A Notorious Proposition
May 2008, European Historical Romance (1850s [Victorian] England)
Avon, $6.99, 375 pages, Amazon ASIN 0061128589
Adele Ashworth returns to Winter Garden, a town she made famous in her classic romance. However, while I passed a few hours pleasantly enough reading A Notorious Proposition, in the end I was left almost completely unmoved by the book.
Lady Ivy Wentworth and Garrett Burke both believe the other to be a betrayer. A famous “seer” who works occasionally for the British Home Office, Ivy shared an intense week and an even more intense night of passion with Garrett two years before the main action in this story. Garrett believes Ivy betrayed him; Ivy believes that Garrett slept with her and then left her high and dry without explanation. What she doesn’t know is that the government operative left her bed for what he believed would be the successful conclusion to a mission, but instead he was knocked out by an unknown assailant and forgot the events of the few hours prior to his attack. Even worse, Garrett believes Ivy may be behind his betrayal.
Flash forward two years. Ivy has been hired by a mysterious Marquess ostensibly to use her psychic abilities to investigate whether a manor in Winter Garden is haunted. Only Ivy also has another purpose: To try to find the missing twin brother she believes to be in danger. When Garrett appears in Winter Garden and in the manor, a further dimension is added to the mystery when he informs her that valuable diamonds he was searching for two years earlier have been traced to the town.
Ms. Ashworth spends a great deal of her storytelling energies on the mystery of the diamonds and what happened in Winter Garden years earlier. In her Acknowledgements, Ms. Ashworth tells the reader that she intends this story to be viewed as a stand-alone, but, for this reader at any rate, she didn’t succeed. Many details from the previous book are referenced (details I've long since forgotten) and her explanations here seemed like info-dumpery and, therefore, the kind of passages I think most readers (raising my hand here) skim. For those reasons, the mystery here just never caught fire for me.
I liked the characters better, however, the truth is that they, too, never quite captured my imagination or came to life for me to any real degree - all of which is unfortunate since the author is responsible for several of my favorite historical romance characters of all time.
In case you can’t tell by now, I found Adele Ashworth’s latest romance to be an only slightly above average effort as things go these days. I love many of her books, but, quite honestly, this doesn't come even close to ranking as one of them.
-- Sandy Coleman
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