This is a previous review updated with the next book in the series…
Lady Be Good
Meredith Duran writes very strong, character driven historical romance, but Lady Be Good never quite grabbed me. It was as accomplished as readers have come to expect from Duran and involving at the time, but I didn’t really think about it once I was done. That said, I would really like to read the next novel in the Rules for the Reckless series, Luck Be a Lady, as it involves an up-from-the-the-gutter hero and a very proper heroine and those are almost always fun.
From Amazon: Born to a family of infamous criminals, Lilah Marshall has left behind her past and made herself into the perfect lady. Working as a hostess at Everleigh’s, London’s premier auction house, she leads a life full of art, culture, and virtue. All her dreams are within reach—until a gorgeous and enigmatic viscount catches her in the act of one last, very reluctant theft… Christian “Kit” Stratton, Viscount Palmer, is society’s most dashing war hero. But Kit’s easy smiles hide a dark secret: he is haunted by a madman’s vow to destroy anyone he loves. When his hunt for the enemy leads to Everleigh’s Auction Rooms, he compels Lilah to help him.
From Me: Hijinks ensue.
In addition to that whole “a crazy person wants to destroy Kit and all he holds dear” thing, Lady Be Good has some great fish-out-of-water elements and commentary on the place of women in the Victorian world. Hamstrung by convention, Lilah must steer herself very carefully in making her place, and her employer, Catherine, is fighting the same battles, but from within a different class. The romance worked well, too, but I found female characters more interesting and look forward to meeting them again. Not that Kit wasn’t charming and engaging, as was his interaction with Lilah, but he didn’t jump off the page the same way his heroine did.
Luck Be a Lady
From Amazon: THE WALLFLOWER – 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. THE CRIME LORD – 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.
To go all Accuracy Police on Amazon’s ass, Catherine is a Victim of Circumstance rather than a Wallflower and this character type combined with a crime lord is quite common in romance. Why, if I had a nickel for every one of those I’ve read, I’m guessing I would have maybe, conservatively, upwards of 60 cents. As a rule, the term “crime lord” simply means the hero climbed up out of the gutter and now owns a casino, or “gaming hell” in the genre parlance. It’s shorthand for rich and ruthless climbers. Nick is no exception having started out as a thief and worked his way up to a position of power and, most importantly, wealth through his gambling establishment. When we meet him, he’s become a kind of pater familias to the local rogues gallery. Catherine is resolute and pretty ambitious herself, so they make a potent combination against her brother and his willingness to be simultaneously gormless and uncompromising at every turn.
I didn’t like this book as much as I wanted to or felt like I should like it. I enjoyed both main characters – Nick is romance catnip – but I felt the romance never quite held together or smoldered as much as I would have liked. I appreciate how independent and canny Duran’s heroines are, and the way they fight for themselves, or learn to do so, but more couple time would have been appreciated. I would suggest reading Fool Me Twice or the delightful novella Your Wicked Heart instead.
Also by Meredith Duran:
Rules for Reckless Series (not entirely interconnected, more of a theme)
That Scandalous Summer – very good
Your Wicked Heart – delightful novella
Fool Me Twice – excellent
Lady Be Good – nothing special
Luck Be a Lady – better than Lady Be Good, but still nothing special