Title: My Lady Notorious
Author: Jo Beverley
Review number: 18
Genre: Romance/ Historical (Georgian)
Stand Alone or series: first of a series of books featuring the Malloren Sibblings
Summary From Jo Beverley’s website: To save her sister, Lady Chastity Ware hold up a coach. Unfortunately, instead of containing an elderly lord or a wealthy merchant, it holds Captain Lord Cynric Malloren, bored after time at home recovering from sickness. To her exasperation, he insists in helping her, regarding the whole thing as an adventure.
While evading the villain who seeks to snatch her sister’s child, and the military raised to search for all of them, Chastity and Cyn fall deep in love. But Chastity is a ruined woman whose father will never let her marry a Malloren, and Cyn’s brother, the formidable Marquess of Rothgar, will surely not permit such a disastrous alliance
Why did I read the book: Rave reviews everywhere and I was curious to read something by Jo Beverley who is a prolific writer, winner of many prizes. I thought this was a good place to start.
I had such a great time reading this book! It was immensely entertaining which rather surprised me as I wasn’t especially excited about reading it. I mean, another cross-dressing story? How wrong was I! This was the most fun I had in ages.
We start out with Cyn, a younger brother to the powerful Malloren family who at the tender age of 24 is still trying to prove himself to his older, very charismatic brothers. He has taken up life in the army as a way to live outside their shadow and to fulfil his need for excitement.
Now, after recovering from a fever he is utterly bored and ready for some action which shows up in the form of a mysterious lady who, dressed up as a highwayman, kidnaps the coach he is in. He is not fooled for one moment about her sex but decides to carry on with the charade – he is at the same time amused and curious as to why a clearly well-bred lady has taken such measures.
It just so happens that Chastity, or rather Charles, as he has to call her for most of the book, is desperate to help her widowed sister who is fleeing her horrendous bother-in-law who has taken guardianship of her new-born son. She needs to get Verity to her childhood sweetheart for protection. They also need to escape the clutches of their villainous father who is mysteriously bent on crushing them both.
Cyn decides to help them and figure out that the best way of doing so is by dressing up as a lady with Verity as the nurse for the kid and Charles as the footman. And he does so, by wearing a dress, make up, a wig and red high heeled shoes, the whole shebang! This is such a different turn from the brooding, larger than life type – Cyn is not the bulky kind of hero, he is slim and he has what is described as feminine features including long eye lashes. He is of course, very attractive to Chastity and she has to fight her urges because she still thinks he believes she is a man. And then we get a fast-paced farce that made me roar with laughter at some points.
The story carries on and Cyn is still trying to figure out who the ladies are and then finds out that Chastity is the Notorious Chastity Ware, a woman who has been ruined in the eyes of society when her MOST villainous father arranged for her to be caught in bed with said horrendous brother in law so that she could marry him. Being innocent she refused to do so was beat up and had her hair cut as a punishment (which clearly helps her with her disguise). But never fear because at this point he is clearly falling for her and the early signs of protectiveness are already showing up.
This book is very audacious not only be presenting us with a hero who has no problem with dressing up as a woman but also by placing the characters in rather unusual situations – at one point they end up attending a proper orgy when they run into one of Cyn’s friends. Georgian times were wild baby! And even though they did not participate on the public side of things we still get some glimpses of some crazy caligulesque scenes before they settle on an orgy of their own, in private – that involved grapes, tarts, cream and other food stuff. Their love making is as humorous as their banter. And hot. I did mention the cream right?
And then the author punches us another time in the stomach adding the suspense of not knowing what is going to happen next – they eventually get separated and her father catches up. I was on the edge of my seat and I never felt that she was truly safe. All seemed to be possible and sometimes Cyn is not there to save her.
Cyn was a truly marvelous protagonist, he had such a lightness to his actions and words, always prepared for eventualities and with a marvelous certainty that the Mallorens can do anything! And I felt so much sympathy for Chastity –in a time where women were bound to obey their fathers and eventually their husbands and any signs of rebellion were duly punished. Yet she dared, as much as she could, to hold to at least the power of saying no, no matter the dreadful consequences which she could not escape. Until the wonderful Mallorens came to the scene and all gathered around her like knights in shinning armors once their younger brother declared his intentions.
Oh, there is so much more to be said that about this novel – there are so many tender moments, sensual encounters, funny scenes, adventures and escapades , sword fights and some jaw dropping encounters with Rothgar Malloren, the overpowering oldest brother. He has a story of his own and I for once, can not wait to read it.
This is a perfect example of a fantastic romance novel. It even has a beautiful cover and a sensible title! More of that, please.
Notable quotes/Parts: All the sexual moments in the book involved some kind of food and it was a perfect combination of erotic and funny. Who would have thought that reading about two people eating warm biscuits would send shivers down my spine:
Cyn and Chastity (dressed as Charles, still clueless that Cyn knows she is a woman) bought two Shewsbuty Biscuits and he popped on into her mouth and took a bite of his,
“still walking slowly backward. She took a bite of her own. He trapped her gaze and she found herself watching his lips as he bit again and chewed. He had beautiful lips, with a perfect bow-curve…… The muscles of his throat moved as he swallowed. His tongue slid out. He slowly licked a trace of golden crumbs away from those lips, leaving the gloss of moisture behind. His eyelids lowered sleepily, sensuously and he smiled. (….)
‘Taste, texture, heat’, he said softly, seeming to dare her to take another bite. ‘Life offers such beautifully simple yet rich pleasures for our delight. Taste them with me, Charles’. “
And that pretty much sets the tone to their most heated moments.
Additional thoughts: This is the second book I read which is set in Georgian times, and both had orgies. I read a few things online and it seems that the high classes had a certain joie de vivre that was utterly amoral and decadent. At the same time, it was also the era of the Industrial and Social Revolutions which means that not all members of the richer classes were simply idly sitting in their country houses indulging in their senses. As with any historical moment, there are the nuances, the ups and downs that makes the study of history so interesting.
Verdict: a thoroughly enjoyable book with rich history background, amazing characters and funny and endearing moments.
Rating: 8. Cyn is an absolutely delightful hero. And I can’t wait to read about the other Mallorens.
Reading next: Honor’s Splendor by Julie Garwood