Two Little Lies
Viviana Alessandri, London’s popular opera singer, is the secret mistress of Quin Hewitt, heir to an earldom. Pregnant and desperate, she proposes marriage to him—without stating her reason. Citing family objections, Quin refuses. Nine years on, a more mature Viviana returns to England as a widowed contessa, accompanied by her three children and her father. Signor Alessandri, a renowned composer, is collaborating on a new opera. His chief patron happens to be Quin Hewitt’s uncle—and near neighbor in the countryside. Viviana is thrown into the company of her former lover, now the Earl of Wynwood, at the moment he is celebrating his engagement.
Viviana is easier to like than Quin. Nearly all the characters, with the exception of the heroine’s younger children, exhibit a grim seriousness. After much sorrow, sex, and slamming of doors, the couple strives to overcome their conflicts. While the novel is smoothly written, the author’s overuse of Italian phrases becomes annoying and distracting, as are the appearance of late-autumn tulips and an uncertain knowledge of Buckinghamshire’s flora and topography. Not one of Carlyle’s best efforts, this problematic second novel in her current trilogy is recommended to only the most ardent and forgiving fans of historical romance.