|Susanna and Dev’s love story is both enchanting and rule-breaking in the new novel Notorious by Nicola Cornick.
Susanna Burney is an engagement wrecker by trade, and how she got into it is a long story. Susanna fell in love and married Admiral James Devlin as a very young adult, but she thought leaving the morning after their marriage was the best thing to do for Dev, as she was misled by his family. After leaving, she discovered that she was pregnant. Poor, abandoned by her own family, and carrying Dev’s baby, she goes to the port that he was to sail from, only to find that he’s long gone.
Susanna does whatever work she can to support herself, until one day she’s offered the chance at a lot of money for very little work: to break up an inappropriate engagement. The would-be groom’s parents are displeased with the mate he’s chosen for various reasons and hire Susanna to enchant their son away from his fiancée.
Susanna successfully completes her mission and is quickly hired for another and then another. She eventually finds herself with her first commission in London, to break up Fitzwilliam Alton and his intended, Chessie. Susanna has no idea who Chessie is, given that the Altons barely mention her when they hire Susanna.
It turns out that Chessie is James Devlin’s sister, and Susanna quickly realizes that her planned seduction of Fitz will be much more difficult than she had planned. Dev knows Susanna’s real name, some of her real past, and he’s only grown more handsome and enticing since she left him years earlier. Dev’s set up his life now, with a titled, rich fiancée. He knows that exposing Susanna’s deception will only rock the boat in his precarious position before he marries Emma. However, he’s unwilling to stand by and let Susanna wreck Chessie’s good match. Dev decides to play at Susanna’s game of deceit, without knowing exactly how much it will cost them both.
In a lot of ways, Notorious is a story that has been told and re-told, but it’s the charm of Nicola Cornick’s writing that sets it apart from all others.
Boy and girl meet, fall in love, are separated by circumstances beyond their control. After some time, boy and girl are reunited by chance but must get past their anger and confusion in order to be reunited. Chaos ensues before the happy ending.
This is the basic format to some romance stories, and it can be tedious and boring. In this case, Cornick uses every tool in her considerable arsenal to keep us interested. She writes wonderful characters, provides interesting background characters and details, with great chemistry and lovely emotional openness between her leading couple.
While I could have used a twist or a turn in this fairly conventional tale, Cornick won me over with her lovely writing and that helped to make this book a solid four heart read.
-- Amy Wroblewsky