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REVIEW: The Dangerous Viscount by Miranda Neville

Dear Ms. Neville,

Here’s a testament to the fact that Twitter can sell books. I’ve enjoyed your personable tweets so much that when I saw on SonomaLass’s website that she enjoyed your newest novel, The Dangerous Viscount, I decided to get my hands on a copy.

the dangerous viscount by miranda nevilleThis was back in October, before I bought my Kindle, and at the time, I couldn’t find the book at the Sony Store, so I did something I almost never do anymore — dragged myself to a brick-and-mortar Barnes and Noble, where after some difficulty with a bookseller who didn’t know how to spell or pronounce “viscount,” I finally found a copy of the book.

Was The Dangerous Viscount worth the hunt? After a slow first quarter, my attention was caught and when I finished, I closed the book feeling entertained and satisfied. Before I get to the reasons why I felt this way, an introduction to the story and its charming characters is in order:

As the first sentence of The Dangerous Viscount says, “It all began with a glimpse of stocking.” The stocking in question is made of pink silk, and belongs to Diana Fanshawe, who, like Sebastian Iverley is a guest at Mandeville House, the home of the Marquis of Blakeney.

Blakeney is Sebastian’s cousin, but there is little closeness between the two men. Sebastian, though heir to a viscount, is a mere mister, bookish, poorly dressed and relatively unworldly, while Blakeney, a duke’s heir, is known for his athleticism, far more fashionably dressed, popular with the ladies and has little respect for Sebastian, whom he calls “Owl.”

Unfortunately for Sebastian, who falls into an instant infatuation with her, Diana Fanshawe is intent on becoming the Marchioness of Blakeney. Diana’s family lives in the vicinity, but Blakeney and his parents snubbed Diana, her siblings and her parents, when Diana was young. This only made Diana want Blakeney more but when she made her debut, he took no notice of her because of her lower birth. Instead, Diana married a kind, wealthy, and middle aged lord.

Now Diana is Lady Fanshawe, widowed and wealthy. She also dresses in high style. All of this has won her an invitation to Mandeville House, and this time, she is determined to capture Blakeney’s romantic interest and snag a proposal from him as well.

As for Sebastian, Diana only thinks of him as “Blakeney’s peculiar cousin.” She is polite but disinterested in him, though she allows him to accompany her on a brief visit to her eccentric parents’ home. This begins to change, though, when Diana and Sebastian return to Mandeville House. There a discussion between Diana, Blakeney and Blakeney’s friend Lamb of Sebastian’s inexperience with women turns into a challenge to Diana’s beauty, and she wagers Blakeney five hundred pounds that she can get Sebastian to kiss her.

In the following days, Diana finds ways to get Sebastian alone, and Sebastian falls for her. Despite his reticence and his inexperience, he does kiss her. She regrets having made the bet and hopes Sebastian will not learn of it, but of course, he does — and this comes about just as he is planning to ask Diana to marry him.

After overhearing Blakney and Lamb discussing the bet, Sebastian leaves Mandeville House to attend to his dying uncle, a misogynist who kept Sebastian away from women as a child and instilled some misconceptions in his heir.

Sebastian’s uncle dies, and Sebastian inherits the title of viscount. Unable to put Diana from his mind, he returns to London and asks his closest friends to help him remake himself into a fashionable man, the kind who would capture Lady Diana Fanshawe’s affections. He vows that he will make Diana fall in love with him, and then teach her what rejection feels like.

As mentioned before, The Dangerous Viscount began slowly for me. For the first ninety or so pages, I felt disengaged from the story and wasn’t sure if I should keep reading.

I think this was because Diana was so far out of Sebastian’s reach, and Sebastian, in Diana’s eyes, beneath her notice, that it was hard for me to feel any romantic spark in their interactions. Also, Sebastian’s initial interest in Diana seemed superficial to me since it was based on nothing more than a glimpse of stocking. It wasn’t until Sebastian learned of the wager, inherited his title, and set out to transform himself and get a little taste of revenge that I decided to stick with the book.

I am glad I stuck with it though, because it did become entertaining once Sebastian began to dress well and Diana sat up and took notice. Despite their flaws, the main characters were charming and endearing. I liked the way they both matured in the course of the book. I also loved the way the book turned the typical genre conventions on their heads — that it was the hero, rather than the heroine who was bookish and in need of a makeover, for example, and that he was the virgin and she the one who introduces him to sex.

I did feel that the turnaround in Diana when she decided she preferred Sebastian to Blakeney felt rushed, but I loved what happened as a consequence of that decision and Sebastian’s desire to balance the scales (I don’t want to give it away).

There were times when I wanted a little more darkness to this story, but at other times I enjoyed your deft hand with humor. The different inclinations of the characters — Sebastian’s interest in collecting rare books, Diana’s in fashion, Diana’s sister Minerva’s focus on politics and diplomacy, Diana’s father’s obsession with weighing everyone, and Diana’s mother’s dog-breeding hobby — gave the book warmth and tolerance. The combination of quirky eccentricities with humor reminded me a bit of some of Amanda Quick’s historical romances.

When I finished this book, I was glad I’d hunted for it and stuck with it through the slow beginning. I’m now interested in reading more of your work in the future. B for The Dangerous Viscount.

Sincerely,

Janine

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Janine Ballard loves well-paced, character driven novels in historical romance, fantasy, YA, and the occasional outlier genre. Recent examples include novels by Katherine Addison, Meljean Brook, Kristin Cashore, Cecilia Grant, Rachel Hartman, Ann Leckie, Jeannie Lin, Rose Lerner, Courtney Milan, Miranda Neville, and Nalini Singh. Janine also writes fiction. Her critique partners are Sherry Thomas, Meredith Duran and Bettie Sharpe. Her erotic short story, “Kiss of Life,” appears in the Berkley anthology AGONY/ECSTASY under the pen name Lily Daniels. You can email Janine at janineballard at gmail dot com or find her on Twitter @janine_ballard.

42 Comments

  1. infinitieh
    Jan 06, 2011 @ 17:42:55

    Great review! I loved Sebastian and the Montroses as well.

  2. SonomaLass
    Jan 06, 2011 @ 17:59:04

    Yay! It’s always nice when someone agrees with my opinion. I really like Miranda Neville’s blend of humor and passion, and of course the idea of a set of books about bibliophiles was a big hit with me.

  3. Niveau
    Jan 06, 2011 @ 18:46:47

    A virgin hero? I was already sold before I got to that paragraph, but now I’m going to see if I can get a copy tonight. Mmm, virgin heroes :)

  4. Lynne Connolly
    Jan 06, 2011 @ 18:53:14

    I’m so glad you reviewed this one! I love Miranda’s books, but I can’t review them, as she’s a friend. But I genuinely like them, and she works very hard at getting her stuff bang-on. As well as having a delightfully engaging style that keeps you reading.

  5. Janine
    Jan 06, 2011 @ 19:30:18

    @infinitieh: Yes, they were great characters. I forgot to say in the review that I also got a little thrill from Diana’s being so well-dressed. Not because I share her interest in fashion, but because so many heroines in the genre are disinterested in their appearance or unaware of their looks, that this was another refreshing change.

    @SonomaLass: I loved the book-loving angle as well, and I’m grateful that your review pointed me in the direction of this book.

    @Niveau: Yes! Yay for virgin heroes! That was one of the things that captured my attention too.

    @Lynne Connolly: I’m not that knowledgeable about the Regency myself and didn’t want to say so in case I was wrong, but the book did feel well-researched to me, so I’m glad to hear you think it is as well. I’m also really glad to have discovered this author’s books.

  6. Janine
    Jan 06, 2011 @ 19:41:07

    @Niveau: I forgot to add — I hope you enjoy it and please feel welcome to come back and let me know what you thought of it.

  7. RobinC
    Jan 06, 2011 @ 19:41:12

    I will definitely be checking this one out.

    Another good book with a similar plot is Georgette Heyer’s Powerder and Patch. It takes place during the Georgian period, so you get to go to Paris and Versailles, too, IIRC) during the hero’s makeover. It’s early Heyer, but a lot of fun.

  8. RobinC
    Jan 06, 2011 @ 19:42:23

    Sorry, that title should be Powder and Patch.

  9. Janine
    Jan 06, 2011 @ 19:43:27

    @RobinC: It’s funny, JanetNorCal just mentioned that on Twitter. I haven’t read Powder and Patch yet; thanks for telling me about it. The hero makeover to get the heroine back was a delightful element so I might have to check it out sometime.

    I hope you enjoy The Dangerous Viscount.

  10. Pat
    Jan 06, 2011 @ 19:50:42

    I’m glad you enjoyed this, because I loved it.

    I don’t understand why people are always complaining about slow beginnings. I LOVE it when books begin slowly and ease me into the story.

  11. Janine
    Jan 06, 2011 @ 20:19:01

    @Pat: Hmm. I love a slow, leisurely beginning when I’m savoring every moment. But when I’m disinterested because the book hasn’t hooked me out of the gate, it’s a different story. This one was slow to hook me, but it made up for that later on. I’m glad you liked it so much!

  12. Jinni
    Jan 06, 2011 @ 21:45:37

    Oh dear. Miranda Neville is somewhere in my TBR pile – but now you add one of my favorite tropes – virgin hero? I’ll have to add another one of her books to the ever growing list.

  13. Janine
    Jan 06, 2011 @ 22:39:53

    @Jinni: LOL! I hope you enjoy the book.

  14. infinitieh
    Jan 07, 2011 @ 01:44:03

    I had read “Powder and Patch” a couple of books prior to “The Dangerous Viscount” and I thought, what were the odds? Both are Cinderfella stories although I doubt that Philip is a virgin.

  15. Jane
    Jan 07, 2011 @ 08:41:08

    All this talk about Neville’s book prompted by this review had me go and a) read some of the book on HarperCollins’ site and b) buy one of her earlier books via Kindle. I liked the writing and voice so I am hopeful I will enjoy the book.

  16. Carin
    Jan 07, 2011 @ 08:43:08

    Not only does this sound like a good book, but I now know that I’ve been mis-pronouncing viscount! I googled it after reading your article. My word for the day!

  17. Janine
    Jan 07, 2011 @ 10:14:26

    @infinitieh: It does seem unlikely that you’d read them back-to-back because hero makeover stories are so much more unusual than heroine ones.

    Miranda Neville said on Twitter that she had read Powder and Patch, but not thought of it in the context of The Dangerous Visocunt.

    @Jane: I hope you enjoy it. SonomaLass said in one of the comments on her own blog post that she’s enjoyed all of Neville’s books so far, although The Dangerous Viscount is her fave.

    @Carin: LOL. I used to mispronounce viscount too, until my husband corrected me. It was funny with that Barnes and Noble clerk though — first she spelled it (in her computer) the way I pronounced it, and then after I told her it was spelled with an S, she phoned another bookstore clerk to see if she could find the book and pronounced the S in the process.

  18. Joy
    Jan 07, 2011 @ 10:31:35

    I learned to pronounce “viscount” only after watching Young Victoria, which is the first time I think I’ve ever heard the word spoken.

    I loved this book. To me, it was an A book and I didn’t even think it started slow.

  19. Janine
    Jan 07, 2011 @ 12:03:44

    @Joy: It is reassuring to hear that others mispronounce words like this too. English isn’t my native language so I still get corrected on a word here or there occasionally.

    I’m glad you enjoyed the book so much. I just wanted more spark between the h/h in the beginning. But I think in terms of the plot, the wager can serve as a hook, and I can understand why that is enough for other readers.

  20. Miranda Neville
    Jan 07, 2011 @ 12:27:01

    Those darn peerages. A lot of people pronounce the word viss-count. Then there’s that other title, spelled marquis or marquess but pronounced mar-kwiss. Marquis is the older spelling and I picked it for my previous book. Big mistake. I hate having to tell people it’s not The Wild Mar-kee. In future I’m sticking with nice unambiguous earls and dukes or, perish the thought, mere misters.

    Thanks for the nice review, Janine. I’m glad you, and others, enjoyed the book.

  21. Joy
    Jan 07, 2011 @ 12:43:10

    It wasn’t even the wager that hooked me. I am a sucker for nerdy heroes in historicals.

  22. Janine
    Jan 07, 2011 @ 15:29:16

    @Miranda Neville: You’re welcome. I’ll look forward to your earl, duke and mister book.

    @Joy: Nerdy heroes are fun. I haven’t come across many in historicals though.

  23. Evangeline Holland
    Jan 07, 2011 @ 18:22:13

    I’ve heard so many great things about this book since its release, and your review is enough to break my self-imposed Regency strike to buy it!

  24. Janine
    Jan 07, 2011 @ 18:48:27

    @Evangeline Holland: I hope you enjoy it, Evangeline. Let me know.

  25. Jay
    Jan 07, 2011 @ 20:10:34

    Add me to the list of people saying viss-count! Now I know! I also said marquess as “mar-kess” in my head, but read marquis as “mar-key.”

    That being said, a lot of the plot devices in this don’t sound like they would appeal to me, but I have enjoyed Neville’s work in the past so maybe her next one will catch my eye. Thanks for the review!

  26. Janine
    Jan 07, 2011 @ 20:14:38

    @Jay: Viscount is one of those words that trips you up, isn’t it?

    It might be worth it to see if you can get the book from the library because even the more familiar plot devices are approached with some freshness and verve.

  27. Cecilia Grant
    Jan 07, 2011 @ 20:52:01

    Virgin hero + rare-book nerd + self-instigated male makeover = straight to the top of the TBR pile :)

  28. Janine
    Jan 07, 2011 @ 21:35:13

    @Cecilia Grant: I hope you enjoy!

  29. Gennita Low
    Jan 07, 2011 @ 23:00:58

    Cool conversation of same topic (and other strange pronunciation of words) at:

  30. Gennita Low
    Jan 07, 2011 @ 23:03:30

  31. Gennita Low
    Jan 07, 2011 @ 23:05:49

  32. Niveau
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 04:40:24

    @Janine: It’s really never, ever a good idea to give me an opportunity to go on about a book, especially when I know the other person has read it and will know what I’m talking about… so fair warning, knowing me, this comment will be long. Read at thine own peril.

    ~~~SPOILERISH~~~~

    I have to admit, I had a hard time with the fact that the virgin hero gave the heroine an orgasm on his first sexual experience. I’m trying to get myself to let it go by comparing him to the orgasming virgin heroines I’m so used to; after all, he knew quite a lot, even if he hadn’t put it into practice, and, unlike the heroines, it wasn’t his first orgasm… still, that bit’s poking out at me.

    Also pokey: from the beginning of chapter 28:

    Sebastian regarded himself as a man of reason and restraint, the product of an advanced level of civilization, not at all the sort of person who would fling a woman over his shoulder and ravish her in a cave… It might, he considered, be worth the regression to the condition of his feral ancestors…

    Isn’t 1819 a bit early for caveman references? I could be wrong, but that popped me right out of the lovely historical vibe Diana’s clothes had been instilling in me.

    Also also pokey: in chapter 32, Diana thinks about Seb’s “misogynistic ways.” The use of the term ‘misogynistic’ is first recorded in 1821, so theoretically it could’ve been said, but it just didn’t feel right to me. It was too much of a stretch of the imagination to believe that a lady who wasn’t of a particularly scholarly bent most of her life would be using the word at that time.

    And I agree with you: I’m totally with you about a bit more darkness at times. I loved the humour, but I kind of wish she’d either made it even funnier (which really wouldn’t have worked for a plot with so much hurt being passed around) or had really committed to the tough parts. I wanted more drama, darn it! More weeping, more angst, more self-hate, more regret! (And oh, how I would have loved it if Diana had cried about the carriage-and-Min incident in front of Seb; he could’ve comforted her and been even more of a hero, and it would’ve made him feel even worse later on. Again, drama.)

    I actually found the pacing in the beginning to be a bit faster than I wanted it, though. And while I thought that Diana’s revelation about Seb > Blake was pretty well timed, I found Seb’s sudden hey, everything’s okay! at the end of the book to be a bit fast. I suppose you and I have the opposite taste when it comes to timing! But I agree completely with your grade and would’ve given the same myself :)

    There were some elements I loved, too, which is what balances out the pokey bits and lands me at a B. Sebastian was such! an awesome! virgin hero! He was a nerdy, awkward virgin, and I need one of those every now and then in an historical. The hypermasculine Dukes of Slut tire me out, and Sebastian’s got me all refreshed. Honestly, though, he wasn’t what I loved the most.

    My favourite part of the book: Diana. Diana, the widow who not only had sex with her husband, but really enjoyed it. Diana of the fabulous clothing, who wasn’t ashamed of the fact that she was doing her best to attract a man that she wanted, in large part, for his status. Diana, a heroine who thought of herself as average and actually kind of was, except that, thanks to her awareness of the fact, she managed to make herself interesting. Diana was SO COOL.

    And so was Minerva, who needs her own book. I want her to get a happy ending! (Preferably with someone who’s not as smart as her, but with some political clout, and who adores her. She can direct his career, he can make her take vacations to relax and be in love.)

    But the best part of all was that they both made mistakes, and were kind of jerks while making them. I loved the escalating war between the two of them: she hurts him, he decides to hurt her, she decides to hurt him back… their battles were awesome because neither of them was really in a position of power over the other, which gave them a level playing field. I could watch them plot against each other without feeling like one was taking advantage of the other, even when Seb was basically planning to do just that. They both screwed up, they both had to apologize, and that felt like such a great base for a relationship.

    Holy long comment, I am cutting myself off now. Thanks for bringing this book to my attention!

  33. Miranda Neville
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 10:25:20

    @Niveau. Good catch on the caveman reference. It occurred to me that it was probably a decade or two early, but by that time it was too late to change. Perhaps I should do a mea culpa on my website, à la Eloisa James.

    I am so pleased you liked Diana – not all readers do. I’m no fashionista myself (besides living in the underdressed capital of the world) but I might be if I had an unlimited budget and a really good French maid. Bit of personal fantasy there?

  34. Janine
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 10:52:50

    @Niveau:

    SPOILERS
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    The orgasm bit didn’t bother me, because as you say Diana had had good sex before and was comfortable with herself when it came to sex. IMO orgasms for us women aren’t just about the skill of our partners, but about how turned on and comfortable we are. And since Sebastian had studied up on the subject and was a fast learner, I could buy it.

    Re. the caveman reference, now that you mention it, I noticed that too. But it’s been a while since I read the book. Usually I write my reviews hot on the heels of reading the books but that wasn’t the case this time, so little details like this one slipped through the cracks.

    I see what you mean about “misogynistic ways” but it didn’t bother me.

    I would have *loved* more drama and angst, but then, I’m a sucker for that kind of stuff.

    I wasn’t referring to pacing when I said the beginning was slow to hook me, what I mean is that I wasn’t yet invested in the characters and didn’t start truly caring about what happened to them until Sebastian decided to change his appearance and make Diana regret her preference for his cousin.

    Re. the ending being a little fast-paced, I do agree with that actually. It’s another one of those more minor things I forgot about because I waited a while to review the book. So I actually think you and I may be on the same page with regard to pace.

    I agree about Sebastian, Diana and Minerva. Such great characters! Diana was probably my favorite too. With regard to Minerva, I thought she and Blakeney might be destined for a book of their own — since the author is here, maybe she can tell us?

    But the best part of all was that they both made mistakes, and were kind of jerks while making them.

    I couldn’t agree more. I love characters with flaws, especially when they own up to their flaws and make it up to each other. I didn’t want to say too much about their battles for fear of spoilers but that was so enjoyable to me too.

    Holy long comment, I am cutting myself off now.

    I enjoyed your comment. Do you blog? You would make a good reviewer.

  35. Janine
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 10:56:41

    @Miranda Neville: I loved Diana too. FWIW I don’t think all readers love the virginal, clueless about their own allure, selfless and pure heroines, either. We need more heroines like Diana.

  36. Miranda Neville
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 11:21:20

    @Janine

    With regard to Minerva, I thought she and Blakeney might be destined for a book of their own -’ since the author is here, maybe she can tell us?

    I am writing Minerva’s book now, but I’m keeping quiet about it until the appearance of the next in the series. The story of Sebastian’s best friend, the dandyish Tarquin Compton (a mere mister!), comes out in August.

  37. Janine
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 12:03:56

    @Miranda Neville: Thanks. I’m glad to hear Minerva will get her own book and will try to wait patiently to find out whether my speculation is correct.

  38. Janine
    Jan 08, 2011 @ 18:16:18

    @Gennita Low: Finally made time to read through that Word Wenches convo. Entertaining and informative! Thanks for going to all that trouble to post the link.

  39. Niveau
    Jan 10, 2011 @ 02:46:46

    @Miranda Neville: Diana was so much fun that it’s totally inconceivable to me that some readers wouldn’t like her, but reader tastes vary greatly and whatnot. I just hope that you keep writing characters who fit mine :)

    SPOILERS AHOY!

    @Janine: I went back and re-read that first sex scene, and the orgasm isn’t bothering me as much now. I think my initial dislike of it, which I was obviously still feeling when I wrote my comment, was more about the idea in general than in that specific scene, with those specific circumstances. The “misogynistic ways” does still bother me, but I think it’s similar in that it’s really more about me and my personal experiences than the book itself.

    Go dramangst lovers! I’m a total sucker for it, too. (Actually, having just read your bio up top, I’m not surprised to see that we have this in common – To Have and To Hold is my favourite romance, too, due in large part to how wonderfully emotional it is. That and the great characters and writing, and oh, such perfect pacing… but also the emotions.)

    Ah, I get what you mean about the beginning now. I think you actually said something to that effect upthread, but it obviously didn’t sink in for me.

    I also wondered if Minerva might be meant for Blakely. I assumed (correctly, in Min’s case at least!) that they’d both be appearing again, given the amount of page time they received in this book. I’m not sure of Blakely’s exact age, but for some reason I think there’s a decent solid gap there – if they do end up together, it’ll be interesting to see if that comes into play.

    I enjoyed your comment. Do you blog? You would make a good reviewer.

    Aw, thanks! There’s a certain point right after the end of every book where I want to dissect it and I think to myself, “hey, if you blogged, you could do just that.” But then I get distracted by something, usually a post or a book, and never get around to actually blogging myself. One of these days…

  40. Janine
    Jan 10, 2011 @ 09:55:05

    @Niveau:

    Go dramangst lovers! I'm a total sucker for it, too. (Actually, having just read your bio up top, I'm not surprised to see that we have this in common – To Have and To Hold is my favourite romance, too, due in large part to how wonderfully emotional it is. That and the great characters and writing, and oh, such perfect pacing… but also the emotions.)

    Don’t get me started on that book, otherwise I may not stop! Always glad to find another fan though.

    Ah, I get what you mean about the beginning now. I think you actually said something to that effect upthread, but it obviously didn't sink in for me.

    I think I communicated it poorly, since Pat didn’t pick up on what I was getting at either. I will try to phrase this differently in future reviews.

    I also wondered if Minerva might be meant for Blakely. I assumed (correctly, in Min's case at least!) that they'd both be appearing again, given the amount of page time they received in this book. I'm not sure of Blakely's exact age, but for some reason I think there's a decent solid gap there – if they do end up together, it'll be interesting to see if that comes into play.

    I’ll be interested in that too, if that happens.

    Aw, thanks! There's a certain point right after the end of every book where I want to dissect it and I think to myself, “hey, if you blogged, you could do just that.” But then I get distracted by something, usually a post or a book, and never get around to actually blogging myself. One of these days…

    Well, if you ever do take up blogging, post a link. I would check out your blog.

  41. REVIEW: The Wild Marquis by Miranda Neville | Dear Author
    Jun 16, 2011 @ 14:00:33

    [...] had enjoyed your earlier book, The Dangerous Viscount, enough that I wanted to read the upcoming The Amorous [...]

  42. Ros
    Apr 03, 2012 @ 06:00:18

    SO late to the party but I have only just started this. I’m really surprised that no one else has picked up on the weight issue. Diana is 8 stone 2. That’s 114 pounds. She’s upset that she has gained 5 lbs, so she goes on a diet. She is also described as plump. PLUMP? Now, I don’t know how tall she is but she doesn’t seem to be exceptionally short, so I am finding it very hard to believe that she can be in any way plump or in need of a diet.

    I wanted to like this book. I loved Confessions of an Arranged Marriage and I was hoping I’d found a new author to love. But I am really struggling to come to terms with this one.

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