Review: Lady in Red

lady in redReviewed by Jen

I had a hard time connecting to this book.  I really enjoyed The Dark Lady, though, so I stuck with it.  I’m glad I did, because I got more invested in the last third or so. But the first book was definitely better.

This is Mary’s story. If you are familiar with the series, you’ll recognize her as the woman who escaped the asylum with Eva. (If you didn’t read book one, don’t worry, though. This works fine as a standalone.)  She barely got out of the horrific madhouse with her life.  She almost killed a guard to escape. Now the only place she has to turn is the madam who was friends with her mother before she died.

Yvonne does take her in, but tells Mary she can’t stay long.  You see, it was Mary’s father who put her in the asylum to rot, and Yvonne’s place will be the first place he looks.  Fortunately, Mary catches the eye of one of Yvonne’s clients, giving her a place to go.  — This is where I had my first problem with the story… or should I say problems. Edward is suffering some serious ennui over the death of his father and feelings of low self worth. He doesn’t want any of the courtesans in Yvonne’s house, but when he catches sight of the emaciated Mary with her shorn hair in the bathtub, he is drawn to her.  The fact that she looks like a prison camp survivor, yet speaks as a lady, and (*gasp*) doesn’t fawn over him is apparently a cocktail he can’t refuse.  So much so that from that single meeting, he agrees to become her protector when Yvonne makes the offer.

This brings me to Issue 2.  Mary was terribly abused in the asylum: physically, emotionally, and sexually.  But she is going to become a man’s mistress with very little fanfare.  Yeah, we have a tough moment or two when she has some rape flashbacks.  Yet for the most part, she wants Edward’s touch.  She wants to see and touch his body. It was too easy.  So was her ability to kick her crushing laudanum addiction. Yes, she has one almost slip, but there is no vomiting, shaking, or overt physical signs of withdrawal… just the desire for escape from her pain.  The relative ease in which all these major issues are resolved made the story feel somewhat superficial and difficult to connect to.

It did get better for me. I was intrigued by Edward’s friend Powers, though any allusion to a possible love triangle was ridiculous.  I liked the friendship that grew between him and Mary, and I enjoyed seeing the strength that each of them gained as a result.  The story really picked up for me when Mary decided she wanted more than what she was getting from Edward and the dominoes fell one at a time as a result.  There is a good amount of action and villains that are easy to hate –and fortunately, get their due.

I was satisfied with the resolution to both the internal and external conflicts –and glad to see Eva pop up in the story.  It was just that with the weightiness of the subject matter, I found too much of it to be too easy. There were obstacles, yes, but I felt like Edward had a harder time getting over his issues than Mary did, which just didn’t work for me, with all she had endured.  I’m willing to give the next book a try, though, especially if it features poor Powers and his HEA.

Rating: C

*ARC Provided by Signet

Click to purchase: Amazon

Lady in Red
by Maire Claremont
Release Date: October 1, 2013
Publisher: Signet


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