From London with Love

Lessons from a Courtesan


Her Notorious Viscount
by Jenna Petersen
(Avon, $6.99, R)  ISBN 978-006-147081-3
Petersen has delivered a tale of romance and characters that jump from the pages.  Her Notorious Viscount is not perfect, but is well done and truly one I can recommend.

Jane Fenton was born a lady, but circumstances have turned her into a lady’s companion.  Her brother disappeared, followed closely by her father’s death.  Her cousin, whom Jane used to like, had her brother officially declared dead and took over his title and fortune.  When the cousin  suggested they marry, she told him she hated him for what he had done and left.  Luckily, Lady Ridgefield, an elderly woman, needed a companion and agreed to take Jane into her home.  To the ton, Jane became invisible.  After attending balls that she had once been a participant in, now just sittinh on the sidelines is difficult, but it’s a façade that she knows she can and will maintain.  Jane has a plan to find her brother and is determined to put it into effect.

Viscount Nicholas Stoneworth is also putting on a brave face, although it is not one he enjoys nor does he think he can withstand the scrutiny.  Born the second son (of twins), Nicholas had always felt he was “less”… less than the heir, less than the expectations of his father, less than the love his mother often seemed to bestow on his brother and less than the ton. In fact, he was rebellious and when he reached his majority, he started visiting the underground of London and made a name for himself as a pugilist.  His friend and sometimes valet, Ronan “Rage” Riley, was one of his competitors and sparring partners.  Now with his brother dead from an accident, Nicholas is thrust into the viscountcy and is less than pleased to be there.

Jane however, is certain her brother disappeared into the underground, possibly with an opiate problem, but she doesn’t believe he is dead.  She approaches Nicholas with a bargain to help find her brother.  Rather than monetary payment, Nicholas agrees, but only if Jane teaches him what he needs to know to get on in society.  Nicholas is worried that he will embarrass the title, and thus ruin things for his brother’s two young girls.

Since Jane is a lady’s companion during the day, she must visit with Nicholas only at night and only in secret.  He is attracted to her and she to him.  But they both think they can control their passions to meet their goals.  And for much of the book, their relationship builds as they get to know each other, seeing their weaknesses and their vulnerabilities.  They are each still dealing with the grief from the deaths in their families and each has an ulterior motive.  They laugh and tease at times, flirting as they engage in lessons of etiquette, proper address and suitable conversation.  Even though Nicholas fears that Jane’s brother is dead, he does search and gets into some trouble doing so. Life gets more complicated when Jane inadvertently lets Nicholas’s mother in on the secret and in turn, they find themselves both thrust into Society.

Nicholas and Jane are a good pair.  They both have their strengths and both are stubborn.  They both really like to live rather than sit back and observe; yet both understand society’s strictures and struggle with some of them.   They are well –matched in both intelligence and in passion.  Their romance develops with first just kisses and ultimately lovemaking.  But it builds in a very realistic way that keeps the reader engaged.  Rage provides Nicholas with a confidant and with assistance in the underground; he is funny and yet a good friend. 

The story dragged just a bit at times and there were some things that the reader had to buy into to make it work.  An example of this is why Nicholas’ mother would accept Jane so readily when the rest of the ton was ignoring her.  The villain is not well played out and by the end one wondered why this plotline was not better developed.  But the real story is the romance between Jane and Nicholas, and Petersen delivers that in Her Notorious Viscount without a doubt. 

--Shirley Lyons

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