Hope and Glory



Notorious by Katherine Sutcliffe
(Jove, $6.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-515-12948-8
If you like historical romances that are as much a history lesson as they are a romance, then you will enjoy reading Katherine Sutcliffe's latest work. Overall, Notorious is an entertaining read and the relationship between the protagonists contains a lot of well written sexual tension.

Lady Destiny Chesterfield was recently widowed by a homosexual man who preferred taking his own life over fulfilling his marital obligations, namely having sexual relations with his wife. Destiny had been raised in India where the citizenry reveled in the sexual and so was very much looking forward to commencing the physical part of her marital relationship with her husband. His death and the truth surrounding it were both shocking and embarrassing, so she kept out of polite society and ensconced herself in her sister's country estate.

During rides in the countryside, Destiny meets a handsome man she believes to be a commoner and begins spending her leisure time with him. He reads Shakespeare to her, dotes on her, and makes her feel happy and in love. Wanting to know the intimacy her husband had denied her, Destiny seduces the man during one of their secret trysts.

Jason Batson is not only a sought after earl in the marriage mart, but a dangerous agent for British Intelligence as well. The crown believes that Destiny's father has turned traitor and is in cahoots with Nana Sahib, an Indian nationalist who wants the English gone from their shores. Jason's daughter is being held prisoner by his former commanding officer and won't let "Cobra" retire until he assassinates Destiny's father.

Jason must do what he can to lure Destiny into telling him all she knows about her father's activities to ensure his child's safety, so he seduces her senses with Shakespeare and rides in the countryside. But when he falls in love with her, his plans go awry. Now Jason must protect Destiny from the very men threatening his beloved daughter.

There are several reasons why Notorious failed to capture my attention and hold me spellbound. The foremost was Sutcliffe's heavy-handed use of historical detail. Then there was the novelís setting. Although some of Notorious transpires on land, most of it is a sea-buckling escapade. Simply stated, I found that the never-changing scenery inevitable in such a tale tended to promote a certain sense of tediousness.

There is one other aspect of the novel that most readers will probably find to be an irritant whether or not they are sea-loving history buffs. That is the petulance of the book's females (both the heroine and the secondary character of her aunt) whose behavior sometimes culminates in physical violence toward the hero. By the time all is said and done, poor Jason gets his head bashed in with a rock, slapped across the face, and a bullet in his back.

Yikes! I'm afraid this reader, the daughter of former Woodstock hippies, can't accept violence in a character's actions without clear and justifiable cause. Getting peeved just wasn't powerful enough of an excuse for me.

Notorious does have some things to recommend it. Jason is one hell of a sexy hero and his relationship with the heroine has plenty of sexual tension, culminating in a terrific scene or two. If you like historicals set during the British occupation of India, and if you enjoy seafaring books that take place mostly on a ship, I think you'll get a lot more out of Sutcliffe's latest effort than I did.

--Tina Engler

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