A LADY NEVER LIES – Juliana Gray
The Industrial revolution is in full swing, and many Englishmen—and others—are racing to develop a practical horseless carriage, whether powered by steam, internal combustion, or electricity. An exhibition and race will be held in Italy that Mr. Phineas Burke plans to enter. Finn persuades his good friend, the Duke of Wallingford, and Wallingford's younger brother, Lord Roland Penhallow, to join him for a year's sabbatical in a leased Italian castle. Finn is a self-made man who made a fortune with his inventions. This sabbatical is to help his friends take time out from their useless lives and devote themselves to improving their minds, and, not so incidentally, to live a while with sobriety and celibacy. It will also give Finn the time and peace to perfect his electric motor.
The three are not to find either peace or lack of distraction, for the owner of the castle also leased the castle to three lovely English ladies. One of London's leading hostesses, Lady Alexandra Morley, widow of an elderly marquis, has not the funds everyone believes she has. She hopes to figure out how to repair her fortunes by leaving England. She's accompanied by her younger sister, Miss Abigail Harewood, and her friend Lady Lilibet Somerton, who wishes to escape an abusive husband. They meet the three gentlemen along the way, and both parties are unpleasantly surprised to find their destinations are the same rather shabby and understaffed castle. The divide the place in two, each having a wing, and they plan to meet only at meals.
Well, to no one's surprise, things don't work out as planned. Miss Harewood is an attractive young lady and the duke a known rake; Lady Somerton and Lord Roland have a history, and Lady Morley's funds just happen to be invested in a failing horseless carriage factory now developing a steam powered vehicle in competition with Mr. Burke's electric one.
As the first of a trilogy, A LADY NEVER LIES focuses mainly on the relationship between Alex, Lady Morley, and Finn. Is Finn the answer to Alex's dilemma? Though Finn is highly successful—and rich—his background is definitely not upper class. If a match is unlikely, are there other ways he might be of use? I was not always sure of everyone's motivations—actually Alex is not entirely sure of her own. The best developed character of all is Finn. Are the duke and his brother serious about turning a new leaf, or is it merely another lark? Surely we'll learn more as the series continues.
I was left wondering especially about a strange scene with the duke running naked through the woods calling Abigail's name…not really why he was doing so, but that Alex seemed to ignore it. One can only assume the answer to that puzzle and the duke's whole story will be told in the third book, A DUKE NEVER YIELDS. And most likely the second tale, A GENTLEMAN NEVER TELLS, will be that of the third pairing of the castle's tenants.
A LADY NEVER LIES is in turn amusing and tension-filled, also highly sensual (with many detailed love scenes), and somewhat suspenseful (watch for skullduggery concerning the competition).