A WOMAN OF VIRTUE
Sonnet Books, March 2001
Reviewed by Barbara Fielding Regency
The young Lady Cecilia Markham-Sands finds herself nearly molested by Lord David Delacourt when he comes upon her undressed in the stable at the Newmarket races. When Lady Cecilia's brother Harry interrupts Lord Delacourt's attempts to seduce his sister, they find he has mistaken her for someone else. Deeply apologetic and partly enamored with her, Lord Delacourt insists he must do the right thing and marry Lady Cecilia since he has compromised her. However, Cecilia, frightened by the encounter, wants to forget it ever happened. Lord Delacourt turns to his friend the Reverend Cole Amherst who devises a plan that satisfies the trembling Lady Cecilia, to cover up the incident without forcing them to marry.
Six years later, the widowed Lady Cecilia is a committed patron of the mission house Daughter of Nazareth Society, a mission run by Reverend Amherst that helps reform and retrain prostitutes. Cole Amherst sets up his dissolute rakehell friend Lord Delacourt through a crooked card game and demands David fill in for him at the mission house to satisfy the bet. The set-up brings Lady Cecilia and Delacourt face to face again. They are forced to reevaluate their attitudes towards each other and deal with the unfinished business between them. When two of the young prostitutes from the mission are murdered, Lady Cecilia and Lord Delacourt get caught up in a police investigation to find the killer.
Liz Carlyle has a refreshing way of handling the misunderstanding these two made on each other through their first encounter. The thoughtful and honest development of their re-acquaintance with each other is deftly written. When through more mature eyes Cecilia sees that David really is an honorable man underneath his rakish demeanor, you can't help but root for these two to find a way to be together despite their unpleasant beginning.
A WOMAN OF VIRTUE is a stand-alone book but the characters are connected to other books by Ms. Carlyle. Lord Delacourt was first introduced as a secondary character in A WOMAN SCORNED, which features the love story of the Reverend Cole Amhearst and Jonet, Lady Kildermore. Plus, police inspector Max De Rohan, introduced in this novel, is also featured in the romance novel NO TRUE GENTLEMAN.
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