Woodhouse, S(usan). T. 1958-
WOODHOUSE, S(usan). T. 1958-
PERSONAL: Born August 7, 1958, in Suffolk, VA; married; stepchildren: two. Education: Radford University, B.S. (journalism), 1980. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Episcopalian.
ROMANCE FICTION; UNDER PSEUDONYM LIZ CARLYLE
My False Heart, Sonnet Books (New York, NY), 1999. A Woman Scorned, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 2000.
Beauty like the Night, Sonnet Books (New York, NY), 2000.
A Woman of Virtue (sequel to A Woman Scorned), Pocket Books (New York, NY), 2001.
No True Gentleman, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 2002.
(With Cathy Maxwell) Tea for Two: Two Novellas (contains Carlyle's "Hunting Season"), Pocket Star Books (New York, NY), 2002.
The Devil You Know, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 2003.
A Deal with the Devil (sequel to The Devil You Know), Pocket Star Books (New York, NY), 2004.
The Devil to Pay, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 2005.
Contributor of novella "Let's Talk about Sex," to Big Guns out of Uniform, Pocket Books (New York, NY), 2003, and "Much Ado about Twelfth Night," to The One That Got Away, Avon/HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2004.
SIDELIGHTS: S. T. Woodhouse, who writes under the pen name Liz Carlyle, is the author of historical romances that have received wide praise from critics who have admired the author's skill at characterization, setting, and original plotting. Carlyle worked in the corporate world for about eighteen years before writing her first novel, My False Heart, on a dare while she was between jobs. After a few years during which Carlyle struggled to find a publisher, the book was released in 1999 and hailed by romance novel reviewers as a promising debut. While keeping to many of the conventions of the romance genre, the book, asserted Romance Reader contributor Lesley Dunlap, varies from the norm: "Countless romances have featured the classic plot of the degenerate rake who sees the error of his ways, reforms, and finds a lasting and true love with a good woman. Rarely, however, does the author provide much support for this personality change. Where Ms. Carlyle's book excels is in the how and why."
My False Heart features Elliot Armstrong, whose unfaithful fiancée's behavior leads to a broken engagement and his descent into a life of debauchery; his new love interest, Evangeline Stone, is a young artist who welcomes him into her home one stormy night, thinking that he is someone else. Elliot quickly becomes enamored by the beautiful Evangeline and does not reveal his true identity until a former mistress, who is also Evangeline's aunt, reveals Elliot's past. Although Dunlap felt the mystery subplot involving Elliot's ex-fiancée to be somewhat contrived, she found the love story convincing and entertaining.
Another Romance Reader reviewer, Jean Mason, was equally impressed with Carlyle's follow-up novel, A Woman Scorned. After Jonet Rowland's philandering husband is murdered, her brother-in-law, Lord James Rowland, is convinced that she is the killer, but he cannot prove it. He comes up with a ploy to hire his nephew Captain Cole Amherst, a former scholar who was injured in battle and was widowed while stationed in Portugal, to serve as tutor to Jonet's two children while also acting as his spy. Cole soon realizes that there are more secrets in the household than anyone suspected. In addition, Jonet and Cole are mutually attracted, but do not trust one another. Mason found the interweaving of mystery and romance to be effectively handled, concluding that "Carlyle's first book was very, very good. Her second is as good, or maybe even better."
A Woman of Virtue is a sequel to A Woman Scorned and includes Jonet and Cole in important roles. However, the main story features another tortured hero named David, whose illegitimate birth proves an impediment to his desire for Cecilia Markham-Sands. Throw in a number of murders, a scandalous rape, and a forced marriage and there are plenty of plot complications in A Woman Scorned. Although Dunlap, writing in Romance Reader Online, found some of Cecilia's motivations less-than-satisfactorily explained, she complimented Carlyle on writing a historical romance that features not only upper-class characters but also glimpses into England's lower-class society. "David and Cecelia get to experience a vastly different segment of society," Dunlap commented, "and that makes for a more interesting story."
One of the minor characters readers meet in A Woman of Virtue is Constable Max de Rohan. De Rohan becomes the main character in No True Gentleman, which focuses on his forbidden love for Lady Catherine Wodeway, who is far above him in social status. In a tale Library Journal contributor Kristin Ramsdell predicted "will appeal to readers who like their mysteries with a little romance rather than the other way around," No True Gentleman is a Regency story that finds Max investigating an aristocrat's death. Carlyle juggles several plots, including Max's search for the killer, his relationship with Lady Catherine, and his troubles with his meddling grandmother in what a Publishers Weekly reviewer called "one of the year's best historical romances."
Carlyle began a new Regency romance series with The Devil You Know and A Deal with the Devil, though some of her previous characters still make appearances. In The Devil You Know Frederica D'Avillez is trying to forget a failed relationship when she meets the roguish Randolph Rutledge. One night of love leaves Frederica pregnant; Randolph convinces her to marry him, but Frederica soon learns that she will only find happiness in her new marriage if she is able to uncover Randolph's secrets. A Deal with the Devil begins as Aubrey Montford is hired by Major Lorimer to help him restore his castle, but when the major is murdered, his nephew comes to the castle to investigate and soon finds himself drawn to the mysterious Aubrey. Noting that "there's far more romance here than suspense," a Publishers Weekly critic was certain that "Regency fans . . . will be charmed." Booklist contributor John Charles even more enthusiastically called the novel "nothing short of brilliant."
Although not all of Carlyle's books have received such praise—the love story in Beauty like the Night, for instance, was deemed "predictable" by Mason in a Romance Reader assessment—the author's work has generally been found by critics to be a step above the average romance offerings. Nevertheless, Carlyle still describes herself as a struggling author. She is content, though, to continue following her current path, staying at home, writing, and occasionally traveling with her husband to England. "I truly enjoy what I'm doing," she told an interviewer for the Road to Romance Web site, "and I love working for [my publisher] Pocket. They have given me lots of latitude in terms of what I write, and they [have] been willing to take some risks. As you know, my novels are a little on the long side, and while they are very definitely Regency-era romances, they are quite sexually explicit and contain some darker elements. . . . So, while my books are not for everyone, I hope I'm filling a special niche for those historical romance fans who like a plot that's a little more intense."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, June 1, 2002, John Charles, review of No True Gentleman, p. 1693; September 15, 2002, Donna Seaman, review of No True Gentleman, p. 216; April 1, 2003, John Charles, review of The Devil You Know, p. 1383; March 1, 2004, John Charles, review of A Deal with the Devil, p. 1144.
Library Journal, May 15, 2002, Kristin Ramsdell, review of Tea for Two, p. 79; August, 2002, Kristin Ramsdell, review of No True Gentleman, p. 70.
Publishers Weekly, April 24, 2000, review of A Woman Scorned, p. 67; April 8, 2002, review of Tea for Two, p. 211; June 3, 2002, review of No True Gentleman, p. 71; January 19, 2004, review of A Deal with the Devil, p. 59.
Romance Reader, November 1, 1999, Lesley Dunlap, review of My False Heart; May 7, 2000, Jean Mason, review of A Woman Scorned; November 27, 2000, Jean Mason, review of Beauty Like the Night; March 20, 2001, Dunlap, review of A Woman of Virtue.
All about Romance Web site,http://www.likesbooks.com/ (December 3, 2002), Ellen D. Micheletti, reviews of Beauty like the Night and A Woman of Virtue.
BookBrowser.com,http://www.bookbrowser.com/ (August 15, 1999), Harriet Klausner, review of My False Heart; (November 14, 2000) Harriet Klausner, review of Beauty like the Night; (December 27, 2000) Harriet Klausner, review of A Woman of Virtue; (June 8, 2002) Harriet Klausner, review of No True Gentleman.
Road to Romance Web site,http://www.roadtoromance.ca/ (December 3, 2002), interview with Carlyle.