by Laura Renken

November 2002
ISBN: 0-515-13403-1
Reviewer Graphic Button Jove Books
Mass Market Paperback

Colonial Virginia, a few years before the Revolutionary War, is the setting for Wicked Lies, Laura Renken’s romance of love and betrayal.

Catherine Bellamy, a recent widow, is trying to support her family during difficult times before the war, while helping the colonists’ cause against the crown. But not with The Sons of Liberty, a group whose principles have strayed from that of seeking proper representation to the King.

Our hero is a man of many names. Julian Reese Lambert, Lord Blackmoor, is a Captain in His Majesty’s Navy, a trusted and proven officer. He’s also Catherine’s brother in law. As Merlin, he is spy, saboteur and smuggler, known to his crew as Captain Reese. While his naval ship is in Norfolk, Julian rides to Yorktown to visit his brother’s grave, and to put out feelers to find Patrick’s killer.

Catherine’s brother, Daniel, is supposed to hand over the name of that killer at a late night meeting, but to protect her brother, Catherine goes in his stead. She and Merlin are captured, and it becomes obvious that someone has betrayed them. Merlin thinks it’s Catherine, who he believes is protecting his brother’s killer. She thinks someone in The Sons of Liberty has betrayed her brother, since it was he who should have met with Merlin. Neither trusts the other, and that causes many of the complications that arise in the story.

In the course of their escape, Catherine and Merlin have an intimate encounter and she later discovers she’s pregnant. Unfortunately, shortly thereafter, Merlin disappears and Catherine is left to rely on her brother-in-law for help. She finds that not only is he a representative of the King, and therefore suspect, he didn’t know she and Patrick had married. It makes a good tale as Catherine and Julian come to trust each other, discover aspects of the other they hadn’t imagined, and uncover the betrayer in their midst.

I enjoyed this book, partially perhaps because as a Virginian I liked reading about places I know, but also because Ms. Renken has good, believable characters riding back and forth between Yorktown and Williamsburg. There’s room for gray in her characters—not all of the colonists are good guys and not all of the British are bad. Even though she’s an adult, the oldest child in the family and already windowed, Catherine grows as she comes to learn and respect facets in her brother, sister and step-mother she hadn’t noticed before. Julian comes to grips not only with the fact that his brother is not the man he thought he’d known, but also that he must take sides in the increasing trouble between the crown and the land he considers home.

The problems I found in the story were few. There were several times when I had to back up and re-read a section because attitudes or feelings shifted in ways I didn’t expect. For instance, Catherine would say or do something that made me think, “Whoa! Wait a minute here. What is this about?” But all in all, the story flowed, made sense, kept my interest. I would recommend Wicked Lies to anyone who enjoys historical romance.

Reviewed in July 2003 by Kris.

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