The Lady Lies

 
The Lady’s Code
by Samantha Saxon
(Berkley, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-425-21107-X
**
The Lady’s Code fell flat in the first three pages and never really recovered. Lady Juliet Pervill is trapped in the library with a man bent on ravishing her in retaliation for losing his estate to Juliet’s father in a card game. As he pins her against a sofa, Juliet begs him not to harm her, then freezes. As he tugs her bodice down, she

“closed her eyes, not knowing if she would survive.”

Now honestly. Wouldn’t any supposedly independent and feisty young woman be kicking, scratching, screaming, anything? Of course, at that moment, several people enter the room and Juliet is ruined. Ruined! Because she looked as though she was a party to the fun, of course. If she’d been kicking or scratching, etc. everyone would know the truth of the matter.

So there you have it. If the heroine had acted in any way like a supposedly feisty and independent woman, instead of laying back and thinking of England, this book would have no plot premise. Too bad, because the story then takes a potentially interesting turn. See, everyone in London knows that Juliet’s father is a no-good bastard. Her own mother will have nothing to do with him. Juliet, deciding that turnabout is fair play, accosts her father at a party, gives him a good slap across the face, and denounces him as her father in front of all assembled. While this might make Juliet feel better, her reputation is still in tatters. So she decides to put her talents to other use.

See, Juliet was granted an honorary degree from Oxford in mathematics. The author works hard to sell this plot point, so let’s buy it for the sake of this review. Juliet heads for the Foreign Office and offers her services as a cryptographer, at no charge. She is immediately put to work on a baffling code, and the man she’ll be working with is Seamus McCurren, a Scotsman. (That “Seamus” is an Irish name doesn’t signify here, I guess.) Seamus doesn’t want to work with a woman, especially one as attractive as Juliet. To his shock, he ends up kissing her in the office. Juliet has no problem barging in on Seamus at his home, even into his bedroom, leading to another kiss, and Seamus promptly threatens to quit if Juliet isn’t fired. Whereupon she heads back to his house to pester him again.

I quickly grew tired of Juliet. For a woman of supposed smarts, she certainly acts like a nincompoop. First we are told that she doesn’t care about being ruined; then she decides she would like to restore her reputation. Yet she thinks nothing of entering Seamus’s house in the middle of the night, alone, and stalking up to his bedroom. The fact that she does this several times is more irritating than interesting. She does dumb things that put her in danger; she jeopardizes the code with her unthinking actions, and her motivation seems to be more, “Neener neener, I cracked the code first” than any loyalty to England.

The villain is evident from the start, and there is no guessing about who it is. Suffice it to say that it is one depraved individual who will stop at nothing to destroy Seamus and Juliet once their discoveries are known. Seamus is a decent sort, if bland. I didn’t understand what he saw in Juliet,and their romance wasn’t convincing, however. Just telling me that the hero finds the heroine irresistible doesn’t cut it, and there was little to back it up.

The Lady’s Code was a chore to finish and an overall unsatisfying read. Give this one a pass.

--Cathy Sova


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