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REVIEW: The Notorious Scoundrel by Alexandra Benedict

Note: I am so sorry for this posting and the not posting. I have a problem of prescheduling and then not paying attention to what is prescheduled.

The Notorious Scoundrel by Alexandra BenedictDear Ms. Benedict:

This is my first book of yours and while I liked that the characters were from the non landed class, I felt like you didn’t take advantage of the potential for an original setting. Instead the characters looked and sounded as if they were part of the ton, perhaps to evoke a sensibility in the reader unnecessarily.

Edmund Hawkins is the middle brother of the infamous Hawkins brothers. Their sister married the “Duke of Rogues” and so the Hawkins brothers are tangentially part of society. As Edmund describes it, “The haunte monde wasn’t interested in befriending the Hawkins brothers. The haute monde was interested in drawing the brothers out of their gilded cage, gawking at them, gossiping about them behind their backs.”

One bored night, Edmund goes to what is described to him as “the most wicked” whorehouse in London where he is entranced by a veiled dancer. The veiled dancer is Amy Peel. Amy, the heroine, provides one of the most contradictory form in the book.

Let’s examine Amy. Amy is an erotic dancer but she is a virgin and her employer ,”Her Highness, Queen Rafaramanjaka” wants to keep Amy a virgin. Yes, the purported former monarch from Madagascar runs the most wicked whorehouse in London but Amy is just hired to stir up the fires in the groin, not put them out.

How Amy kept her virginity, having lived in the slums for ten years (age six to sixteen) prior to being found by Queen Rafaramanjaka, is unknown and unexplained. Amy has a mysterious past. She was not slum born. The origins of her birth unexplained. Yet, Amy who grew up in the streets, flash houses, and rookeries speaks with the diction of the well educated. In an early exchange with Edmund who she believes to, Amy says “An educated thief. I’m impressed.” Her monologues match those of a learned individual (this is particularly noticeable given that Amy can’t read).

She looked back at Quincy. A good thing he was a gossip, for she'd learn little about their unique family dynamic from the surly Edmund. For instance, she'd discovered there was a significant age difference between the brothers, stemming from the fact that their father had been away at sea for more than a decade, pressed into naval service. Upon his return, the family had expanded, and so had their maritime ventures with the acquisition of the Bonny Meg , their ancestral ship.

Amy also is supposedly saving every penny she can to get away from her wretched life under Queen Rafaramanjaka. She plans to save enough money to live out the rest of her life in comfort. Yet she buys gilt hand mirrors, perfumes, damask window treatments, a croquet set, brass candlestick holders, and boxes and boxes of gloves.

I understand that you were trying to show us that Amy was a misfit and allude to some mystery of Amy’s past life, but not only was it heavy handed but it wasn’t consistent with the way in which she purportedly lived her life. It sounded like she was a spendthrift.

Edmund saves Amy from a kidnapping attempt, suffers amnesia and Amy houses him for his safety. Edmund chafes at Amy’s chosen profession. Rails at her choice and urges her to quit (and do what, Edmund?). Conveniently Edmund recovers from amnesia and whisks Amy off to his home, hoping to train her to become a lady’s maid or companion. Edmund is convinced that no one will discover her because no one pays attention to his home (but see infra the reference regarding how the haute monde likes to gossip about the Hawkins brothers? Who cares about internal consistency when forwarding the plot, right?)

Edmund has to fight for the right to house Amy when his older brother tries to suggest that it isn’t appropriate. Edmund doesn’t want to let Amy out of his sight and his brother, Quincy, addicted to opium, needs help as well. Edmund feels like he is always being treated as a child by his older brother and wants to prove that he isn’t the derelict bounder that he has been labeled.

When the true origins of Amy’s past are discovered, Edmund is beset with new insecurities while Amy tries to be happy with the life she thought she always wanted.

I felt like we had one trite storyline after another. First, the rags to riches portrayal of Amy. Then, the amnesia plotline followed by the Henry Higgins/Eliza Doolittle storyline. It is capped off by the lost heir, the unwanted forced marriage and the convenient virgin. The ending was a surprise though.

I did appreciate that Edmund and his brothers didn’t totally have a lovefest but that Edmund strained against his place as the middle and irrresponsible child. Amy was a fairly weak character and the romance between the two was flat. C-

Best regards,

Jane

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This is a mass market published by Avon, a member of the Agency 5. Pricing is set by Avon for the digital books.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

11 Comments

  1. evie byrne
    May 11, 2010 @ 17:26:49

    Hmm…the review seems to be missing, but– 80’s flashback!–doesn’t that guy on the cover look exactly like the singer from A-Ha????

    (oh no. now that song is stuck in my head.)

  2. joanne
    May 12, 2010 @ 15:40:55

    Yes, an 80’s cover, with most of the 80’s tropes thrown in.

    Too bad, I think the idea of a female in a historical romance being able to make her living anonymously as a veiled dancer could have been very entertaining.

    Jo Goodman did a heroine who was raised in the slums of London by a Fagin type character but it worked, for me, in that book. I can’t remember if that character spoke in an educated manner or not.

  3. Valarie P
    May 12, 2010 @ 15:50:31

    You were far more lenient in your grading than I was. I gave it a F. I couldn’t believe all the trite storylines, and the over-used, convenient trope she used to write her way out of the corner she backed herself into at the end. I was so disappointed in this book, especially since I have enjoyed so many of her books in the past.

  4. Jane
    May 12, 2010 @ 15:54:44

    @Valarie P: Given that I was surprised at what led up to the ending, the resolution of the penultimate scenes resulted just a minor eyeroll.

  5. Mina Kelly
    May 13, 2010 @ 03:04:47

    There’s potential here, but it seems like each nugget belongs in a different book. A historical about non-landed gentry would be interesting. A heroine who works as a whore but obsessively collects the trappings of high society without knowing why would be damn intriguing. The monarch of Madagascar owning a whorehouse in London should be libellousy fascinating. Amnesia plotlines are a guilty pleasure. And yet, bunged together in one book, it just can’t work.

  6. mdegraffen
    May 13, 2010 @ 07:40:47

    I once confused Alexandra Benedict and Victoria Alexander. I’ll never do that again!

  7. Bianca
    May 13, 2010 @ 09:40:43

    When the true origins of Amy's past are discovered…

    …yawn. Let me guess: she’s a secret duchess/Lady/daughter of an aristocrat. Ugh. This book sounds like it had such potential to be different (what with a non-aristocratic hero and heroine), but it devolved into the same old, same old. :/

    Good review, definitely a pass for me.

  8. Jane
    May 13, 2010 @ 13:29:51

    @mdegraffen I get Karen Ranney and another Karen mixed up. I think they both write Scottish historicals. One I like and one I don’t and honestly I can never remember which one is which.

  9. mdegraffen
    May 14, 2010 @ 07:14:28

    @Jane I think you mean Karen Hawkins. I confuse them too. Do you think the similar pseudonyms are intentional? I wonder sometimes.

  10. Jane
    May 14, 2010 @ 08:21:18

    @mdegraffen Yes! Karen Hawkins. I don’t know if they are similar on purpose. I think it works to their disadvantage as well as their advantage.

  11. Karen Ranney
    May 14, 2010 @ 11:45:22

    Speaking strictly as me – I don’t know about Karen Hawkins – Karen Ranney is my real name. It’s all over everything: driver’s license, mortgage papers, electric bill.

    It actually never occurred to me to have a pseudonym. Now, it’s a bit too late.

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