I discovered Juliana Gray’s Affairs by Moonlight trilogy much like I have any other romance series – on Cannonball, after reading Mrs Julien’s reviews. I probably won’t have much to say that she hasn’t added herself but here goes. Since the books go together I’ll just review them all together here.
A Lady Never Lies tells the story of Lady Alexandra Morley, a recently-widowed young woman with a lot less financial stability than people think, and Phineas Burke (aka Finn), a genius bastard (literally, his parents weren’t married and he’s really smart). Lady Morley, her younger sister, and her cousin Lilibet are traveling to Tuscany, each with their own secret goals, for a year of serious academic study. As it so happens, Mr. Burke and his two best friends, the Duke of Wallingford and his younger brother Lord Roland Penhallow, are doing the same thing, in the same castle (purely by accident of course). Lady Morley feels an instant attraction to the strapping ginger (he’s over 6’6”, I like them tall), but holds herself back. She won’t enter into another relationship for financial reasons, not to mention, there’s a wager afoot. The two groups must remain separate with no extra-curricular romantic activities or else they forfeit their rights to stay in the castle. Naturally no one adheres to the rules and feelings happen. Some hot sex on a car also happens. Lady Morley is an appealing heroine in that she speaks her mind, and is hell bent on earning her own fortune and saving her own skin. Finn Burke is a good hero in that he really could care less about what others think, and he isn’t afraid to speak his mind.There’s an obstacle to the couple’s happiness; though it’s not that big an obstacle, it’s enough to keep some of the tension.
A Gentleman Never Tells is the story of Lady Elizabeth Somerton (aka LIlibet) and her former lover, Lord Roland Penhallow. Until their chance meeting at a crowded inn in Tuscany, Lilibet hadn’t set eyes on her beloved Roland in over six years – not since he left the country to go ‘fishing’ with no word and returned to find Lilibet married off to the Earl of Somerton. In fact, Roland left the country to do a bit of spying and has been working for the crown ever since. Lilibet’s life hasn’t been so exciting – as it turns out, the man her parents married her off to is a gigantic asshole. He cheats on Lilibet constantly, almost from the beginning of their marriage, emotionally abuses her, and she has witnessed him kill a man on at least one occasion. He finally has done something so unforgiveable that Lilibet flees with their young son Philip. Lilibet’s escape from her marriage is the real reason the ladies are traveling; LIlibet herself is in constant fear she’ll be caught out, and having Roland, the man she never stopped loving, around constantly makes it that much more difficult. Lilibet is a little bit milquetoast as far as characters go. The only novel thing, for me (not having read a TON of romances), is that she appears to have a voracious sexual appetite in contrast with her appearance of sedate, angelic goodness. Roland is the hot one, and naturally as the spy he’s quite attractive already. The big obstacle to this couple’s happiness is a little bigger in this second entry; the denouement is vivid and exciting.
A Duke Never Yields is the final, and in my opinion most enjoyable, entry into the trilogy. Abigail Harewood, younger sister of Lady Morley, has seen several of her closest friends and loved ones suffer the ill effects of marriage (reliance on another man for money, abuse, lack of trust or affection). For that reason she has decided never to marry, but does want to take a lover. Her trip with her sister to Tuscany would surely be the best place to start looking and quickly she sets her sights on Arthur, Duke of Wallingford. He’s my favorite of the heroes in this series; he’s kind of a jerk, he’s a Casanova of the biggest proportions, and he has no interest in losing the group’s wager. As such, he is quite a tough nut to crack for Abigail. The only obstacle for this couple is probably their inability to communicate properly or trust the opposite sex, which admittedly makes for a weak plot. There’s also a running supernatural mini-plot that is wrapped up in the final tale. It’s a bit cheesy but it’s not big enough to ruin anything else for me. If I’m being completely honest, the couple here is the best, but their book is probably the least exciting action-wise. Abigail is spunky and effervescent, Arthur is dark and broody, and there’s a great bit where he studies really hard at something that’s quite charming for a romance. I won’t say anything really detailed about it but suffice it to say, Gray’s hero in this book is flawed in personality and skillz, which is refreshing for a romance. That doesn’t happen often.
In any case, all three of these books are pretty entertaining and I’d definitely check out more of Gray’s stuff. You should too if that’s your thing.