You know I’m not really going to talk about the plot at all, so here’s the publisher’s blurb:
JUST WHO IS LADY DEBORAH?
I am the Dowager Countess of Kinsail, and I have enough secrets to scandalize you for life. I will never reveal the truth of my soul-destroying marriage—some things are too dark to be told. But at least no one can guess that I, a famously icy-hearted widow, am also the authoress of the shamelessly voluptuous romances currently shocking the ton!
Only now I have a new secret identity, one that I will risk my life to keep—accomplice to Elliot Marchmont, gentleman, ex-soldier and notorious London thief. This adventurer’s expert touch ignites in me a passion so intoxicating that surviving our blistering affair unscathed will be near impossible….
I’ll start with the bottom line: The Outrageous Confessions of Lady Deborah is a lovely example of character-driven writing. Marguerite Kaye has created two wonderfully complex characters, and she slowly unravels their mysteries for us throughout the various plot points in the book. There is action in the book (heists and intrigue galore), but it is all secondary to the characters and their development, individually and together (it is, after all, a romance novel. Of course there’s a Happily Ever After.). It did strike me as being a trifle folded in (as in A Room with a View with a Staircase and a Pond… see video below), with the characters reacting not only to their counterparts’ actions but also to perceived actions. It’s not in the least unpleasant, but it did make me think of Eddie Izzard. (To be fair, the list of things that remind me of Eddie Izzard is long.)
At the heart of the novel is Deborah, a character who vacillates between strength and vulnerability and who protects herself with an icy prickliness (think: hedgehog). Deborah has issues. She had a bad marriage, and it left its mark on her psyche. Deborah is not without a hefty dose of resourcefulness, however, and she is able to survive. I should note that I reviewed (to great negative effect) a book about a character who also had deep-seated emotional issues stemming from her marriage, and that book made me batshit crazy. Even though the basic premise of Deborah’s character is very similar to that other, the way Marguerite Kaye handled the situation here is completely different. Deborah’s issues make sense and are commensurate with her experiences. I felt that she worked through her issues at an appropriate pace. I didn’t want to jump into the book and murder her.
I really liked Deborah as a character, but I think I was biased in her favor. I might be the Least Trusting Woman on Earth, so I identified with Deborah’s inclination to hide behind a wall of reserve, to bifurcate her life (it’s silly to include an inside joke I share with one person on a blog that person doesn’t read, but whatever) and do all her living through an assumed persona. Other readers may find all that to be annoying or incomprehensible and may wish that Deborah would just get on with it and realize that Elliot is not a bad guy.
Elliot also has issues, but he’s a lot more charming than Deborah. He helps to balance some of her prickliness, and I particularly enjoyed the way he interacted with his formidable sister. He’s a thief–the charming kind–and his heists provide some much-needed action and syncopation to the story. I really loved Elliot. Deborah, though she has a dry wit, tends to take herself a little too seriously, and Elliot helps to keep the book as light as it can be.
Let’s talk about that blurb. When I read it, I assumed that the book would be told in the first-person (it isn’t), would contain an outrageous confession or two (it doesn’t), and would be somewhat scandalous (it isn’t). It is a very good book, but it isn’t the book described by its title or blurb. When you pick up a book called The Outrageous Confessions of Lady Deborah, you might expect it to contain some steamy sex scenes (or some confessions of past steamy sex scenes), but most of the sex in this book ends abruptly in emotionally-induced coitus interuptus. Like many women, Deborah just doesn’t know what to do with a penis (but, lucky for her, there was no Cosmopolitan to confuse her and give really bad advice), and her discovery of herself as a sexual creature and of Elliot’s man parts as an extension (ahem, bad pun intended) of him rather than a disembodied manifestation of expectations and judgment is not without its bumps in the road. As long as you go into this book expecting it to be the exact opposite of what it tells you it is, I think you’ll have a fine time reading it.
For more information on the book and author, please visit Marguerite Kaye’s website here. She’s got all kinds of fun information and links, including links to purchase the book (if you’re interested).
*FTC Disclosure – I received an e-galley of this book from Harlequin via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*