The Edge of Impropriety

Pam Rosenthal
November 2008, European Historical Romance (1820s England)
Signet Eclipse, $14.00, 339 pages, Amazon ASIN 045122230X

Grade: B-
Sensuality: Hot

Pam Rosenthal burst on the scene in 2003 with Almost a Gentleman, a genre-bustin’ winner. Though it’s been downhill ever since, the good news is that The Edge of Impropriety is certainly better than her last two, but nowhere in the same league as her first.

On the keeping the news positive front, her prose is literate and I never doubted for one moment the sexual chemistry between her hero and heroine. On the slightly less positive side, the book features a standard issue e-e-e-e-e-v-i-l villain and, just as disappointingly, things never really take off outside the bedroom.

Marina, Countess of Gorham, rose from her background as a lowly lass to her current incarnation as an aristocratic widow and popular society novelist. She is a woman of experience (and seems to have always been) who habitually takes a lover every year for the duration of the London Season.

Jasper Hedges is the guardian and uncle – or, as the reader quickly learns, actually the biological father – of a young man rumored to be Marina’s latest lover. Scholarly Jasper disapproves of the relationship, of course, and arranges to meet the wicked widow at a party at her home. Sparks fly and the two almost instantly become clandestine lovers.

In the meantime, Marina is being blackmailed by a moneylender and Jasper dabbles in London’s antiquarian scene. As an enlightened scholar, he is a proponent of returning Greek antiquities to the country from which they were taken – a position that puts him out of step with popular opinion since this was an era in which the Elgin Marbles were all the rage. While this side plot was interesting to me, it also felt vaguely out of place.

The book works best when the author zeroes in on Marina and Jasper, which, fortunately, she does a great deal. Still, as enjoyable as their interludes are – and they are – they also seem to be without any real sense of forward momentum. No matter how much the chemistry between the two sizzles and their conversations entertain, the lack of a real story arc to their relationship tempered my enjoyment of this novel.

Ultimately, Pam Rosenthal delivers an adult story here with adult characters (and I really like my grown-ups) and it’s one I think many readers will enjoy. Almost a Gentleman it’s not, but The Edge of Impropriety is certainly leagues better than most historical romances these days.

-- Sandy Coleman

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