Julianna's Reviews > The Devil You Know

The Devil You Know by Liz Carlyle
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's review
Feb 09, 2008

it was amazing
bookshelves: desert-island-keepers, read-2007, historical-romance
Recommended for: Fans of Regency Romance & Liz Carlyle
read count: 1

Reviewed for www.thcreviews.com

The Devil You Know is quite possibly the most truly romantic book I have ever read. It is a poignant story of love in the face of seemingly impossible odds, redemption, and facing the pain of the past so that recovery can begin. There is so much to love about this book, I hardly know where to start. The beautiful romance of the hero and heroine began as a beautiful friendship, yet it was a somewhat different friendship than what has been present in some of Liz Carlyle's other books, as the initial development of it was off-canvas. I also found it wonderful that yet another of Ms. Carlyle's heroes found peace and a sense of belonging in the warmth of Chatham Lodge, the lovely country home full of an eclectic mix of characters that played such a big part in My False Heart. The story contains one heart-stopping romantic scene after another that fairly made me swoon: Bentley (with Kem's help of course) pulling together a beautiful wedding in only a day; Bentley laying his head on Freddie's tummy and talking to their unborn child; Bentley holding and worriedly watching over Freddie while she is in the throes of morning sickness; Bentley and Freddie picnicking in his favorite spot in the whole world while discussing their future, just to name a few. The story is packed cover to cover with non-sexual scenes just like these which express the main character's love for and devotion to each other in wonderfully creative ways, as well as beautifully sensual and passionate love scenes. There are also some really adorable and heartwarming scenes such as the ones between Bentley and his nieces and nephews (he's wonderful with kids), and Bentley's brother, Cam laying on the floor of his library talking with his wife while kittens are crawling all over him. Everything simply comes together to create a beautifully crafted story.

I think Bentley Rutledge is now my all-time favorite romance hero, and the Rutledge brothers together top my list even though they are two very different characters. As Frederica tells him near the end of the story, he is “the sweetest, kindest, most perfect man” ever. Even as a mere secondary character in three previous books (Beauty Like the Night, A Woman of Virtue, & No True Gentleman), he could easily steal every scene he was in. I have to admit that I liked Bentley so much in the other stories that I had a little trepidation about whether the author would get it right when she wrote Bentley's own story. With it being in Ms. Carlyle's capable and talented hands, I should never have worried. She wrote the perfect story for him. The image Bentley projects in public is that of the jaded blackguard, a dissolute rake, but even in the earlier books, I knew there was much more to him than meets the eye. There are just so many layers to his character, that I don't think any other author I've read has created a character with so much depth. I have read that Bentley is Ms. Carlyle's favorite hero, and it most certainly shows in the care she used in crafting him. He is an incredibly genuine character that came to life so vividly, it almost seems that he truly exists somewhere. Most of the people around Bentley think that he is something of a failure and a screw-up who never thinks about his future, because that is the only side of himself that he usually allows others to see. He frequently sabotages himself, because he subconsciously doesn't think himself worthy of happiness and success. He has heaped guilt upon himself for a horrible incident from the past for which he clearly bears no responsibility, a tortured hero in the truest sense of the word. Yet, when he is thinking clearly, he is an incredibly intelligent man with a tender, sensitive heart who has so much to offer to anyone who takes the time and effort to recognize his true worth.

Frederica is just such a woman. Even though she didn't want to marry Bentley at first because of his reputation, she had to admit that he was the sweetest man she had ever known. To convince her, Bentley had offered a six-month trial marriage, but it didn't take long for Freddie to realize that she wanted nothing more than a lifetime with this wicked charmer. When Bentley's moods turn black and he starts disappearing for long stretches of time, Freddie is patient and understanding, gently encouraging him to open up to her about what troubles him. Although Bentley is not very forthcoming at first, Freddie is a highly intelligent and intuitive woman. She slowly begins to gather bits and pieces of information and eventually puts together the puzzle that is Bentley's past. When all is finally revealed, she shows an incredible sensitivity toward him, and yet also exhibits unflinching strength and courage in the face of unspeakable evil. I also like the strong yet gentle hand Freddie takes with her occasionally errant husband, making it clear that she won't put up with any disrespectful or irresponsible behavior on his part. As an illegitimate orphan, Freddie has had some difficulties of her own to overcome, but she was raised in a household brimming to the rafters with love and is able to bring the light of that love into Bentley's dark and tortured world, giving him a much-deserved new beginning.

The Devil You Know was a veritable reunion of characters from Ms. Carlyle's past books, which gives her fans insight into where these characters are anywhere from a few to several years down the road. Freddie first appeared in My False Heart and from that book readers can also become reacquainted with Elliot and Evie, as well as secondary characters Winnie, Gus, Theo, Michael, Zoe and the servants of Chatham Lodge and Strath House. Elliot's former valet George Kemble, who also was first seen in My False Heart, makes a couple of appearances in The Devil You Know lending much-needed assistance to Bentley in acquiring appropriate formal attire for a ball and making wedding plans on extremely short notice. Kem also appears in A Woman of Virtue, No True Gentleman, A Deal with the Devil, and The Devil to Pay. From Beauty Like the Night there is Cam, Helene and Catherine as well as the secondary characters of Ariane, Basil, Joan, Queenie, and the servants of Chalcote Manor. Catherine also appeared in No True Gentleman along with the eccentric, fortune-telling Signora Castelli who put in another appearance in The Devil You Know. Also from No True Gentleman, as well as A Woman of Virtue, there are Cole, Robert, and Stuart. Other characters from the aforementioned books are also present in the background and mentioned by name, but have no dialog.

It is rare that a book touches me so deeply that I laugh out loud or cry. The Devil You Know was just such a book. There was a scene in the book which showcased the Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus concept that was straight out of a romantic comedy. I was so amused by it that I had to tell my husband about it and was still laughing about it in my mind hours later. Then, the last couple of chapters of the book brought tears to my eyes, because they were just so incredibly moving and unforgettable. I truly felt that Bentley's self-destructive behavior as a reaction to his past was very realistically rendered. When I am in the midst of reading a book, I often think ahead to how I would like the story to progress. When the story actually goes the way I envisioned, I know I have just read a truly good one. It isn't a matter of the book being simple or predictable. It's a connection of the reader to the author and her characters, which is something I rarely feel as strongly as I did while reading this book. The Devil You Know is the type of story that stays with the reader long after the last page has been turned. In fact, I found myself heartily wishing there was more. It is a rare piece of literary perfection about which I can honestly find absolutely nothing to criticize. It exceeded all my expectations and has forever earned a place on my keeper shelf to be re-read many times in the future. If you have never read this book, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Note: While none of Ms. Carlyle's earlier books seem to be officially considered a series and each seems to stand well on it's own story-wise, I would caution that reading her later books first may give away spoilers to her earlier books. Such was the case when I skipped one book and was left wishing that I had read it first. My suggestion for readers like myself who don't like any spoilers would be to begin with Ms. Carlyle's first book, My False Heart, and continue reading them in the chronological order in which she wrote them. It is also my opinion that the reading experience would be greatly enhanced by doing this, because Ms. Carlyle's character web is so complex. The entire backlist, in order, can be found on her website.
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Comments (showing 1-15 of 15) (15 new)

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message 1: by Brenda (b) (new)

Brenda (b) Julie,
What a wonderful review. You make me want to rush out and get this right NOW! I'm glad for the notation you made about reading the books in order, as I've never read Liz Carlyle and would have asked about that.

Julianna Thanks Brenda! You're welcome on the notation. I'm very anal about reading series books in order, and it took me a while to figure out all her connections. I created a list for the Romance Series group that you may find helpful.

If you like Regency romances, you should definitely check out Liz Carlyle. I'm so glad I did. She's a wonderful author IMHO. All of her stories that I have read so far have gotten 4-5 stars from me. There hasn't been a bad one in the bunch yet.;)

message 3: by Brenda (b) (new)

Brenda (b) Thanks for the link to the list, Julie. It helps a lot. Yes I'm a gotta read them in order person too.

I like Regency romances so I tracked down and ordered a used copy of My False Heart. I'm looking forward to it getting here.

Julianna Brenda, I loved My False Heart. It along with Beauty Like the Night, and The Devil You Know are my favs by Liz Carlyle that I've read so far. The other three up to that point are really good too. I just love her writing style. I hope you enjoy it, when it arrives.;)

L8blmr This was a lovely review, Julie, and I can tell you put a lot of yourself into it. I had some of the same feelings when I read it; I just went back and looked to see what I'd written: nothing! When I finish some books, I am so "full" that it's hard to express myself. In that case, I usually just give it a rating and leave the review to someone more able to make an impression (like you!). I tried to remember why I didn't give it all 5 stars; I think that with such a poignant story, where the author pulls so hard on my heartstrings that I shed more than a few tears, I almost feel that I can't say I absolutely LOVE a book that made me so sad along the way to the HEA! I read one like that not too long ago by Anne Stuart ("To Love a Dark Lord"). Anyway, just wanted you to know how much I enjoyed reading your review.

Julianna Thanks you so much, Shelley. You're compliments are so sweet and I'm so glad you enjoyed my review.

I started writing reviews, because like you, I often feel "full" when I finish a story, whether it be good or bad. I often just can't stop thinking about it for a long time. I discovered that writing down my thoughts and feelings helps to clear my mind for the next book on my list, so that I can enjoy it more. Of course, being able to share with others only adds to the fun.;)

Zumbagirl Thanks for your wonderful review! I started this last night and I wish I knew there were several books before it - I'm struggling with the names a bit

Julianna You're welcome, Zumbagirl! I'm glad you found it helpful. It's definitely a plus to read Liz Carlyle's books in order, because she frequently reuses her characters.

message 9: by Wendy (new) - added it

Wendy A lovely review and it really does say it all. Bentley stands out in my mind as a character to remember...surely a very strong storyline when that happens amongst the thousands out there. :)

message 10: by Julianna (last edited May 26, 2015 10:18AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Julianna Thanks, Wendy! I couldn't agree more. It's been eight years since I read this book, and I still fondly remember Bentley. All this time, he's remained among my top 15 romance heroes.:-)

message 11: by Wendy (new) - added it

Wendy Who are your other favourites? Lord of Scoundrel's?

Julianna I read nearly every sub-genre of romance, so this is a pretty diverse list. Here's my top 25 favorite romance heroes (so far:-)), and yes, Sebastian from Lord of Scoundrels did make the list. He's another one I haven't forgotten after many years. A lot of these are tortured heroes like Bentley. I have a major soft spot these guys.

Jamie Fraser - Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Acheron - Acheron by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Edward Cullen - Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
Zsadist - Lover Awakened by J. R. Ward
Clayton Holland - Always to Remember by Lorraine Heath
Vishous - Lover Unbound by J. R. Ward
Matthew Swift - Scandal in Spring by Lisa Kleypas
Winter Makepeace - Thief of Shadows by Elizabeth Hoyt
Godric St. John - Lord of Darkness by Elizabeth Hoyt
Lindsay Markham - Addicted by Charlotte Featherstone
Marcus Marsden - It Happened One Autumn by Lisa Kleypas
Julian of Macedon - Fantasy Lover by Sherrilyn Kenyon
Bentley Rutledge - The Devil You Know by Liz Carlyle
Lazar di Fiore - The Pirate Prince by Gaelen Foley
Mickey O'Connor - Scandalous Desires by Elizabeth Hoyt
Tohrment - Lover Reborn by J. R. Ward
Asa MacIntyre - Promises Linger by Sarah McCarty
Matthew Farrell - Paradise by Judith McNaught
Michael MacNeil - Wild at Heart by Patricia Gaffney
Ian Rufford - The Companion by Susan Squires
Sebastian Ballister - Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase
Camden Rutledge - Beauty Like the Night by Liz Carlyle
Christopher Seton - A Rose in Winter by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss
Nick Gentry - Worth Any Price by Lisa Kleypas
Matthew, Earl of Wallingford - Sinful by Charlotte Featherstone

message 13: by Wendy (new) - added it

Wendy That's a lovely list Julianna and there are a few there that I haven't come across and will certainly look them up now! I was surprised to see that you don't have Tessa Dare's Colin from A Week to be Wicked to on it. Thank you for taking the trouble to list them for me :)

message 14: by Wendy (new) - added it

Wendy And I forgot to say that I rarely see Kathleen E Woodiwiss mentioned. They were the first American Historical Romances I read 30 years ago and I loved them.

Julianna Thanks, Wendy. It was no problem at all. I enjoy sharing reading recommendations. I hope you find a few new books to enjoy. As for Tessa Dare, she's one of those authors who's on my TBR list, but I haven't gotten around to reading yet. I have a good feeling about her though. Since KEW passed on, I haven't seen as many readers talking about her either, but she's written some great stories. I first read A Rose in Winter probably 20 years ago. That it stood up to rereading and is still on my top 25 list says something about how good it is.:-)

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