Book Review

A Wicked Liaison by Christine Merrill: A Guest Review by Corrina


Title: A Wicked Liaison
Author: Christine Merrill
Publication Info: Harlequin 2009
ISBN: 9780373295531
Genre: Historical: European

Book CoverI love thieves.

Not the real kind. I assume they’re not at all fun. I’m talking fictional thieves. They’re clever, they’re fun, and, most of all, it’s exhilarating to watch them break all the rules.

So when my friend Christine Merrill told me that the hero of her Regency historical, A Wicked Liaison, would be the charming thief who appeared in her previous book, An Unladylike Offer, I was instantly hooked.

Regencies are a great setting for thieves because the rules governing proper behavior are so strict and confining. It’s a ball to watch Anthony Smyth, the hero, pretend to fit in with the right crowd, all the time trying to pull something over on those who use the rules to cloak horrible behavior. Like the villain of the piece, who’s using society’s mores to trick the heroine, Constance, into becoming his mistress.

Constance is far more trapped by the rules than Smyth. Women at the time, of course, had very limited options, especially when they didn’t have control over the purse strings. In this case, Constance is a Duke’s widow who depends on her wastrel stepson to provide her with food and shelter. When the book opens, she’s desperate and willing to work within the system to find a husband. She doesn’t want much from marriage, just someone who doesn’t repel her and would pay the bills.

But it soon becomes clear, in a very funny opening scene, that Constance is at the age where suitable potential husbands view her more as mistress-material, After than, she’s willing to consider other measures.

Including beginning an affair with the very charming thief who climbs through her bedroom window and offers to steal the deed to her house back from her wastrel stepson.

Smyth naturally isn’t a villain through and through. He has a good reason for sneaking into her bedroom, in a search for evidence to implicate the villain in a traitorous scheme to sell government secrets. His employers are concerned Constance could be a willing accomplice.

But once Smyth’s convinced that she’s innocent, he keeps sneaking into her bedroom. She might be innocent of treason but neither of them is innocent from more wanton desires. Heh. The sex scenes are very hot and made more hot by the fact that the consequences of them being caught are dire.

But despite the attraction, there are problems. Smyth has put Constance on a pedestal and has a chip on his shoulder about her rank in society, especially since she doesn’t recognize him as the boy scholar who used to live near her family home. Constance is unwilling to publicly acknowledge a relationship with a thief, especially since his job could get him killed and leave her a widow again.

The resolution is quite satisfying, as the villain gets his comeuppance not only from Tony but from Constance as well. I’d recommend this one highly.

Especially if you like thieves.

Comments are Closed

  1. nekobawt says:

    ooooh, looks like fun!

  2. Lisa says:

    But it sounds like he’s not actually a thief… maybe I’m just confused, but it sounds to me like another Regency spy plot.

    Unless the author really convinces me that the goods are ill-gotten and the victims are really wicked, I don’t like thief characters. “He has two” is not a legitimate reason to take something. It’s still not yours.

  3. MamaNice says:

    Your review hooked me – I’ll be reading this. Props for reviewing a friend’s book, way to show the lurve.

    Though I agree about the confusion over “a bad boy thief who is actually a good guy working for the government angle” if that’s what it is – that’s fine by me…I do so like that angle – like Robert Redford in Sneakers.

  4. Diana says:

    Looks like fun; I adore thief characters!  🙂  Thief heroes tend to be more morally ambiguous (and less self-righteously rigid) than typical historical heroes, which I like. 

    And while I think we can all agree that thieving is wrong in real life…  Romance is a fantasy.  And isn’t it fun sometimes to read about morally suspect bad boys…?  Right?  Maybe I’m alone in that.  😉

  5. Polly says:

    Props for supporting a friend, but this isn’t a review—it’s a summary and a plug. Where’s the critique—the good, the bad, and the ugly? What makes you love it so much? This is SBTB. I expect snark and telling-it-like-it-is as well as love.

  6. Corrina says:

    Well, if there was much ugly, I wouldn’t have reviewed it. It seemed to me that if the SBs were going to give me a forum to review a book, I should listen to my inner Obi-Wan Kenobi, go toward the light, and steer people to a book I like rather than go Darth Vader on a book I didn’t like. That would have been fun but it wouldn’t have helped readers looking for a good book to read.

    The thief is really a thief—he’s being blackmailed by the government-connected types to help, btw. He appeared in an earlier book, An Unladylike Offer, where he was trying to make off with jewels at a party. The government types need him because the bad guy has the goods locked in a supposedly thief-proof safe.

    Hmm…did i mention I found the sex hot, with all the sneaking in and out of bedroom windows? I thought i did but August is a blur.

  7. AmandaG says:

    I agree with Polly.

  8. Polly says:

    It’s not that I expect ugly—I’d hate the genre if all I read was stuff that made me cringe—but I expect more on what made a book good, bad or ugly. What’s great about the writing, the plotting, the dialogue? You’ve given the book a really high grade, on a site where not a lot of books get a really high grade. Why? All you’ve said is that there’s a funny opening scene, the resolution is satisfying and the sex scenes were hot.  That’s something, I guess, but I don’t know what you find funny, satisfying or hot, just that you’ve told me it’s so.

    I don’t expect or want this site to only tell me about books I should stay away from. I love getting recommendations for good and great books, but I want to know what makes them good and great to the reviewer, so I can decide if it’s something I’ll find good (especially since I know that my tastes aren’t necessarily standard across the board). I guess its the whole “show, don’t tell” rule. Show me, don’t just tell me.

  9. MamaNice says:

    Only reviewing the books you thought were good is just as bad as only reviewing the books you thought were…well…bad. Both types of reviews serve a purpose, and both are informative (and often enjoyable). Which is one reason I love the SB’s – I know I will get both types.

    The most important thing to me is that the review is honest. I think Corrina genuinely enjoyed this book, and told me enough about it to make me want to read it.

    Yes, it was more plot summary than analysis, and if she was my student writing a literary critique I’d call her on it, but she’s not, so I say so what?

  10. Beki says:

    I thought the point of this site was to inform about books, giving you a reader’s opinion as to whether it’s worth your money/time.  Not all of them need to have bitchery, right?  And though I agree that it would be nice to know WHY something is “hot” or “hilarious,” I don’t think the lack of such information makes for an invalid review. 

    I will say, though, that the really high grade makes me expect a VERY good story.

  11. alia says:

    Mostly Polly, with a hint of what Beki said.

  12. Christine Merrill’s books are never disappointing. No snark necessary. 😉

  13. Karla says:


    I read this last month & it was an ok book. I’d give it a B-/C+. From what I could figure out, Anthony is working for the gov’t, using his thief skills to steal incriminating evidence from suspected traitors. His valet was a thief at Newgate whom Anthony sprung in order to learn his trade. I’m probably a bit hazy on all the details – it wasn’t a super-memorable read. Most of the book focuses on Anthony’s self-pity that he wants Constance but won’t tell her that he knew her when he was younger because he doesn’t want to be rejected by her as a lower-class, moony-eyed long-distance admirer from when they were both teenagers. That pretty much sums up the A-Z of the reluctance/tension on his part – “I don’t wanna get made fun of by the pretty, rich girl.” It got old after awhile. Meanwhile, Constance is trying to find another husband, but the fact that she’s 1) not a virgin & 2) childless has her labeled as whore/mistress material by every other man in the story, but definitely not as a wife. Forgotten by the author are the widowers who have their kids already & would be interested in her as a wife & not as a breeder. No, Anthony is the only good & nice one & every other suitor is on the completely other side of the spectrum. Of course it ends with her barrenness being her dead husband’s fault & Anthony’s super-sperm scoring a touchdown (maybe he bought some of Colbert’s premium manseed Forumula 401). The main characters were likable, but eventually shallow by the half-way mark because the development didn’t really get much deeper.

  14. Chrissy says:

    BUMMER!!  I just paid for the book but EHarlequin gave me nothing but a corrupted file that was supposed to let me download a PDF that I don’t need the damned thing to open or read anyway

    I’m out 5 bucks and wanted this read badly!!

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