Dark and gloomy days ahead.
If we were to do a list of authors and divide them between the ones who write light, happy stories and the ones who write dark, anxious stories, Meredith Duran would be on the dark side. I'm not saying that's a bad thing. First of all she would be in great company, at least as far as I concerned. She'd be in there with Mary Balogh, Anne Stuart, Elizabeth Hoyt, on and on. Now, can they write light, happy? Of course they can; actually one of my favorite funny books, The House Party, is an old Anne Stuart. I digress.
Anyway, all of this is to say that when I open a Meredith Duran book, I know what I'm stepping into and if someday she writes a hilariously funny book I will be thrilled. Lady be Good is not the darkest book I've ever read, but it has its moments. It is also not the best Duran book I've ever read and I believe that may be because the secondary characters of Nick O'Shea and Catherine Everleigh come awfully close to stealing the scenes numerous times. They are two powerful characters, and I'm really interested in seeing where Ms. Duran takes them. However, this story is about Kit and Lilah. I found myself not as interested in their story as I was O'Shea and Catherine's.
Lilah Marshall, aka Lily Monroe, has a dream. She and her sister Fiona have been raised in the London underbelly by their uncle Nick O'Shea. When the story begins, it is Fiona who has the dream of getting out from under. Then she dies and the dream is passed on to Lilah/Lily. Lilah/Lily, a thief and a pickpocket, has transformed herself. She has changed the way she talks, she has learned how to dress, how to walk, how to flutter, how to be respectable. She has distanced herself from O'Shea's world and in so doing she has been shunned by those people who once were her "friends." She has found employment at Everleigh's Auction House as an Everleigh Girl. I thought Lily's path to becoming respectable by being a Everleigh Girl was interesting, because her job was to be charming to the customers whether she liked them or not. This job reminded me of all the saloon girls in westerns - you know, like Ms. Kitty. Really, how much of a difference is there between, smile and buy a drink or smile and buy one of our vases? So, in my opinion, being an Everleigh Girl was an interesting choice for turning into someone respectable. Anyway, Lilah is being blackmailed by her uncle Nick O'Shea into stealing some letters from the owner of Everleigh's Auction House. He has promised her if she does this one more thing for him, he will leave her alone - forever. So, she agrees. The problem enters in the form of Christian "Kit" Stratton, Viscount Palmer.
Kit is a war hero - a war hero celebrity. Everywhere he goes he is recognized and gushed over. He has been put on a very big pedestal and it is one pedestal he doesn't want to be on. He is uncomfortable with his status as a war hero, embarrassed, ashamed and quietly simmering at the incompetence by his superiors who were responsible for the high loss of life in his regiment. So, a war hero is the last thing he wants to be. He doesn't want the reminder. However, not everyone calls him a hero. There is one man, a renegade Russian general, who blames Kit for some atrocities that happened. Now, these atrocities never happened, but it doesn't matter to General Bolkhov because, you see, General Bolkhov is one crazy fanatical lunatic and he's out for revenge. His method of seeking revenge is to murder anyone who is close to Kit and he has started with Kit's brother. And, that is just the beginning of a very convoluted plot which takes Kit, Lily, and Catherine out to the country to try to draw out Bolkhov. There are all kinds of plans and schemes in this story. Kit catches Lily stealing the papers from Peter Everleigh's desk. Kit then blackmails Lily into helping him court Catherine. Lily is supposed to tell Catherine good things about Kit, so Kit can find out about the Russian who has put some things in the auction house. Also, Kit thinks it's a good thing to marry Catherine, which is another reason for Lily to build him up to Catherine. Now, how he thinks Lily is going to do this I don't know. Catherine has to be one of the meanest, snottiest, coldest women ever and she doesn't particularly care for Lily. Did I happen to mention that some of the plotline didn't really make any sense? Kit is sort of courting Catherine, but lusting after Lily, and Lily is trying to be the bestist assistant Catherine has ever had and Catherine is being cold and snotty and there is a mad Russian running around murdering people and laughing manically and Kit's mother doesn't want to hide out and his sister is doing the teenager pout and Nick O'Shea is being a bad guy, but can't be toooo bad because he will be the next hero and Kit and Lily can't help themselves and have sex, then Kit proposes to Catherine and Lily tries to save Kit and Kit says no no, you must go but she doesn't and Lily and Catherine become drunk and become friends and save themselves. The end.
Actually, this was a good book - not great, but good. The heroine had a more developed characterization. Lily knew what she wanted, she didn't back down, she was mature and she always did what she felt was right. She was stronger than Kit in many ways, and I liked her a lot. I would have liked this book a whole lot better if the plots had been less convoluted. It seemed to me that the author had to work awfully hard just to find a different way to bring a couple together. And, of course, there was the distraction of Catherine and Nick. All the way through this book I wanted to read Catherine and Nick's story. Because these two secondary characters were so strong for me it made Lady be Good stand in the shadow of a future book.
Time/Place: 1880s England