This reviewer is not one to often read historical romances, but Josephine Coxís Lovers and Liars has made a fan out of me. A down-to-earth old-fashioned love story about two young star-crossed lovers, Lovers and Liars is the story of Emily Ramsden and John Hanley, and Cox does a wonderful job at writing this page-turning romance.
The book opens in 1902. Emily is sixteen years old and is obviously running from someone she is afraid of. At the same time, the reader knows she is waiting to meet someone at the ďusual place, at the usual time." This is a great way to lure in the reader, making one want to read more to find out what is about to happen next. What is Emily afraid of? And who is she about to meet? It is obviously a secret liaison of some sort, but exactly what does it entail? These first few pages will grab the readerís attention, giving the book a good start.
As the chapter progresses, we are introduced to Emilyís Uncle Clem, her motherís brother who took over their farm, Potts End, after Emilyís father abandoned them a few years previous, disappearing without a trace. Aggie, Emilyís mother, had no choice but to ask Clem for help since she could not run the farm on her own and they were drowning in debt - the very reason why her husband Michael ran away. Along with Aggie, she has Emily to take care of and her father-in-law, Thomas Isaac, who is a lovable cantankerous old man that the reader will find endearing. His scenes are often some of the funniest in the book
It is obvious right away that Uncle Clem is a horrible person, someone who is abusive both mentally and physically to his family, treating all with disrespect and cruelty. The reader may feel that he is a caricature of a person, but this reviewer feels he fits into the book perfectly, especially for this type of novel and time period. Not to compare this novel to something out of Dickens, but the time period and style of writing does make one want to compare this book to others in the same era. Uncle Clem may be the stereotypical bad guy, but he adds to the feel of this old-fashioned story. He is the villain, while Emily and John are the heroine and hero, and the reader will want to cheer them on, hoping that love will win out over evil.
The center of the book, of course, is Emily and John. Emily is in love with John Hanley, and he with her, but through a series of lies and misunderstandings, they seemed destined to be star-crossed lovers. Love in this time period is very chaste, and that explains why John and Emily have to hide to meet - although compared to the twenty-first century, nothing is going on between them. A few chaste kisses, if that, are all that John and Emily have shared. John is tired of the hiding and the secret meetings, so he finally gets the courage to talk to Clem to ask permission to court Emily. Uncle Clem responds by displaying his wrath and nearly kills John. John realizes he is of no use to Emily without a real job or money to support her, so he leaves her with the promise of returning for her hand in marriage and rescuing her from a life under the hands of her evil Uncle.
Meanwhile, Uncle Clem does the unspeakable, violating Emily in the barn where she often hides. This tragedy changes Emilyís life forever, starting a chain of events that may never be reversed. Emily waits patiently for Johnís return, but it years pass since she has heard any news from him. It is here that the lies told by others keep the two apart, and both Emily and John continue on with their lives, thinking the other has moved on with someone else. They try their best to be happy, but the loss that they feel continues to follow them through the years.
Lovers and Liars is the perfect star-crossed romance novel. The reader is constantly guessing how things will turn out for Emily and John, but besides the central love story, there are various characters who add to the story. Emilyís Grandfather Isaac, as well as Johnís landlady Harriet, are great secondary characters who add to the humor of the book. Johnís friend Archie is another bonus character, showing how good Cox is at creating characters that stand out and add to the existing story line. Aggie, Emilyís mother, is not utilized as much as she could have been, and pales in comparison to some of these other characters.
The book is written from various viewpoints, including Johnís and Emilyís, which helps give the story a more personal feel. Throughout the novel, it is like watching an old-fashioned movie starring Mickey Rooney or Judy Garland. It has that type of semblance, a sense of a time gone by. The values are certainly reflected in the novel, the author doing an excellent job of making the reader believe he or she is back in the early 1900s. Although some of the characters are far-fetched, overall the story is written to make the events seem believable. For those who love an old-fashioned romance with a lot of humor and soap opera-ish plot lines, this is the book for you. This reviewer will definitely seek out other books by Josephine Cox. She has proved to be a good storyteller and an excellent writer.