Sunday, January 13, 2013

Not Proper Enough by Carolyn Jewel

Why I read it:  I didn't read much historical romance last year.  I wasn't in the mood and if I'm not in the mood, I'm less likely to enjoy the book.  I try to pick up books I think I will like and sometimes that is merely a matter of timing.  I won this book from the author around the time it came out and the deal was that I would post a review - no big deal because I review everything I read anyway.  It's certainly a book I would have bought if I hadn't won it.  Ms. Jewel writes such beautiful prose.  And it is precisely because I have such respect for her words, that I waited until now to read the book.  

What it's about:  (from Goodreads)  A woman should always keep her standards...

Meant to be?

The Marquess of Fenris has loved Lady Eugenia from the day he first set eyes on her. Five years ago, pride caused him to earn her enmity. Now she's widowed, and he's determined to make amends and win her heart.  But with their near explosive attraction, can he resist his desire long enough to court her properly?

After the death of her beloved husband, Lady Eugenia Bryant has come to London to build a new life. Despite the gift of a medallion said to have the power to unite the wearer with her perfect match, Eugenia believes she won't love again. And yet, amid the social whirl of chaperoning a young friend through her first Season, she finds a second chance at happiness.

Unfortunately, the Marquess of Fenris threatens her newfound peace. Eugenia dislikes the man, but the handsome and wealthy heir to a dukedom is more charming than he has a right to be. Constantly underfoot, the rogue disturbs her heart, alternately delighting and scandalizing her.  And when their relationship takes a highly improper turn, Eugenia must decide if the wrong man isn’t the right one after all.

What worked for me (and what didn't): There is something very attractive to me about a man desperately in love who has to work for his lady (without being an alpha hole).  Hence, Fenris (aka Fox) is very attractive to me.  He's been in love with her for years - his attraction led him to say something awful about which ruined his friendship with his best friend Robert (the man Eugenia - Ginny- married).  Ginny is now a widow and is starting to re-enter society.  She still misses Robert  but life goes on (as she has discovered) and she is lonely - for companionship, for physical passion. 

Ginny believes Robert was her one true love and it is not in her to love again.  It is essentially the same conflict that Lily had in Not Wicked Enough.  It worked better for me in this book, possibly because Ginny and Robert had happy years together and while it has been some years since he died, it has not been all that long.   Added to that, Ginny hates Fenris because of the awful things he said about her and the damage he did to her reputation and the hurt he caused Robert in doing so.

At the start of the book, Fox has a dream of Ginny in the exact dress which is on the cover.  How awesome is that?  I tweeted the author about it and she replied that she'd had an opportunity to see the cover and added the description in but whether it or the text was first, I love when the cover has a meaning and is not just some random sexy girl in a period costume.  The main significance of the dream is that he dreams Robert comes to him and asked him to take care of Ginny, to see to her happiness.  Armed with Robert's non corporeal blessing, Fox sets out to do his best to change Ginny's mind and win her heart.

Ginny, for her part, is quite genuine in her dislike of Fox, but is equally cognisant of his superb face and figure.  And then Fox starts to be nice.  How irritating that he cannot be consistently boorish - it would be so much easier for her to maintain her dislike of him.

Even long after the dislike has faded and been forgiven and after they start a very sexy liaison against her better judgement, Ginny does not believe she can ever love Fox - she also doesn't believe he loves her, despite him telling her so on more than one occasion.  But, he makes her laugh and she is irresistibly drawn to him and his six pack (and what lies below it).

The prose is beautiful, as I've come to expect from Ms. Jewel. My highlighter got quite the workout.  And there is some wonderful snark too (Ginny and Fox share a dry and sometimes cutting sense of humour).
Half a dozen fobs, dangled from his watch chain, which, in Eugenia's opinion, was five fobs too many.  His cravat was a confection of linen so thoroughly starched he could not move his chin without danger of slitting his throat.
 (this does not refer to Fox by the way).

I loved how Fox, skilled with the ladies and clever with words, was always putting his foot in it with Ginny.  I also loved how he recognised it and tried his best to change things.
"You may do whatever you like.  I'd prefer that you defer to my expertise, though.  If you don't like what I choose for you, by all means buy another weapon more to your tastes.  I hope to God you'll at least consult the gunsmith before you do. "  Lord but he sounded an ass.  He stopped the words that would have followed and made him sound an even bigger prig than he had already.  He took a breath and waiting until he was confident he could speak in a manner that wouldn't get her back up.  "Allow me to restate.  If you'll permit me to purchase something for you, I will be easier in my mind, knowing you've a quality firearm that suits you. You may reimbursement for the expense if you like."
I liked the push/pull of the relationship between Ginny and Fox. Ginny doesn't want to like him, doesn't want to want him.  Fox wants her anyway he can get her and will use any tools reasonably at his disposal, including her unwanted but definite desire for him.
"I don't understand why I've remained so besotted with you over the years.  But I have done so, and here you are, Ginny, in my private home.  Quite alone and just drunk enough that you haven't slapped me."
"I don't like you," she whispered.  "Not even a little."
"I know."  He lowered his head to hers, and he thought, To hell with decency. And to bloody hell with caution. "Isn't is delicious this way?"
Ginny is always completely consenting in their encounters, Fox does not importune her.  And once Ginny decides to go for it, she doesn't hold back.  There is a very interesting scene involving some purple, scented ink...

I enjoyed the secondary story of Hester Rendell (a young girl Ginny is sponsoring for the season) and the Duke of Camber (Fox's father).

However.  The end felt abrupt to me.  For almost the entire book, Ginny had been convinced she could not love Fox.  But then something clicks into place and she realises she already does.  While that sort of thing absolutely does happen - something just clicks (in fact something similar happened to my very own self), I needed a bit more explanation of how that happened and why it happened at that very moment.  It seemed unfortunately like it happened because the book was ending rather than anything else.  Ginny had a similar dream (albeit near the end of the book) to Fox's dream, and I wondered if she would also dream of Robert giving her permission and whether that would be the key. But she didn't and it wasn't.  (Was that too spoilerish?).

It took Ginny a very long time to accept that Fox did love her, even though he was quite frank about his feelings.  Accepting her own feelings for him, accepting that loving Fox did not mean that she loved Robert any less - they were necessary for the HEA but the shift just seemed abrupt to me.

I did absolutely love that Robert was in no way demonised.  He was also not elevated to sainthood.  Definite bonus points for both.

What else? I'm someone who doesn't like to not know the end of a story.  The surest way to annoy me and bring out my inner terrior is to start a sentence or a story and not complete it.  (It is part of my love/hate relationship with panel talk shows and why I HATE cliffhangers).  Very often in this book, something provocative would be said or done at the end of a chapter and the next chapter would commence the next day or week later. While the story itself was complete - I always wondered what happened after those provocations.   This one is entirely on me though, because, like I said, the story was complete.

My main 'complaint' with Not Wicked Enough was that it lacked conflict.  Looking objectively back on Not Proper Enough, I could probably say something similar, but this book worked better for me.  I have enjoyed both books and get happily carried away in the lyrical prose and sense of place in the stories.  Not Proper Enough had more conflict IMO but not loads of it. The medallion played only a tangential part in the story and that worked better for me here too.   But the big winner for me was the characters and the beautifully put together words used to describe them.  I recommend.

In addition, I look forward to Lord Aigen's story with bated breath.

Grade: B

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