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Monday, May 3, 2010

The Notorious Scoundrel by Alexandra Benedict

The Notorious Scoundrel by Alexandra Benedict
Publisher: HarperCollins
Genre: Historical
Length: Full (371 pages)
Heat: Spicy
Rating: 4 Books
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Like an irresistible siren, the veiled dancer with the bewitching green eyes lures dukes and earls down into London's underworld to see her dance—and succumb to her spell. Some say she's a princess, but only one man knows her darkest secret.

She is Amy Peel, an orphan from the city's rookeries, and she believes the bold rogue who unmasks her to be nothing but a scoundrel—albeit a dangerously handsome one. He may have rescued her from an attempted kidnapping, but she will not give in to his sensual seduction or to the wicked desire she begins to feel . . .

He is Edmund Hawkins, swashbuckling pirate turned reluctant gentleman, and he will not let the lovely Amy slip through his grasp, especially when he learns she's in greater peril than she could possibly know. He will do everything in his power to protect her—for this notorious scoundrel has truly, unbelievably, lost his heart.

The Notorious Scoundrel takes a reader on a roller coaster of highs and lows, fast clipped turns and slow deceitful climbs only to plummet into action, intrigue and conspiracy.

Our focus is on Amy, the heroine. She is all alone in the world until one fateful encounter turns her carefully controlled world upside down. She’s tried to make it on her own while avoiding the usual pitfalls of a lone female in London’s society. She’s made do with what she has to in order to survive and is determined to succeed. She’s at times haughty, feisty, earnest and vulnerable. She doesn’t trust easily and keeps her own counsel but a reader can tell she wants more; yearns for more. One night starts a domino effect that ends up giving her more than she bargained for. I got to see a woman who started off the story as being a victim in one way only to be a victim in many other ways. It is her internal strength of character, her intuition and trust in herself and the decisions she makes because of it that makes Amy worth turning the pages for.

Edmund is quite the puzzle. He’s Amy’s hero, rescuer and all around master of confusion. I guess it must be hard being a middle son and poor Edmund is stuck with two brash, bold and established older brothers. One just made me grind my teeth in annoyance because he was irritatingly larger-than-life but it sure made me appreciate Edmund’s stance. I also think that Edmund never satisfactorily gets out from under the eldest brother’s thumb. The confrontation didn’t work for me as a means to an end but a man’s reasoning is different than the female mind. I really enjoyed his character’s many facets however. He covers his emotions well for the most part so no one really knows the man he is, only what he believes they want to see; everyone except Amy. I liked the descriptives of how she made him feel, of how she affected him. It made me very glad he was getting his HEA because no man should be looked upon in so shallow a way.

The conflict is a clever mixture of misdirection and tease. I knew the early clue would show up somewhere but never put two and two together. I thought I figured out a few things but ended up being just as flummoxed as Edmund. And what I thought was going to be a happy and sappy thing ended up malevolent and twisted. It was quite the surprise. Then there was a scene that reminded me of the end of the movie, Mrs. Robinson, except there was no dramatic entry or mad dash to wherever. And that had me gritting my teeth in suspense and shock. There should have been! But the clever Ms. Benedict had a few devious surprises for this reader that had me nodding with appreciation. I felt both remorse and sadness for the villain and at the same time wanted to have justice done by a swift and mighty pummeling. Quite a good bit of writing.

The Notorious Scoundrel is a well written historical romance filled with intrigue, drama and a love that defies all obstacles and perseveres against varied foes. When this reader turned the last page, I was left with the warm feeling that happiness and a bright future awaits for Amy and Edmund. I enjoyed the journey and would recommend it to others.