn't have any problems seeing. I found it odd that she would comment to herself on her need for her glasses but then never really need them.Tristan was an interesting character. I have to say, I have a weakness for characters that are thought to be empty-headed but are really very clever. It always makes me feel as though I'm in on the joke. I thought Tristan was a lot of fun. He was up for whatever anyone wanted to throw at him. If you wanted to fight, he'd fight. If you wanted to make out, he was ready. If you wanted to think he was an idiot, he was more than happy to let you. He just seemed so casual and willing to go with the flow. It made him fun to read about. I wasn't really impressed with his willingness to make out with every set of lips that crossed his path (even if most of them ended up being Phaedra in one form or another) but it was in the beginning of the story and it's just a personal dislike. It was easy to get past.I liked that Tristan never resolved things with his father. I thought that was more realistic than a sudden father-son bonding moment where they forget all their past troubles. I would have thought less of Tristan if he would have made up with his father when his father was never sorry about how he treated his mother.I found it odd that Phaedra had so much freedom. I know that her mother focused on Phoebe mostly, but it really seemed a little unbelievable. I kept forgetting that Phaedra was 21 and was startled whenever it was brought up. On one hand it was nice that she acted so mature. I can't even remember how many books I have given up on because the characters acted too immature and irritated the life out of me. On the other hand I really don't think that she acted 21. Maybe her past made her grow up in a hurry. I don't know... It was just a jarring note whenever it was mentioned.Overall it was a good book. I had some minor nitpicks, but they were easily ignored. I would say it was a good representation of Liz Carlyle's work. The world building isn't too detailed, but the characters caught my attention enough that it didn't matter to me. The prose isn't nuanced and doesn't really give a flavor of the time period, but there's something to be said for to the point prose. I'll be on the lookout for the next one in the series.
Perhaps Liz Carlyle's 'Tempted All Night' should be retitled 'Tempted to Stay Up All Night and Finish the Book.' That's the effect it had on me. Briefly, it's the story of Phaedra, a very correct English lady burdened by a dark secret, and Tristan, the ne'er-do-well son of an English lord. Surely a stock set up. But not in Carlyle's able hands. Phae is trying to find her maid's missing sister who has gone on the game and Tristan is completing a mission for his estranged father. They agree to work together, but the plot is just a format for the wonderful chemistry between the protagonists. And, Carlyle, as we all know, made an 'A' in chemistry. These are real, fleshed out characters, who meet and are strongly attracted to each other. But each carries a heavy burden from the past - not the usual silly misunderstandings that romance novels once gloried in - but real, human mistakes and regrets. Their repartee zings and their romance is hot and a bit more erotic than I was expecting from Carlyle. So be warned. For the last few years several of my favorite romance/women's novelists have lost their edge; I sadly now have very few sure buy authors, but Carlyle is holding her own. Three cheers for Phae, Tristan, and Liz!
Liz Carlyle is one my must-buy historical authors. She writes strong characters and interesting plots and her brand new release "Tempted All Night" is another good read for me.Phaedra should be married. She's pretty, she's got a great dowry, and her brother is a Lord. But Phaedra also suffered an almost unspeakable loss when she was very young. That experience, and its repercussions, have resulted in her determination to never marry. She spends her time trying to be unobtrusive and unnoticed. Until the younger sister of her maid disappears, leaving behind a young child. Phaedra reluctantly journeys to London with her family, but not for ton entertainments. Her mission is to find the missing mother...but what Phaedra finds isn't just a missing woman, but a case of murder and espionage. And the man who's trying to help her may be the one to change her mind about marriage.Tristan's father is the Earl of Talbot and his mother was a beautiful Mediterranean peasant his father fell in love with, giving up his chances for high office with the marriage. The result was Tristan, too dark to look entirely English, but undoubtedly the Earl's heir. With little acceptance from his family and his mother gone, Tristan went off to serve as a mercenary and spy-for-hire...something that (intentionally) irritates his father who runs the Foreign Office at Whitehall. But his father is on his deathbed and Tristan can't refuse what may be his last request...to investigate the death of a Russian who may be mixed up with a spy. It doesn't take Tristan long to meet Phaedra, and he is drawn to her almost in spite of himself. Events around Tristan and Phaedra become more and more dangerous, and so does their desire.Two complex and intriguing characters, with messy pasts and dubious futures struggle to understand and recognize love. Each is afraid to care but can't seem to resist the traits of the other. The mystery wasn't too bad either, even though we're told right off who the bad guys are, it still plays out well. The real focus is always the growing closeness and caring between the hero and heroine. There are brief appearances by characters from previous books, but this novel stands on its own. "Tempted All Night" is another solid historical from Liz Carlyle.
Phaedra is a bookworm with a dark secret in her past. Tristan is a scoundrel who prefers the company of lowlifes to lords. They are drawn together by murder and a strong desire.The plotline and tropes are not among my favorites, but Carlyle writes so well I enjoyed it anyway.
I really enjoyed this book, I liked the characters very much, they were fun. I didn't want to put this book down, I just wanted to keep reading. It was easy to read and fun. This is the second book of the series, try to read them in order. I give this book 5 stars.
Liz is an easy read. These books are quick and fun and predictable...you get exactly that in this book but I am a sucker for good ole historical romance.
I like that Phaedra is what Tristan needs in a turbulent time of his life, and that Tristan is what Phaedra needs to understand and accept herself for what she is. I like that Tristan feels regret for his wicked past as it relates to Phaedra, which we don't see a lot of heroes doing. I like that Phaedra also meets and strikes up a friendship with Zoe Armstrong, a woman as lively and bad as Phaedra is quiet and good, yet Zoe is exactly what Phaedra needs in her life to draw her out of her shell, to live life, so to speak. Most of all, I like a good story, and Tempted All Night certainly delivers. Reviewed by Silver for The Raving Readers
Great read - keeps you interested the whole way through. Great book to read anytime. You don't want to put it down.
I love Liz Carlyle's writing, her books are almost always excellent, top notch reads. She tackles some darker issues in Tempted All Night with storytelling skill that comes from a real understanding of what makes people tick. She reveals Tristan and Phae's weaknesses and soft spots, their strengths, their pasts and secrets, and shows us how these two off-beat characters are meant for one another, right down to a mutual desire (though it is a revelation to the heroine) for adventurous "bed play", (as the hero calls it), which is very tenderly handled by Carlyle. The current trend in romance novels of introducing characters for the "next book in the series", bringing in people from past romance's, and done so clumsily by other authors, is one of the best parts of Liz Carlyle's books. In Tempted All Night perennial secondary character, antiques proprietor and man-of-many-skills George Kemble reappears, as well as dark and handsome Max de Rohan (hero from No True Gentleman), and Zoe Armstrong (secondary character from Carlyle's very first book) charmingly reappearing here, poised and ready for her turn for a passionate happily ever after in the near future, a story I would love to see and gladly read. I hope this little community of characters never ends.
Liz Carlyle is one my must-buy historical authors. She writes strong characters and interesting plots and her brand new release "Tempted All Night" is another good read for me.
Phaedra should be married. She's pretty, she's got a great dowry, and her brother is a Lord. But Phaedra also suffered an almost unspeakable loss when she was very young. That experience, and its repercussions, have resulted in her determination to never marry. She spends her time trying to be unobtrusive and unnoticed. Until the younger sister of her maid disappears, leaving behind a young child. Phaedra reluctantly journeys to London with her family, but not for ton entertainments. Her mission is to find the missing mother...but what Phaedra finds isn't just a missing woman, but a case of murder and espionage. And the man who's trying to help her may be the one to change her mind about marriage.
Tristan's father is the Earl of Talbot and his mother was a beautiful Mediterranean peasant his father fell in love with, giving up his chances for high office with the marriage. The result was Tristan, too dark to look entirely English, but undoubtedly the Earl's heir. With little acceptance from his family and his mother gone, Tristan went off to serve as a mercenary and spy-for-hire...something that (intentionally) irritates his father who runs the Foreign Office at Whitehall. But his father is on his deathbed and Tristan can't refuse what may be his last request...to investigate the death of a Russian who may be mixed up with a spy. It doesn't take Tristan long to meet Phaedra, and he is drawn to her almost in spite of himself. Events around Tristan and Phaedra become more and more dangerous, and so does their desire.
Two complex and intriguing characters, with messy pasts and dubious futures struggle to understand and recognize love. Each is afraid to care but can't seem to resist the traits of the other. The mystery wasn't too bad either, even though we're told right off who the bad guys are, it still plays out well. The real focus is always the growing closeness and caring between the hero and heroine. There are brief appearances by characters from previous books, but this novel stands on its own. "Tempted All Night" is another solid historical from Liz Carlyle.