The prolific Seattle author Jayne Ann Krentz calls her string of pseudonyms "the worst kept secret in the history of publishing": She writes contemporary...

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The prolific Seattle author Jayne Ann Krentz calls her string of pseudonyms “the worst kept secret in the history of publishing”: She writes contemporary novels under her own name, historical romances as Amanda Quick, and futuristic/paranormal novels as Jayne Castle.

In her Amanda Quick incarnation, Krentz has produced the new “Lie by Moonlight” (Putnam, 385 pp., $24.95), a Victorian-era novel linked thematically to some of her earlier work.

The Quick historicals tend to be fast-paced, with feisty heroines who never succumb to attacks of the vapors, and plot lines that are blessedly free of fake problems to overcome (the feeble misunderstandings and mistaken identities that are staples of so much historical fiction).

Author appearance

Jayne Ann Krentz (aka Amanda Quick) will read from “Lie by Moonlight” at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow, Third Place Books, 17171 Bothell Way N.E., Lake Forest Park; free (206-366-3333;

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“Lie by Moonlight” begins in medias res, with a dramatic escape by moonlight from an exploding castle. The aptly pseudonymed Quick does not waste her time with tedious introductions over the tea table in drawing rooms; her teacher/heroine, one Concordia Glade, is instead spiriting her four young orphaned charges off to the stables after detonating the explosions that should deter the villains’ pursuit. Concordia has discovered that the “school” at Aldwick Castle is a front for something considerably more sinister, and she is aided in her escape by a private detective who also has his eye on the evildoers at the castle.

The detective, Ambrose Wells, has a shady past of his own, and Quick deftly sets up both protagonists’ backgrounds for the reader through flashbacks, just as Wells and Concordia are trying to decide how much to trust each other. Meanwhile, they’re off (in a series of disguises) to investigate the dark side of high society and to discover why Concordia and her charges are so relentlessly sought by a London crime lord.

This being a Quick/Krentz romance, there is absolutely no question about how those early flutterings of mutual lust will be resolved, but there’s a nifty twist on the age-old issue of the man’s honorable responsibilities following the compromising of the woman’s virtue. This time, the hero expects the heroine to do the proposing. Considering the daring extent of Concordia’s derring-do, that’s a snap.

Melinda Bargreen is the classical music critic for The Seattle Times.