Monday, 3 September 2012

Notorious by Nicola Cornick

Notorious (2011)
Nicola Cornick
Grade: C
Genre: historical romance
Sex scenes: middling
Source: library
Scandalous Women of the Ton: (4) Notorious, (6) Forbidden

Lady Caroline Carew is society’s most sought-after and successful matchbreaker and has recently arrived in London for her latest job. Her newest targets are Miss Francesca ‘Chessie’ Devlin and the higher born Fitzwilliam Alton, heir to the not-inconsiderable Alton estate. Once she has secured a proposal from Fitz (which she will later gently turn down) her work is complete; with the money that she will earn from this job, she will have enough to settle down to a respectable life with the twin boy and girl she has promised to raise as her own. What ‘Caroline’ didn’t rely on was Francesca being the younger sister of James Devlin …

The last time Sir James Devlin saw Lady Carew, it was in their bed after their first blissful night as a married couple. He knew her as Susanna Burney and he thought that they were in love … until he woke up the next morning to find that their first night was to be their only night. When he came back from his time it sea, it was to the news that his wife was dead. Seeing her across a London ballroom is thus somewhat of a surprise – and not a particularly happy one.

James wants answers and Susanna can’t give them to him without compromising the job she’s being paid for. However much he dislikes Fitz, James won’t let Susanna break the unspoken arrangement between Fitz and Chessie and ruin Chessie’s chances for a brilliant match. He will do whatever it takes and Susanna might be at risk of breaking her heart all over again.

I had thought Forbidden close to brilliant, so I was more than a little disappointed by what I found in Notorious. It didn’t have the same elegance in the writing style, humour in the dialogue and general likeability from the main characters. I’ll still be reading the others in the series, but I have a feeling that none are going to live up to the great read that was Forbidden.

James really annoyed me. He was much too angry for his own good and although some aggressiveness and alpha-male possessiveness is all good and well in a hero, it wasn’t a good look for James. Yes, he’s angry because he’s thought Susanna had been dead all these years and now she’s set out to ruin his sister’s future, but it just seemed like he was angry all the time and it got old very quickly. He doesn’t quite fit into the category of ‘asshole heroes’ but it wouldn’t take much to tip the balance and get him there.

Susanna was a tad more likeable, but not hugely. Her story after she left James wasn’t a happy one and that she managed to pick herself up and end up in this lucrative business increases my respect for her. The way she got started was certainly innovative and it’s certainly the first time I’ve read about a matchbreaker in nineteenth century England. Nevertheless, Susanna does what she does for her own reasons and however much she would like to unburden herself on James, she decides against to protect herself because she knows he will only be mad at her and then want to take responsibility for her. Susanna cannot allow it. While this is partly admirable on Susanna’s part, it’s just another example of one of the things that I hate from romance novels: the assumption that each character knows best for the other. It never ends well.

I loved the glimpses we got of the Margery to come. In Notorious, she’s Susanna’s temporary lady’s maid and she isn’t afraid to speak her own mind. While she’s only known Susanna a few short weeks, she jumps to her mistress’s defence automatically and the signs that she’ll be a great heroine lie just beneath the surface. Forbidden had mentioned that she had been in the service of a number of notorious women in society, who also happen to be the protagonists of the other books in Ms Cornick’s Scandalous Women of the Ton series. I’d love to see what part Margery plays in them and get to know more of her and her life before she became the lady that I read about in Forbidden.

I get why AAR had given Notorious such a low review when I had thought Forbidden to be of a much higher calibre. Notorious was nowhere near as good and if their other reviews are as accurate as my own readings once I get round to it, Forbidden is going to be as good as it will get. I’d be interested to see what sort of grade Forbidden gets once it is reviewed on AAR and how it align with my own grade. This was a good book to pass the time, but you would be forgiven for missing it altogether.

Image courtesy of Fantastic Fiction

No comments:

Post a Comment