Sunday, October 21, 2012

Review: A Lady Never Lies by Juliana Gray

Finn Burke is happiest working on his engines and cars. After reading an advertisement offering a house in Italy for lease, he jumps at the chance and leases it out for a year. For Finn, it is a chance to escape the distractions of London and to concentrate on that which he loves the most.

Alexandra, Lady Morley also needs to escape from London -- for a different reason: bad investments have left her with very little money and, rather than face the daily decline of her London life and household, she packs everything up and leases out a property in Italy for a year.

The last thing Finn and his companions, the Duke of Wallingford and Wallingford's younger brother, Ronald Penhallow, need is distraction -- and Lady Alexandra and her companions offer the worse sort of distraction.

When it is discovered that they have both unwittingly leased the same property, boundary lines and battle lines -- and a wager is made.

It's men versus women in Juliana Gray's debut novel, A Lady Never Lies -- and whoever loses must take out a full-page ad in the newspaper admitting the superiority of the opposite sex.

Love? Or Money? It's a timeless question that we tackle both in fiction and in our own lives. Alexandra's initial interest in Finn lies in the engine that he is working on. After Alexandra discovers that her investments in the Manchester Machine Works Company is in peril, she decides to "spy" on Finn, hoping to find a solution to her problem.

But the more she knows Finn, the less interested she becomes in her own problems and more interested in her relationship with him. He's unlike any man she's known -- he's attentive and caring -- and passionate and protective of the things (and persons) he cares about.

Finn finds it hard to believe that a social butterfly like Alexandra would be interested in a "geek" like him believing that the likes of her belong with men like his friend, the Duke of Wallingford.

This story reads like a movie -- complete with an Italian housekeeper (Signorina Morini) and an irate Giacomo both speaking in broken English. I'm usually very particular about this but Signorina Morini and Giacomo bickering over cheese and goats does add to the lightness of Gray's story.

"I see, I see." Morini cocked her head to one side, the thoughtful frown returning. "Is very strange. The master, he is very careful, very particular. Is very strange mistake." She straightened and clapped her hands. "But is good! Six English is very good! We have talk, laughter. The castle will be ... transform. Buon. I will find your rooms."
- pp. 49 - 50

I like that this story highlights the development of automobiles and that aspect adds a freshness to this romance novel (don't miss the reference to Daimler and the Mercedes!). The author also does a good job of introducing the central players in this trilogy -- although, it seems the men are better-developed than the women, each one with a distinct voice and personality.

Whereas the three ladies all seem to blend into one another -- add to that the almost madcap atmosphere in the castle with Morini and Giacomo -- it does take the reader a bit more concentration (at times) to figure out where the story is going (and to sort out all the voices).

I am hoping the author will remedy this in the next two books when the spotlight falls on Lilibet, Lady Somerton and Abigail.

A Lady Never Lies is Juliana Gray's debut novel and the first book in her Affairs by Moonlight trilogy. The second book, A Gentleman Never Tells will be released November 2012.

To find out more about Juliana Gray and her books, visit her website.

Final note: I loved this snippet:

Alexandra looked back and forth between him and the duke. How different they looked, the one so dark and cynical, the other so subtle and many colored.
- p. 21


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