REVIEW: My Lady Notorious by Jo Beverley
Dear Mrs. Beverley,
I had fond thought of this book before I even started it because it was the subject of the first email I ever exchanged with someone who’s become a dear friend of mine. I had mentioned after the year 2000 AAR Top 100 that I was looking for a copy and Deb, the consummate bookstalker, emailed me saying she had one. Plus about 10 other books I’d been looking for. Deb, this review’s for you!
Mrs. Beverley, you work for me yet again with this one, the first in the Malloren series. Cyn, Captain Lord Cynric Malloren, is a great hero who is bowling along in his brother, the Marquise of Rothgar’s coach, when it’s held up by some very interesting highwaymen. Sensing something isn’t quite right, he goes along with things til he finds himself kidnapped to drive the coach to an out of the way cottage where things get even weirder. He soon concludes that the two *highwaymen* are actually women, one of whom resumes her female identity and turns out to be the mother of a months old infant. The other, the one who intrigues him, stays in her male persona and Cyn, not being able to resist a challenge or turn down an opportunity for some fun, decides to join their mad adventure.
Lady Chastity Ware is not quite sure what to do with this dangerous man, this pretty sweet-seeming viper, as she thinks of him. He’s a fly in the ointment of the desperate flight that she and her sister are on but as he slowly takes over the operation, she has the sense to realize that without his help, they’re doomed. Chastity and Verity are fleeing from not only their father, the unforgiving Earl of Ware, but also from Verity’s brother in law. While not being able to deduce why those two are after them, they know that they must stay out of the clutches of both dangerous men who appear willing and able to go to any lengths to get the women back. At first Cyn thinks that their tales of menace are just overblown women’s delusions, but soon he realizes that there is something sinister afoot and that he’s falling in love with Chastity. Which makes his sexual teasing of *Charles* all the more fun.
Chastity also finds herself attracted to Cyn but unlike him, she knows it can lead to nothing but heartache for she is the Notorious Lady Chastity Ware. A woman who has fallen from society’s graces as part of the devious plot of her father and brother in law. No one will listen to her protestations of innocence and she despairs as she falls in love with a wonderful man she can never have. The plot thickens as the entire Malloren clan is enlisted to not only unravel the mystery but also clear the name and reputation of the woman their little brother longs, with all his heart, to make his wife.
The action in this one is pretty much nonstop but it isn’t running around to no purpose. The danger is real even if the villains turn pretty much over the top by the end (the denouement ball scene is a touch too much). I usually don’t care much for women dressed up as men books because they seem so improbable but Chastity has had a while to practice and is quite good in her disguise. Plus, all she wants is to go back to her female life instead of running around pretending to be a man for no good reason. She is smart and acts true to the times instead of TSTL.
Cyn, as I’ve said, is great. And boy does he know how to do fun sex. The sexual tension in this one is quite hot and the love scenes are too. We also get a glimpse of the Bacchanalian decadence of a Georgian orgy (My God!) and the scene with Chastity (in disguise) listening to the bawdy songs of Cyn’s fellow officers and friends, is a hoot. Cyn also goes in disguise at times and during one scene I couldn’t help but think of an illustration from The Wind in the Willows of Mr. Toad running in his dress.
As I said before, Chastity’s father goes over the top as far as villainy is concerned and becomes something of a cartoonish character by the end which brought down my final grade just a bit. Also, some readers might not care for the depiction of Georgian society’s views on women and children. It is not only accepted but expected that men will physically discipline not only their wives but also their children. And the fact that the subjects of the disciplining seem to accept it as the fact of life, gets a bit hard to read about sometimes. But it is true to the times and I applaud you for not trying to sugarcoat that reality. My final grade is a B+ and this is one reason by I’m thankful you have chosen to write romances.