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REVIEW: Always a Scoundrel by Suzanne Enoch

Dear Ms. Enoch:

Always a Scoundrel Suzanne EnochI’ve really enjoyed this Notorious Gentleman series which started with After the Kiss and ends with Always a Scoundrel, a book that csquared deemed one of your best in years. I agree. This is a book that had my emotions in my throat nearly the entire time. It was dark, evocative, and moving.

Lord Bramwell Lowry Johns is the second son of the Duke of Levonzy. He lives off his gambling winnings and his allowance, although, the latter is an unreliable source of income as his father is prone to cutting Bram off regularly. Bram actively courts his father’s disapproval. The two have been at odds since Bram was 16 years old when the Duke told Bram he was a disgrace and Bram set out to prove the Duke correct. He contacted Kingston Gore, the Marquis of Cosgrove, and allowed Cosgrove to lead him down every path of licentiousness. For years and with the tutelage of Cosgrove, Bram has tried to bring disrepute onto the house of Levonzy. His goals were slightly interrupted when his two best friends entered the First Royal Dragoons on the Peninsula and Bram followed them.

Upon the three gentlemen’s return from the war, Bram’s two friends got married and he felt adrift. He found himself back in the company of Lord Cosgrove and doing increasingly reckless things like stealing jewelry from all his father’s friends. One night he finds himself in the home of Lord Abernathy and overhears that Lady Rosamund Davies, Abernathy’s middle daughter, is to be sacrificed to Cosgrove on the altar of matrimony.

Lady Rosamund Davies, daughter of the Earl of Abernathy, lives a quiet life. Her older sister, Beatrice, married well. Her father and mother ignore her and her brother has fallen in with Cosgrove racking up a near insurmountable debt. Rose runs the household efficiently and without complaint.   Cosgrove will cancel the debt if Rose marries him. Initially Rose resists, but what is a young woman to do? She wants to protect her family and recognizes that she’s the only reparation that Cosgrove will accept. It’s either marriage or ruination for the Abernathys.

Something stirs to life in Bram. Perhaps it is because he regrets the man he has become, a man formed by Cosgrove, a man once broken by Cosgrove. Bram is stirred enough to action to offer himself to Rose, not to save her from Cosgrove but to help her save herself.

“I’ve decided to do you a favor,” he said finally, the lazy drawl just touching his voice and stirring down her spine in response.
She folded her hands in front of her. “And what favor is that, pray tell?”
“Kingston Gore will eat you alive,” he returned even more quietly, taking a slow step closer among the milling guests. “Beginning with your honor, and ending with your soul.”
“I-‘”
“I know this, because I fed him mine a very long time ago.”

Bram initially tells Rose to call the arrangement off and tell her family to go to hell. But when she adamantly refuses, Bram agrees to instruct her, to help her in anyway she can, to prepare her for marriage with a monster.

“I don’t like my family,” she whispered as they drew near, “but they are my family. They depend on me. This is how I am required to render my assistance.” As for her private feelings about that circumstance, she wasn’t about to enlighten him.
Slowly he slipped his arm from hers, stopping as she continued to advance. “Then allow me to teach you how to play the game,” he murmured from behind her.

Make no doubt about it, Cosgrove is villainous. He’s attractive and sauve; rich and titled. But he is dark soul and his blackness is revealed slowly and only when directly challenged. His calculation and perceptiveness made him all the more horrible.

“Get away from me,” she rasped.
He leaned closer. “Never,” he whispered. “The thing about hell, my dear, is that the devil hates being alone. You belong to me, just as my horse does. And Bramwell does now as well, I suppose.”
“Go away.”
“The only reason I won’t put you on your back at this moment is that I want us both to appreciate the wait. I know I do.”

Rose learns that self preservation sometimes comes at the cost of not being the martyr; of letting go of the perceived ideas of honor and duty. Conversely, the events of the story force Bram to reconnect with his own family and he is given an opportunity to redress old wrongs. It’s kind of a fascinating dichotomy as if Rose and Bram are at different points on the spectrum of familial duty and honor. Bram’s heroism lies ultimately in his humility and his willingness to do anything, even face his father, to save Rose. Rose then provides the love for Bram that she once lavished on her unworthy family.

While most of the relationship conflict is external, there was still very strong emotional draws as Bram grapples with his redemption and Rose works to extract herself from a horrible future. This was a great reformed rake story because Bram’s decision to go down that dark path was so easily understandable. His father hurt him terribly and Bram spent his whole life trying to repay that hurt. It was easy to see how Bram tried to be a better man when he was with his friends, Phin and Sullivan. But it was also easy to see how a negative and dark influence could take over when his friends had moved on to have wives and families. Rose’s decision to support her family made sense in the context of her life and time period. Perhaps her actions with Bram might have been unusual but faced with the fright of Cosgrove, who wouldn’t have taken any lifeline?

I so enjoyed your Notorious Gentleman series and I can’t wait to see what’s next. A-

Best regards,

Jane

This book can be purchased in mass market from an independent bookstore or ebook format from the Sony Store and other etailers.

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

22 Comments

  1. Danielle
    Apr 29, 2009 @ 07:31:02

    I running out today to buy this book!!!! Suzanne is one of my favorite authors. Thanks for the reivew.

  2. Jane A
    Apr 29, 2009 @ 08:45:24

    Hmm. I used to enjoy Enoch though I’d stopped reading her partway through her “Sin” series. I picked her back up after all the buzz about this series. I read the first book, which I thought was okay. And I just finished the second book, which I pretty much hated. But I have noticed our book preferences often parallel so now I’m tempted to try this one. Had you read Before The Scandal? Did you enjoy it?

  3. Jane
    Apr 29, 2009 @ 08:47:39

    @Jane A I really disliked the SIN series. In fact, I think I stopped reading them after the first two books. I did read Before the Scandal and liked it, but thought that it didn’t have the depth of the first and last. It’s not at all memorable to me.

  4. Sarah Frantz
    Apr 29, 2009 @ 08:55:13

    Can you read this book without reading the other three in series?

  5. Jane
    Apr 29, 2009 @ 08:57:10

    @Sarah Frantz Definitely. You get little glimpses of previous characters throughout but it’s definitely a story that stands on its own. One problem that I should have mentioned in the review was that all of the use of proper names was confusing. Like I couldn’t figure out who the Duke of Levonzy was right away because Bram doesn’t refer to him as his father, just as the Duke of Levonzy.

  6. Kati
    Apr 29, 2009 @ 09:05:25

    Hmm, I stopped reading Enoch a while ago, but this one has gotten really good reviews most places I’ve visited. I think I’ll add it to my TBB list.

    On another note, that is some very bad heroine hair going on on the cover. Is she in a wind tunnel??

  7. evie byrne
    Apr 29, 2009 @ 09:52:09

    “On another note, that is some very bad heroine hair going on on the cover. Is she in a wind tunnel??”

    Exactly what I was thinking, Kati. He doesn’t appear to be in the same wind tunnel, either–she’s in some kind of space-time anomaly, I think, a Passion Vortex. That’s why he’s wearing that bemused expression.

    But anyway, it sounds like a really good read. Thanks for the review!

  8. Corrine
    Apr 29, 2009 @ 10:32:04

    I’m so excited! I know what I’m reading this weekend. I’m relieved that Ms. Enoch returned to a higher level of writing (I, too, hated the SIN series). There are too many authors that believe that what they’re currently writing is as high in quality as what they’ve previously published, but more often than not, they’re wrong.

  9. Julie James
    Apr 29, 2009 @ 11:21:45

    Sarah F. asked the same question I’d been wondering. Good to hear I can pick this up without having read the others. I’ve read some of Suzanne Enoch’s contemporaries (the Sam Jellicoe series), but haven’t tried one of her historicals. Sounds like a good place to start.

  10. Danielle
    Apr 29, 2009 @ 15:48:34

    I was able to get this book at Target today!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. SonomaLass
    Apr 29, 2009 @ 16:46:55

    Going to have to check this out. I really liked Enoch’s short stories in the Lady Whistledown collections, but I read some so-so reviews of her full length historicals and never picked one up.

    Thanks, Jane! And thanks, Danielle, for letting me know to check Target.

  12. C2
    Apr 29, 2009 @ 18:35:56

    I feel so famous! :-D

    This book really is so very good – Bram’s character arc was quite well done. And Rosamund’s too.

    I gave up on the SIN series, too, so I was a bit nervous about this series. It was a very pleasant surprise that all three books turned out to be good.

    If anyone hasn’t read Suzanne Enoch before, I think this series is a good place to start.

  13. Kaetrin
    Apr 29, 2009 @ 22:13:43

    @ Jane

    I’ve read a few reviews where the villain was criticised for being too one (or two?) dimensional, just EEEEVIL and not nuanced at all.

    It sounds like you thought this villain was very well drawn. Is Cosgrove in your “top 10 best villains”? (BTW, I’d like to know who the other 9 are too!).

  14. Margie
    Apr 30, 2009 @ 12:01:17

    I just finished this book and agree that it was great. I appreciate how Enoch was able to make it deeply moving while still having Bram be very charming and funny. I laughed out loud a couple of times.

    It’s interesting that other people have said the villain was one-dimensional. I disagree. I liked the fact that Enoch didn’t spend a lot of time in Kingston’s head, but she does give subtle hints that add depth. The quote Jane used above was one good example. We’re given a little glimpse into his character, ie he tries to drag people down to his level because he’s lonely in hell, without having to read pages of evil (and boring) musings.

  15. Jane
    Apr 30, 2009 @ 12:06:30

    @Margie I’m so glad that you liked it Margie.

    @Kaetrin: I agree with Margie that the villain is not one dimensional. He is evil and cruel and we see just how clever he is in his ability to emotionally manipulate people. He did not merely want to dominate over the heroine, but take her gently bred spirit until she was a husk, emotionally. He wanted to own her and others and thought for a time there that he was going to own Bram through her.

  16. Kaetrin
    Apr 30, 2009 @ 16:39:03

    CORRECTION CORRECTION!!

    Ah, now I see where I went wrong in my post. There were some crucial words missing.

    it should have read “I’ve read a few reviews (not of this book, but just of romance novels generally), where the villains are criticised for being one-dimensional.

    Sorry, my bad.

    My question was really around: Is this a really great example of a villain given that other books are criticised for doing it badly? And, querying (althougth, slightly off topic, I know) other well written villains in romance.

  17. Tammy
    Apr 30, 2009 @ 17:02:20

    I’ll pick this one up, but what I’m really drooling for is Ms. Enoch’s next Addison/Jellicoe contemporary.

  18. LaurieF
    Apr 30, 2009 @ 22:51:00

    Have to speak up and say I loved the Sin series, especially the conclusion book 4.
    As for the first two books in the Notorious Gentleman series, I thought they were only so-so.
    But I did buy Always a Scoundrel. Enoch is an auto-buy for me.

  19. Dear Author Recommends for May | Dear Author: Romance Novel Reviews, Industry News, and Commentary
    May 08, 2009 @ 08:55:13

    […] Always a Scoundrel by Suzanne Enoch.  True rogue tries to shed his past bad association and help a pratical woman about to be trapped in marriage to a man who takes pleasure in destroying others.  Recommended by Jane. […]

  20. romance novel blogs
    May 10, 2009 @ 22:03:03

    […] Jane from Dear Author seems to agree. I’ve really enjoyed this Notorious Gentleman series which started with After the Kiss and ends with Always a Scoundrel, a book that csquared deemed one of your best in years. I agree. This is a book that had my emotions in my throat nearly the entire time. It was dark, evocative, and moving. […]

  21. votermom
    Jun 02, 2009 @ 07:15:18

    I just read this because of your review. Great rec!
    The plot reminds me of the Barbara Cartland books I used to devour when I was a pre-teen — innocent young miss agrees to wed rich evil lord to save her family and is rescued by handsome but not-rich-or-powerful young lord. But here they are realistic characters.
    Cosgrove’s a good, satisfying villain. He’s handsome, rich, sadistic and addicted to absinthe, and one sense a deep contempt for women. I like how every time Rose tries to stand up to him, the situation escalates. She really is doomed if she marries him. The abuser dynamic was well-captured by the author.

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