So, I have more Fifty Shades to throw shade at (see what I did there?), but all of this negativity is getting me down. So is abuse, victim blaming and slut shaming. So, I wanted to review a book that's really good. And I've read a few that are really good lately. But...why go for a new book when you can go to an old, loved, wonderful book? A book that makes you feel good and warm and sexy, like that old pair of jeans that you'll never get rid of.
That book for me is No True Gentleman by Liz Carlyle, and it features one of my favorite literary couples since Emma and Mr. Knightly.
Max and Catherine are to Ana and Christian what hawks are to handsaws. Catherine is intelligent, funny, interesting, lively, self assured, confident, sexy, and not willing to take crap from anyone. Especially not from Max. She has a huge, closely-knit family, lots of friends, and wonder of wonders, she's a widow who not only is not a virgin, but she's no stranger to orgasms, either. In the literary world, this is a huge anomaly. Heroines are almost always virginal, even if they've been married, and the hero is the first one to teach them how to orgasm. You get the impression that Catherine figured it out on her own.
Max is also not a typical romance novel hero. He's got a lot of demons, but they make him complicated rather than just making him a man-whore. He's actually not a man-whore, which is completely unheard of in romance novels. He also has a network of friends (though he's reluctantly good friends with them...more on that later) and he has a good family connection with his family that is still alive. Yeah, he's sort of a woobie, but he's just enough of one. Just like how Catherine manages to not be too independent and aloof, Max manages to not be too broken over the deaths of his parents and the loss of his family home, name and title.
At the beginning of the book, Catherine and Max spy each other in Hyde Park, where Catherine runs her horse early in the morning. Max is looking into some sort of police investigator looking into corruption. There will be a murder to solve, but let's not look at that. Catherine actually has a conversation with her aunt--her late husband's aunt, mind--and Auntie suggests Catherine find herself a lover. Catherine's like, "Yeah, I was thinking the same thing." After reading so many romances where heroines are practically raped because they are so reluctant about sex (but then really enthusiastic about it, but only with the hero), this was a hugely wonderful change of pace. I don't know why so many romance novelists are prudes who think that sex should only happen between a woman and one man (and him and every other woman in the world), but it so often works like that. Carlyle's like, "Yeah, my couple likes sex. Deal with it."
So, one of Max's "friends" Cecilia Delacourt who featured in her own book (as a virgin widow, boo, Carlyle) makes him take on the investigation of her sister-in-law's murder. Her brother is the main suspect, but no one really thinks he could have done it. Catherine likes Cecilia, although most people do (she's sort of that Elle Woods/Cher Horrowitz airhead blonde who's smarter than she looks and acts), so she starts getting involved too. Max thinks this is a bad idea, mostly because he's actually a good cop and doesn't want civilians involved. But it's a romance novel, so of course Catherine gets involved.
I've mentioned that the murder plot really doesn't matter, and it doesn't. It's all the interraction between the people that really matter. In fact, we first met Max in A Woman of Virtue by the same author, and we all fell in love with not only Cecilia but also Lord Delacourt, the guy who just wanted to wear his ravensblood waistcoat although his valet wouldn't let him, so the continuation of characters is really what I was looking for. And I totally wasn't disappointed that we got to know more about Max and his reluctant ways of entering friendship.
The last person I want to hit on is George Jacob Kemble (his name is my name too), who played Lord Delacourt's valet in A Woman of Virtue (and said that Delacourt was too pale to wear that red waistcoat, though it looked great on Max), who is gay, but not in that really annoying way that writers seem to be doing nowadays where he's just flapping and lisping in such a way that even Carson Kressley would say was too much. Instead, he's also a really interesting character who knows his way around a fist fight, but is too fastidious to allow blood to stain his cuffs. As with her other characters, Carlyle manages a balance between this and that to make him an excellent character and completely not overdone.
I can't say enough about this book. It's good, and the sex is hot, unlike a certian Fifty Shades I can think of. In fact, I wish there was more sex, but ah well. What we get is great.
Two enthusiastic thumbs up.