Two Little Lies by Liz Carlyle 624
Viviana Alessandri left Italy when her the Comte de Bergonzi threatened to cut her father off if she does not marry him. She worked hard and gained immense fame, and many followers in England, including the very young Quinten Haskett, the future Earl of Wynwood. He pursues her and she eventually gives in, but when she discovers she is pregnant she realizes she wants more out of their relationship. Despite his feelings for her, Quin is young and unsure about his future, so when she asks him to marry her, he turns her down. Horrified, Viviana flees back to England without telling Quin about the child and marries the Comte. In the intervening years Viviana has an unhappy marriage with three children, while Quin spends his time miserable, avoiding commitments, and whoring his way through all the women in London. After nine years Viviana comes back to England a widow to help her father compose an opera with a new patron who happens to be Quin's uncle.
Turns out Quin's uncle is staying at his country estate, just a mile away from Quin's family seat and it is not long before the two of them find themselves fighting about the past, the future, and why they still find themselves so attracted to each other. Viviana is terrified that Quin will discover her deception, especially with all three of her children, including the eldest, Cerelia, in such close quarters with Quin. Suddenly Quin realizes that the feelings he had for Viviana have not disappeared and Viviana quite likes this more mature Quin. Even before he knows Cerelia's parentage Quin knows that this is a special little girl and he feels a bond with her. But when she goes missing during a holly hunting expedition, Quin discovers what Viviana has been hiding from him and makes horrible threats to her. It takes time but Quin realizes that what he wants is not to take Cerelia away from Viviana, but to have both of them in his life, as his wife and his daughter. They must put aside past hurts to moveon be happy together.
Viviana and Quin have quite the history between the two of them and I liked that we got to read the scene where they broke up as it came up numerous times. Both of them had very real fears and worries about their relationship and they were written about very well by Carlyle. The sex between them was hot enough and, also really great as it was about them working through their emotions, and I really wish there had been quite a bit more of it. It's always a little tricky when dealing with secret babies as obviously the mother has to have a really good excuse and having Quin reject a marriage proposal was one of the few things that worked. And Carlyle also did a good job skillfully maneuvering through the problems that could have arisen from their previous relationship by making it clear that Quin really was so young and immature, and still rather under the thumb of his parents. However, I am always a sucker for the scene where the father discovers the child, and this was one was pretty good- if not as punch in the gut good as some other books.
I really didn't enjoy the first half of the book as Quin and Viviana were rarely together, never alone together, and when they were even in the same room they were arguing. I found myself enjoying references to Esmee and Alisdair from One Little Sin, more than Viviana and Quin's romance. In the second half there were a lot of very great moments between them as they talked through what had happened and began to work on their future. I found Quin especially great in these scenes, as while he briefly resorts to threats, he changes his mind and realizes that he loves Viviana and his child and just wants what's best for them. I also really enjoyed the little problem Viviana faced as she thought her voice had gone after her husband had punched her and broke her nose. It just added a note of poignancy to the novel. There was a vaguely hinted at side romance between Quin's sister Alice and the family estate manager that I would really liked to have read more about, perhaps even a whole novel on it's own, because it seemed so interesting.
Rating: I really did spend a lot of this book not liking it, but I did get into it about halfway through. Adequate and palatable.