Sunday, July 17, 2011

Nowhere Near Respectable, by Mary Jo Putney - Review

I am such a fan of Mary Jo Putney.  While I didn't like her foray into historical paranormal, her non-paranormals are almost always among my favorites.

Nowhere Near Respectable is no exception -- another winner in Putney's impressive catalog.  I think my favorite thing about this story is that it has so many of the things I love about "old skool" romance-- the things that made me fall in love with the genre-- AND all the best elements of "modern-day" historicals.

Old-Skool: exotic traditions, royalty, bi-racial heroine, brutal bad guys, split-second heart-pounding rescues, manacles, smugglers, high stakes adventure, heroine in detective mode side-by-side with the hero.

New-Skool: mutual seduction, inverted power imbalance (she is well-born but he is not), cleaner pacing, no "victims" in the relationship.

If you love historical romance with a bit of smuggling, Napoleonic intrigue, assassination plots, and class commentary, this is one you should pick up.  Some of Putney's books have less of a center-stage plot, and I love those too, those quieter, character-focused stories, but this one has a non-stop page-turning mystery plot speeding along next to the characters falling in love.

When the story opens, Kiri makes a classic old-skool impetuous hair-tossing mistake.  Grievously insulted by any standard, she rides out on her own on a too-far, too-late journey and falls victim to the afore-mentioned brutal bad guys.  In the process, she becomes entangled in a far-reaching plot of kings and traitors.

One of the key plot points here is Kiri's nose.  Although I'm sure it's a very pretty nose, since Kiri is beautiful in the way of romance heroines, I'm referring to a talent rather than appearance.  Like musicians with perfect pitch, there is similar olfactory talent, which makes that person a nose or a perfumer.  Kiri is able to isolate specific notes of scent and can even identify individuals once she's given them a good sniff.

Did that make you snicker?  I have to admit, I didn't find that premise to be all that believable, but hey, it certainly makes for a bit of a change of pace in the usual "find the spy" plot.  I know, actually, that this is a real "thing," that there are famous noses who are in great demand in the fragrance business.  I've even seen them once or twice in romance before (I want to say Judith Ivory had one?).  Using the talent to sniff out (heh) a criminal is a bit over the top, but hey, if you can't be over the top in a romance, when can you?

Like the first Lost Lord book, NNR features a bi-racial protagonist -- this time it's the heroine rather than the hero.  My first reaction is that it's pretty unrealistic to have these characters accepted by the ton, but then I remember that England was more liberal about race than the US.  To be honest, I don't really know.  Surely with all the military and economic activity of the British in India this sort of thing must have happened sometimes, so I decided to just go with it.  I would be very interested to see an article about historical examples of English/Indian mixed-race individuals in the aristocracy.

I have to say, I'm a sucker for a couple who knows/believes that they cannot make a marriage but decides to go for it anyway (maybe my hedonist roots are showing).  I've run into this sort of thing a couple of times lately, where one or the other or both of the couple explicitly thinks or says, "even if I can't have this forever, I will seize this day, this moment."  And that just appeals to me.

Around the Blogosphere
Love Letters to a Library
Fiction Vixen
My Book Addiction
In the Hammock

As always, if you've reviewed this book and would like a link, just let me know by email or comments and I'll edit it in!


Laura said...

How do her paranormal historic pieces rate against The Arcane Society series?

Nicola O. said...

I only read one and disliked it so much I didn't read any of the others. Click on the "Mary Jo Putney" tag and you'll find my comments on it.

Pam (@iwriteinbooks) said...

Sounds like a fun book. I love youir sieze the day bit at the end. ;O)

blonde unicorn said...

She has two books out now- this one and "An Unlikely Countess," and I picked up AUC- but now I'm thinking I should have picked this up!

Christine E. said...

Thanks for the tip - on your recommendation, I got the audiobook of Loving a Lost Lord a couple of days ago, and I'm really enjoying it. I'll seek out more of her books.

Also, I seem to recall reading a nonfictional account of a multiracial woman (English father, Black Caribbean mother) who was accepted by the ton. She experienced some discrimination and unpleasant comments, but was invited to all the best houses and parties because of her father's status. I wish I could remember where I read that.


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