A Kiss of Lies , the first book in Bronwen Evans ‘s The Disgraced Lords series plunges into the plight of Lord Christian Trent, the Earl of Markham. He is wrongfully accused of raping Duke Barforte’s young daughter. Like the other disgraced lords whom Christian attended Eton with and befriended, he is charged with a crime he did not commit and sets out on a course to prove his innocence, calling upon the help of his six college buddies nicknamed the Libertine Scholars and a new woman that enters his life introduced to him as Sarah Cooper.
The author makes it apparent that Christian and Sarah are physically attracted to one another during their first meeting face to face. In fact, their physical attraction is emphasized to the point that it leaves the reader wandering if their relationship will go any further, or if their surging hormones are the only factor bonding them together. Evans elaborates on the situation by creating a short history which the two share. Sarah, a voyeur at her father’s soirees, spied Christian on the dance floor garbed in his military uniform when he was a young soldier during the Napoleonic Wars. She had indulged in fantasies about him not knowing that her father had put into motion for her to marry a hedonistic plantation owner. The story clenches the reader’s imagination as Christian escapes Barforte’s wrath and Sarah escapes murder charges for the death of her husband. Their circumstances consequently bring them together in York, Canada.
The stage is set in the first two chapters as Christian is harnessed with the task of finding a governess for his ward, Lily Pearson, the 12-year-old girl whose parents took Christian in when he arrived in York with only the clothes on his back. Christian embraces his role as Lily’s guardian after her parents are killed. The author uses the situation to accentuate his endearing qualities putting doubts in the reader’s mind that he could ever rape Barforte’s daughter. While interviewing applicants, Sarah Cooper appears to have experienced a similar loss to Lily’s and empathizes with the child.
Several chapters into the story, it’s unveiled that Sarah Cooper is really Lady Serena Castleton, the daughter of the Duke of Hastings. This opens up the story to her upbringing with an unbearable father and a deeper connection to Christian who also endured a difficult childhood living with an abusive father. The revelation expands the basis for their relationship so it’s more than a physical attraction, although the author alludes to the pair holding back even more secrets. Developing full-bodied characters is Evan’s strength.
New surprises pop up from various corners of the story, although Evans provides them to the reader in small spoonfuls so they aren’t overwhelming. There are moments of stillness in the story when the reader wishes for the scenes to progress more rapidly. When they don’t, the story builds up anxiety in the reader causing some to jump to the next chapter. Nonetheless, Christian and Sarah (aka Serena) are a couple that audiences will be inclined to cheer for and like to see happy.