A Kiss of Lies

Bronwen Evans
A Kiss of Lies
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Publisher
Random House Loveswept
Release Date
January 2014
ISBN
9780345547286
Series
Book 1 of Disgraced Lords
Genre
Historical Romance

SUMMARY
In Bronwen Evans's Loveswept debut, a pair of damaged souls ignite each other's deepest passions—even as they tempt fate by deceiving the world.

Desperate to escape her abusive past, Sarah Cooper disguises herself as a governess in the employ of Christian Trent, Earl of Markham, the man who, long ago, she fantasized about marrying. Despite the battle scars that mar his face, Sarah finds being near Christian rekindles her infatuation. A governess, however, has no business in the arms of an earl, and as she accompanies Christian on his voyage home, Sarah must resist her intense desires—or risk revealing her dangerous secrets.

One of the renowned Libertine Scholars, Christian Trent once enjoyed the company of any woman he chose. But that was before the horrors of Waterloo, his wrongful conviction of a hideous crime, and his forcible removal from England. Far from home and the resources he once had, Christian believes the life he knew—and any chance of happiness—is over . . . until his ward's governess sparks his heart back to life, and makes him remember the man he used to be. Now Christian is determined to return to England, regain his honor, and win the heart of the woman he has come to love.

Book Review by Barb Taub (author)
Feb 13, 2014   [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
102 people found the following review helpful
Sometimes an experienced writer does everything carefully and well. Her main characters are three-dimensional and believable. There is an intriguing backstory with plenty of useful clues for readers along the way. But sometimes, as I was sad to see with A KISS OF LIES, the first book in Bronwen Evans' new Disgraced Lords series, the final result is still disappointingly less than the sum of these parts.

Christian Trent, Earl of Markham, is a former darling of the ton, one of the famous Libertine Scholars. But after the trauma of Waterloo, he avoids society, convinced that his scarred face will repel everyone, especially the beautiful women whose attention he used to accept as his due. Falsely accused of raping the daughter of a duke, Christian is shanghaied onto a ship bound for Canada. Fortunately, one Canadian couple believes his story. His new friends help him prove his identity and they become business partners. When the friends are killed, Christian accepts guardianship of their twelve-year-old daughter, Lily.

Christian hires Sarah Cooper, a widow with a mysterious past, as Lily's governess. As the trio voyage to England, Christian and Sarah are torn between their overwhelming attraction for each other and their concerns for Lily's welfare. Christian decides to stop over in Jamaica to visit fellow Libertine Scholar, Sebastian Hawkstone. Sebastian recognizes Sarah as the Lady Serena Castleton, daughter of a duke who sold her in marriage to a sadistic monster. Believing she's murdered her husband, Serena had disguised herself as a governess in hopes of fleeing to England. But she hasn't counted on the blazing mutual attraction with Christian. The return to England plunges the couple into resolving the plots surrounding them, threatening both their lives and their relationship.

As a fan of Bronwen Evans, I was looking forward to reviewing her new book and to the introduction to her new series. The rating for this book is three and a half stars. As I said, all the pieces are there. But somehow, there is just nothing new. The way the tired old genre set pieces are trotted out--nobles in disguise, damsels in distress, the lord falling for the governess--the author might have been ticking them off on a checklist.

There were also some unfortunately modern Americanisms ("sweetie", "honey") that pulled me out of the whole Regency feel. They feel out of place in such a straight on formula regency. The POV head hopping also got in my way in places. And despite the repeated references to Christian's man-buddies, the other Libertine Scholars, we saw a lot of libertine but very little evidence of anything remotely scholarly.

I realize that this is just a fantasy, and that as a reader, I need to take some things with a grain of salt. However, for Sarah/Serena--a woman who has faced years of physical and emotional torture at the hands of her own husband--to respond romantically to Christian within about a day and with almost no PTSD trauma seems like a stretch.

Sadly, the villains were too flat and one-dimensional to be much more than a macguffin as plot device. But without providing a spoiler, I can say that that the secretive villain behind Christian's false rape accusation does show potential as a Moriarty for future books in this series, especially if the author avoids the ho-hum motivation of scorned lovers.

My fingers are crossed that the author will expand her obvious writing ability to step out of the comfort zone of the genre Regency where apparently at least fifty percent of the population of England are dukes, earls, marquises, viscounts, or their heirs. And I'd love to see her provide three-dimensional villains, a hero or heroine who is NOT your standard-issue aristocrat (even if masquerading as a commoner), and some believable support characters. Since I know from previous books that Bronwen Evans is a gifted author, I will be watching for the rest of this new series.
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BOOK INTERVIEW on January 2014
A Kiss of Lies by Bronwen Evans

Interview by Laura

Hi Bronwen, welcome to The Romance Reviews! A KISS OF LIES sounds interesting. Can't wait to hear all about it!


Q: A KISS OF LIES is the first in a new Regency series entitled Disgraced Lords. What's your inspiration for this series? What is this series about?

One night, I was catching up friends I went to university with for drinks, and I suddenly thought about the friendships forged through the education system. In the Regency era, I wondered if Lords sent away to school formed strong bonds. I'm sure they did, as it's only human. Six men sprang to mind--Christian, Sebastian, Grayson, Maitland, Hadley and Arend. Throw in the sins of their fathers and a Regency romantic suspense series was born.

The Disgraced Lords series focuses on 6 school chums who are being systematically framed for crimes in order to ruin them. There is an overarching villain, but also individual villains in each story. And I introduce the women they fall in love with, strong enough to help them face the demons from their past.

Q: Sounds exciting! What is it about the Regency time period that fascinates you?

Everything! I know I've romanticized it in my mind, as it can't have been that fabulous being a women in the 1800's, but the clothes, the houses, the flourishing arts, etc. The history is what spins me round. So much happened in such a short period of time. The wars, the opening of trade around the world, the start of the industrial and Cultural Revolution, etc.

Q: How are you able to create such unique characters? What kind of research did you have to do to build your world?

I think all good storytellers have a love of people and characterization. For instance, I love sitting at airports, or the mall, or anywhere people interact. What makes people tick, how does the way they have been brought up mold them? I think about situations and how that would have affected how a person behaves, what they feel, how they relate to others. I find the process fascinating. Then of course you have to understand society, as it was in whatever time period you write. For instance, a woman had very little rights in this male dominated world.

I especially like dark tortured men, and letting the women they meet and fall in love, with heal them. So I think of situations that can create the strongest emotions within a reader. In A KISS OF LIES, Christian's father killed his mother. How did that affect a child of six, what was his childhood like, what did it do to the man he became?

Q: Please tell us more about Sarah Cooper. What kind of woman is she? What kind of role does her profession (she's a governess) play in the story?

Sarah is one of the strongest women I've written. She's a survivor, married to a complete sadist, powerless she manages to escape and have the courage to begin again. The governess role is her way of seeking safety with a kind and honorable man (Christian), who she remembers from her past. Believing she'll never have children of her own, she bonds with Lily, her ward, instantly.

Within Christian, Sarah recognizes a kindred spirit, another human who has suffered great pain but who is determined to be happy. Perhaps they can heal each other. . . But then she must move on. It isn't safe for her to stay. . .

Q: What's a Libertine Scholar? Who is Christian Trent and why is he part of this group? What kind of man is he?

The Libertine Scholars are the six heroes of the Disgraced Lords series. They got named the Libertine Scholars while at Oxford. Lords who loved women, excelling in seduction and learning equally. And they were brilliant at both.

Christian Trent, the Earl of Markham is a wounded war hero, the gorgeous rake who is faced with confronting who he is, now that he's been badly burned at Waterloo. He reminds me of Mel Gibson's character in The Man Without a Face. A man whose world has been turned upside down as he struggles for a new identity. He can no longer use his beauty to glide through life. He has to look deeper inside himself and find out what's at the core of him as a man. What can he find within himself to make his way in the world?

Q: How did Sarah know of Christian years ago that she fantasized about marrying him?

I can't give away too much of the story but she used to worship him from afar. He was never formally introduced to her though, so he has no idea who she is.

Q: What was their first meeting like, in the present? How did it affect Sarah?

I'll let the excerpt tell you. . .

Mrs. Sarah Cooper, although ushered into Lord Markham's study by invitation, immediately felt the waves of animosity rolling off him. Gone was the fun-loving, handsome, and jovial rake she remembered spying on in her youth. Instead, she found a man whose love for life seemed as snuffed out as last night's candle.

She couldn't miss his scars, and saw that life had hurt him, marked him . . . as indeed it had her. He was badly burned over the right side of his face.

His once sensual lips appeared to curl at the corner as if he were permanently sneering. Lord Markham had let his hair grow longer than was fashionable and allowed it to hang about his face, probably in an attempt to hide the worst of his scars. As he swung round to greet her, she glimpsed his puckered cheek. The skin was pulled so taut, surely it must hurt to talk or eat.

However, God had been slightly merciful, because his eye had not been damaged, nor much of the skin around it, he even had part of his eyebrow. She'd always loved the green of his eyes, as warm and welcoming as a summer meadow.

Unlike most of York, she felt no fear in Devil Scarface's presence. She remembered the honorable, intelligent rake from her past, who was welcomed with open arms within the ton. Surely there was still a smidgen of the man he'd once been hidden beneath his scars.

In fact, her heart had obviously recognized something within the man across from her, for to her consternation, she felt an altogether inappropriate emotion as she gazed upon the Earl's stern features.

Q: What was the most romantic thing that Christian did for Sarah?

It sounds funny, you'll have to read the story, but Christian lets her go. He desperately wants her to become his wife but she denies him, and he understands there is something behind her refusal. He steps back to give her the space she needs, but when her life is at stake, he's right by her side, offering her protection and of course his heart.

Q: What makes them perfect for each other?

That's easy. They have both been marked by life. Both have had to endure more than most, and they have grown stronger for it. Together they know they can heal each other and find happiness.

Q: What was your favourite scene? Why?

It's a scene between Christian and his friend, fellow Libertine Scholar, Sebastian Hawkestone, Marquis of Coldhurst (book #2 A Promise of More). Enjoy!

Sebastian, lost in thought, ignored his question. Finally he leaped to his feet. "Sarah is all yours. I hope you will remember my noble sacrifice. Besides, the minute I saw her on your ship, saw how territorial you were about her, I knew there was more to the relationship. I've never seen you so possessive over a woman."

"People change; things occur that alter your life irrevocably. I'm not the same man I was."

"That's where you are wrong. You may have changed on the outside. We all do. Age changes us all. We cannot escape the ravages of time. You've changed slightly earlier and differently." Sebastian's face sobered. "But you are still the man I've known most of my life--honorable, kind, loyal and proud. No burns can take away who you are inside, unless you let them. If you slink around ashamed of the injuries you have received fighting for king and country, then others will perceive you that way too." Sebastian's gaze ran over Christian's bared torso. "I can see what Sarah saw in you when she came to your room that night. You're still a man in his prime, muscled and healthy. Walk tall, defy all the stares, and if you forget the burns, others will too. They will only see them if you focus on them." He smiled and patted Christian on the back. "Give them something else to focus on and they will do so. Be the Christian of old. No woman could resist you then, and I bet with a new attitude, they won't once again."

"You make it sound so simple."

"It is. There is nothing wrong with your mind or your cock--two very effective weapons when dealing with the fairer yet more vicious sex." Sebastian shrugged. "You may just have to work harder than you're used to. So, women no longer fall at your feet. But honestly, sometimes the hunt can be more invigorating than an easy conquest." He grinned. "If you want Sarah Cooper, go and get her. That's what the Christian of old would have done. Nothing would have stopped him."

"I was pretty skilled at seduction, and very successful too."

"Not as successful as me." With that Sebastian turned and ran into the sea, calling over his shoulder, "The swim will do your damaged shoulder some good. I noticed you favored your left arm on the ride home."

Christian stood naked on the beautiful beach and contemplated Sebastian's sound advice. He looked down at his body and surveyed himself unbiasedly. Sebastian was right. He was a man still in his prime--fit, muscular, and well endowed enough to have received no complaints.

He had been living like a victim, feeling sorry for all he had lost, when he still had so much that was appealing. He looked around him at this paradise on earth. What a fool he'd been.

He was alive! He could still feel the sun on his face, see the wonder of nature--and experience passion and love, if he worked for it.

He'd struggled through torturous pain, and for what? Only to live half a life? How had he let himself forget how good being a part of this world could be?

He raced for the inviting, vivid blue sea, his spirits lifting. He was alive, and God damn it, he was determined to never forget that fact ever again. Once he'd finished his swim, he would begin his campaign for Sarah Cooper.

Q: What scene was most difficult to write, either because of its emotional intensity or level of technical difficulty?

The most emotionally draining scene to write is where Sarah tells Christian about her marriage and what her husband did to her. She's so scared that Christian will look at her differently, perhaps find her repulsive. She has to have faith in him and the feelings blossoming between them, but it is so hard to trust any man.

Q: Which character was the hardest to write? Why?

Sarah, definitely. I had to try and imagine her life and what that would have made her feel, how much courage it must have taken and how strong she'd have to be to overcome the horrors of her marriage. That's difficult because I've never experienced abuse of any kind.

Q: In writing this book, which came first for you? Plot or character? Please give us an example.

Characters usually come to me first. I thought of the friends at Oxford and then worked out who each of them were. Then thought about their past, their family life etc. What did their upbringings do to each of them? With their backgrounds fleshed out, I created scenarios to create conflict, tension and what woman would be needed to earn these men's hearts, for instance, Christian's father killed his wife, so I made Sarah have an abusive husband too. It would make Christian's protective instincts roar to life.

Q: What's the appeal of a series to you? What do you think makes a series successful?

When I read a book I fall into the world the author creates and in that world I'm introduced to new friends--the characters. Once they are a part of my world, I want to spend more time with each of the characters and hence why series are fantastic. Stephanie Laurens does this really well. She creates families with all their faults and idiosyncrasies. You become a fly on the wall, watching the family drama unfold.

Q: What's up next in the series? Please give us a sneak peek.

Book #2 in the Disgraced Lords series, A Promise of More, is out in April. It's Sebastian Hawkestone, Marquis of Coldhurst's story. You meet Sebastian in A KISS OF LIES. He's fled England because he killed a man in a duel--or did he? An excerpt is available to read on my website.

Her brother's death in a senseless duel forces Miss Beatrice Hennessey into a desperate position: find a wealthy husband or see her family thrown in the poorhouse. Worse, she's threatened by a cold-blooded rapist. He has Beatrice in his sights and she knows it. She needs more than financial security. She needs protection. Therefore, she chooses the lesser evil. A marriage to Sebastian Hawkestone, the charming but ice-hearted Marquis of Coldhurst--her brother's killer.

Sebastian owes Miss Beatrice Hennessey--or, at least, her family--everything. He admits it. The duel he fought with her brother was never meant to end in the young man's death. But while Sebastian is prepared to offer the Hennessey's money, the wilful and pious Beatrice demands more. Marriage. He's damned if he'll sell his soul over a moment's foolishness. That is, until he sets eyes on the delectable beauty, and willingly rises to the challenge of unleashing her rigidly controlled passions.

But things are not always what they seem. Beatrice and Sebastian both have plans, plans which soon begin to unravel--and turn dangerous. Not only is an enemy out to destroy him, but Sebastian realizes there's more at stake than his life. He could lose the one thing he never thought he wanted. The woman he's come to love.

Q: What's up next for you?

I have Invitation to Passion releasing in spring 2014 and I'm busy finishing that story. It's book #3 in my Invitation To series. It's a best-friend's sister story. Richard compromises Madeline and they are thrown into marriage. As they move from friends to lovers, the dynamics of how they view themselves, and each other, changes. Can love blossom with a woman you've always considered more like a sister? Can Madeline win Richard's heart, and who is doing everything they can to ensure that never happens?

I'm also working on A Touch of Passion, #3 in the Disgraced Lords series. Grayson Devlin, Earl of Markham's story.

Thanks for having me over!

Thanks a lot, Bronwyn, for letting us have all these insights into your book. The series sound awesome and not to be missed!


Bio:

Bronwen is a proud romance writer. She is published in both print and e-book. She loves storytelling, and her head is always filled with characters and stories, particularly lovers in angst. Evans is a two-time winner of the RomCon Readers' Crown and has been nominated for an RT Reviewers' Choice Award. She lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She loves hearing from readers. You can visit her at www.bronwenevans.com.

Website: http://www.bronwenevans.com
Website: http://www.bronwenevans.com/bronwen-blog.html
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bronwenevansauthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/bronwenevans_NZ

Backlist:

To Dare the Duke of Dangerfield

To Wager the Marquis of Wolverstone

To Challenge the Earl of Cravenswood


Invitation to Ruin

Invitation to Scandal



GIVEAWAY!!!

Bronwen is giving away 3 copies of Invitation to Scandal in print or ebook format. Thanks, Bronwen!


ADDITIONAL GIVEAWAY!!!

TRR is also sponsoring a prize! Comment to get one additional chance to win:



ROMANCING THE DUKE by Tessa Dare (paperback or ebook). Read the review here!. International winner!


Mechanics:

Simply write a comment or a question in the comment box below to be entered into the giveaways!

Contest ends January 31, 2014.

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