Before coming into his title, Quinten Hewitt engaged in a passionate affair with a beautiful opera singer. He grew to love her but was far too young to understand how to handle the fiery beauty and meet her emotional needs. Not to mention, his parents never would have approved of him marrying a famous performer. So she slipped through is fingers, returning to her home in Italy, leaving Quin devastated. Over the years, bitterness festered, but eventually he moved on. As he's about to announce his engagement to a young woman who is much more suited to become his countess, his former love reappears at his engagement party, bringing all the emotions Quin once felt for her rushing back. But he fears the timing of her return may be her way of playing a dangerous game with his heart.
Viviana Alessandri never really wanted to be Quinten's mistress, but she was far too young and naive to resist his considerable charms. She eventually fell in love with him, but when she discovered she was pregnant with his child, she asked him to marry her, and he refused, leaving her heartbroken. Instead, she went home to Italy, without telling Quin of her pregnancy, and out of a need for security, accepted the marriage proposal of an older man who was her father's patron. The marriage was anything but ideal, so her husband's death came as more of a relief than anything. Now Vivie has come back to England, along with her children, to visit with Quin's uncle, another of her patrons, and when she sees Quin again, her love for him powerfully resurfaces. Their bodies remember one another, and they have no trouble picking their affair back up where it left off. But she now harbors a huge secret that she fears Quin will be angry about if he learns the truth. Can she find the strength to tell him, and will he forgive her, or are they doomed to live separate lives, merely loving each other from afar?
I don't know why I keep taking so long between my reading of Liz Carlyle's novels, because they almost never fail to delight me. Perhaps it's for the best, though, since the author is now retired and no longer writing. I suppose the upside to my procrastination is that it will draw out my reading pleasure longer. In any case, Two Little Lies was yet another of her books that was a winner for me. In it, we have a famed Italian opera singer and the heir to an earldom who engage in a passionate love affair in their early twenties, but their respective youth and naiveté leads to a failure to communicate. Although they're in love, both of them are quite stubborn about admitting their feelings. They spend more time making love and arguing than really getting to know one another, so when she realizes she's pregnant, she isn't sure if she can trust him to do the right thing. Instead, she, perhaps foolishly, decides to return to Venice and accept the marriage proposal of her father's patron, but it's anything but an ideal union. Widowed nearly a decade later, she returns to England at the request of the hero's uncle, who is another patron. When she and the man she's never stopped loving see each other again, sparks fly, and they discover that their old chemistry still burns bright. But she's harboring a huge secret and doesn't know how she'll tell him without earning his hatred for keeping him from his child for all those years.
Viviana took the world of opera by storm and rapidly rose to stardom at a young age. Many men pursued her, but perhaps none so doggedly as Quinten Hewitt. He eventually wore her down, and for all intents and purposes, she reluctantly became his mistress. However, despite loving him, his impetuousness and youthful folly prevented her from fully trusting him. So she returned home to Italy pregnant with his child and entered into a loveless marriage for the sake of security. Nearly a decade later, she returns to England widowed and with her three children in tow. When Viviana sees Quin again at his engagement party, all the old feelings for him resurface. They're still every bit as attracted to one another as they were years ago, so when Quin's fiancée breaks off their betrothal, things quickly heat up between Quin and Viviana. But she still struggles to accept that Quin actually loves her and isn't sure how to tell him that she bore his child. Viviana is a very stubborn, proud woman, who tends to fight her feelings for Quin. But to her credit, she's an incredible mother, who loves her children intensely and would do anything for them. I respected and understood Viviana's choice to leave Quin all those years before, but once they reconnected and realized that their passion still burned bright, it was a little harder to figure out why she was having trouble really letting him into her life. I know she was afraid that he would hate her if he knew the truth about his daughter, but at the same time, I felt it was a bit selfish on her part to deny both Quin and Cerelia the chance to know one another, especially since her former husband had been particularly cruel to Cerelia. In this respect, she frustrated me a bit, which is why I dropped the half star.
In his youth, Quin was brash but lacking in genuine confidence. He was more taken with the idea of possessing a beautiful mistress like Vivie than attending to her emotional needs. However, he was in love with her, so when she suddenly left England, he was devastated. When she returns after years abroad on the night of Quin's engagement party, he thinks she's playing games. But after his engagement ends abruptly and unexpectedly, he finds that he isn't particularly bothered by it, because Vivie still holds a piece of his heart and is the only woman he really wants. The pull between them is just as irresistible as it was when they were young, but his mother's snobbery becomes a bit of an issue as he begins to consider marriage to Vivie this time around. Then there's Vivie's oldest daughter who presents a different kind of pull. In her, Quin recognizes a familiarity but doesn't know why. In the opening prologue, when he was young, Quin wasn't necessarily the ideal hero, but he grew and matured a great deal over the years he and Vivie were separated. Aside from trying to take liberties with her on the day after they saw each other again for the first time - something Vivie gave him hell for - Quinn was everything I expect in a romance hero. He's passionate and loving, and when Vivie tries to close the door on any kind of relationship, he pursues her with determination, not wanting to let her get away again. I also love how sweet he is with all the children, but he connects in an especially deep way with Cerelia. Even though he'd given little thought to becoming a father, he's clearly cut out for the job, and I love a man who's good with kids. He was also smart enough to finally figure out why he felt so connected to Cerelia, and although he was angry about it at first, he eventually cooled off and unselfishly did what was right for everyone.
Overall, Two Little Lies was an intensely emotional and deeply moving story that was hard to put down. I'm not usually a big fan of the secret baby trope, but here it worked beautifully for me. Even though Vivie could be a bit frustrating at times, I was still caught up in all the feelings that passed between her and Quin. I was also dying to find out when Quin would learn the truth and how that would all turn out, and I was definitely not disappointed by it at all. I was more than convinced that Vivie and Quin were right for each other and that they loved each other, even though Vivie seemed to be fighting it tooth and nail. I very much enjoyed the supporting characters as well. Quin's sister gets a secondary romance that in many ways mirrors Vivie's story, while the children were delightful and rendered very age-appropriately. I really felt deeply for Cerelia. She was a particularly sweet child, but her sibling could be, too. Aside from Vivie's stubbornness and the fact that she probably never would have told Quin the truth if he hadn't figured it out for himself, the only downside I found was a surprising number of typographical errors for a book that was released by a major publisher. Otherwise, this was a near-perfect read for me, which has me excited to read more from Liz Carlyle in this series. I'll just have to try not to wait so long in between books next time.
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