I Thee Wed

Something Shady

Wicked Widow

With This Ring

Lie By Moonlight
by Amanda Quick
(Putnam, $24.95, PG-13) ISBN 0-399-15288-1
Lie By Moonlight is the literary equivalent of a meringue. It goes down easily enough, but there’s not much substance to it.

Concordia Glade, along with her four students, is making an escape from Aldwick Castle. She took the position as teacher to the four young ladies in the belief it was a legitimate school, but she has begun to suspect it is a front for a scheme to train girls to be high-class courtesans and now there are rumors of an auction. She and the girls have laid explosive charges. In the resulting confusion, they are heading for the stables.

Before they can ride off, they are challenged by one of the suspicious characters working at the castle, but a stranger comes to their assistance. Ambrose Wells has come to the castle to look into the death of a bathhouse attendant on behalf of her sister. His investigation has implicated a crime boss.

Ambrose not only helps Concordia and the girls escape the castle but arranges a disguise whereby they make their way to London. There they will reside in the house of Mr. John Stoner, a scholarly friend of Ambrose’s who is traveling abroad. Ambrose is in residence there, too.

Concordia and Ambrose are not the typical Victorian lady and gentleman. They will combine forces and intellect to uncover a dastardly plot.

Most romance readers know that Amanda Quick is the pseudonym Jayne Ann Krentz employs when writing historical fiction. (She uses Jayne Castle for her futuristics.) Lie By Moonlight is stock Amanda Quick. A plucky heroine (usually with a quirky name) – intelligent and forthright – meets the stalwart hero (usually with an uncommon name) – dedicated and innovative – and together they investigate secret goings-on.

Concordia is no exception to the Quick stereotype. In addition to having nontraditional ideas regarding the education of young ladies, she is the daughter of notorious free-thinkers. Their lifestyle was the mid-eighteenth century equivalent of a 1960's commune. Ambrose has a dark past as a juvenile, but he’s now integrity personified. Naturally, they are perfect for each other in every way.

I say “naturally” because there’s no way that Quick’s hero and heroine will decide at the end of the story they have nothing in common and part with a friendly hand-shake. Lie By Moonlight has such sketchy character development it’s hard to know whether they’re really a match except that the author has decreed it. The romance is about as believable as everything else in this plot.

Even in comparison with other plot-driven Amanda Quick books, Lie By Moonlight skimps on character development. Concordia and Ambrose are the only characters who have the least dimension – all the other characters are little more than names and place holders.

Some recent Quick books (Wicked Widow is one) have featured an odd thread – a supposed ancient philosophy, Vanza, which combines exercise and meditation. It’s mostly come across as some goofy eastern mumbo-jumbo designed primarily to make the hero seem deep and introspective. I was somewhat uncomfortable with its inclusion in Lie By Moonlight – particularly in the final scene, given the setting of the Victorian era with its rigid societal strictures on the conduct of women.

I had no difficulty polishing off Lie By Moonlight – I read it in one sitting – but it isn’t a book I can recommend. Its by-the-numbers plotting and minimal character development don’t offer much to engage a reader. For those who have read just about everything published by this author, I suggest waiting for the paperback or heading to the library. The list price of $24.95 is a bit steep for a confection that’s not much more than air.

--Lesley Dunlap

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