I never hid the fact that I love romance, and I did mention that the first romance novel I fell in love with was Jude Deveraux’s A Knight in Shining Armor, when I was but a mite of 12. It was the start of a long-time love affair between myself and the Montgomerys and Taggerts, one which has stood the test of time, since now, 29 years later, I am still madly in love with those two families, and with Jude’s books.
In this instance, you can call my reviewing Sweet Liar (published in 1992) a long overdue review, since it was the first Kindle book I’ve bought, in the fall of 2014. In fact, this book is the very reason I bought a Kindle device in the first place, because I was in a Jude reading spree and it was out of print. Needless to say that I bought many books for that very device since, but also that I loved Michael Taggert’s and Samantha Elliot’s story so much that I’ve reread it many times since!
After all, what’s there not to be completely gripped with? A heartwarming love story, a Taggert hero, and what ends up being a murder investigation.
Say what, Caro? A murder investigation. Well, an amateur murder investigation, but a murder investigation nonetheless.
Who was murdered? The book makes no mystery of it, but it will be for you to read and find out. I cannot give you all the details, now, can I? Plus, it would be a spoiler if I did tell.
What the story is about
Upon her father’s death, Samantha Elliot, who’s had to deal with more death and tragedy in her 29 years than most people in their lifetime, finds out that he had tasked her with finding out what happened to her grandmother, who had disappeared when Sam was eight months old, in order to get her inheritance.
For that purpose, she has to move to New York, the last known place where her grandmother might have been seen, and live with Michael Taggert, the man whose town house her dad was supposed to go and live into for that very purpose before cancer made it impossible for him to do.
There, Samantha realises that she is falling into a mystery which dates from a blues club mass killing from 1928, one which she, with Mike’s help, has to elucidate, but one which can also have her losing her heart to her handsome and generous landlord.
Music, love, and family
The first thing that struck me in the book was Samantha’s depression, which is no surprise considering that her world has been a succession of deaths and heartaches since she was 12, her father’s passing and his will being the last straw which, like everything else in her life since her mother’s death, she took without shedding a single tear. The way Deveraux wrote those moments was masterful, especially considering that the book was published in a time when depression was not a subject people openly talked about (heck, even today, depression is still frowned upon by too many). Her getting out of it all through the pages showed how difficult it is to shake years of hiding how one feels and how it is just as tough to get out of everything that a person represses. When you know that the main subject of A Knight in Shining Armor is alcoholism, you know that Jude Deveraux is not one to get away from difficult topics, and her book dealing in part with the main character’s depression is just another one of those.
However, this does not, in any way, mean that the book deals mainly and mostly with Samantha’s depression, all the contrary! Another theme of the book which, just like in Mountain Laurel, was highly researched, is music. If, in Mountain Laurel, we get to “hear” opera, in Sweet Liar, it is the blues of the 1920s, Bessie Smith in particular. And just like with the former, it made me search and listen to the artists in the latter, much to my enjoyment. After all, the blues and blues clubs of the 1920s play a very important part in what Samantha and Mike investigate in the story.
Then come all the family ties, particularly Mike’s who, being a Taggert, is one of 12 children in a family blessed not only by love, but by a huge amount of children, a lot of them twins. Add to that the Montgomery tribe, his cousins, and a Montgomery/Taggert party becomes an enormous event, like we can see in the Central Park picnic chapter. And the picnic was only because Mike’s mother wanted to meet Samantha!
However, underlying everything is love: that of a daughter for her parents and grandparents, that of a man with his family, that of a grandmother towards her husband, her son, and his family, that of a woman towards the one great love of her life, that of the main protagonists towards each other, and so on. After all, love is a universal theme, no matter which way it takes, and every Jude Deveraux book, especially those involving the Taggert family, is full of every kind of love that exists. Sweet Liar is no different.
Seeing old friends
If Sweet Liar is your first Jude Deveraux book, this might be confusing. But for those who have read many of her books, this one makes us indirectly visit old friends, like the moment Samantha refers to a biography of Captain Sir Frank Baker (The Duchess), or yet another Montgomery named Raine (Velvet Angel), or another Taggert-related female doctor named Blair (Twin of Fire/Twin of Ice), or Samantha meeting a heavily pregnant Dougless (A Knight in Shining Armor).
It was another way with which Jude Deveraux comes full circle, at least in part, with her characters from past books, something which we do see in many of her more contemporary Montgomery/Taggert novels, to a long-time reader’s great enjoyment and pleasure.
You will notice that I have not talked in any way about the lies which may or may not be implied by the title. That was on purpose, for mentioning any part of that would end up in my writing “spoilery” things. I, by far, prefer for the reader to discover the book without any outside interference, but I will mention my two favourite scenes of the book: the shopping and the bookstore. Both made me smile and laugh happily.
And in the end, there is a reason I reread this book about once a year since I bought it: because it is, simply, fantastic, well researched, and extremely gripping.
It thus comes as no surprise that, time and again, I give this book the highest mark possible.
A happily musical five stars! ✰✰✰✰✰