Guarding A Notorious Lady
by Olivia Parker
(Avon, $7.99, PG) ISBN 978-006-198840-0
**
I am giving this tale a two heart rating, primarily because while I liked it at times, there are a lot of things that cause me slight discomfort and do not hold up to any scrutiny. Guarding A Notorious Lady is a very uneven reading experience. The plot line is slim and hard to describe because nothing really goes on…the characters seem to just go from scene to scene with no real purpose.

The author tries to bring some life into her characters by making them both fun-loving and long-suffering; they have a relationship one would expect from long time friends, and at times, that is what they seem. Then the reader is reminded that while they grew up neighbors, they are really not friends…Nicholas was the friend of the brother of Rosalind. He tolerated her and she fancied herself in love with him. And she has continued to believe that fancy through seven, yes, that is not a typo, SEVEN seasons. Finally Nicholas is in London and Rosalind has hope.

Nicholas however, is determined never to love, since he saw his father, who truly loved his wife, fall apart when she died. In fact, Nicholas watched him literally die of a broken heart over five long years. This has caused Nicholas to be certain he cannot marry nor love for fear of the loss. He has always been attracted to Rosalind, but hid it by staying away from her and from London. But Rosalind’s older brother is about to go off on his honeymoon to Europe and has engaged Nicholas as a guardian for Rosalind…without her knowing it is him. Rosalind needs a guardian because of some unsavory wager that the men of the ton have embarked on about who can marry her first. (This is another of those unsettled issues. Apparently this wager was better explained in a book earlier in the series...)

Rosalind is an intelligent girl, but is described as stubborn and she goes through life rather oblivious to some things. All she knows is she loves Nicholas and is certain this might be her chance to let him know. First, she is determined to find out her guardian’s identity so she can dump him. Then when she discovers it is Nicholas, she is determined to bore him to tears by shopping for hours on end and other sundry boring tasks. I could never quite figure out her motivation. And then when Nicholas, who has been trying to keep his hands off of her and failing, suddenly invites her to his sister’s house for a family gathering, I realize that I don’t understand his motivation either.

The enjoyable parts of the story are when these two are actually courting and enjoying each other’s company. Then, sadly, a reminder of their supposed disdain for the other pops up and they start to act stupidly. This scenario is repeated many times. The author makes Rosalind into a bit of stumbling idiot, with almost every scene punctuated by some act that causes her to end up in Nicholas’ arms. She is not prone to these accidents at any other time and it becomes rather tiresome.

On a really superficial level, one can enjoy this book and not be bothered by all these issues, as long as one really doesn’t think about it. But there were just too many of those twinges to allow me to fully endorse it. Guarding A Notorious Lady is an uneven read that won’t keep you plastered to your chair or keep you from your bedtime.

--Shirley Lyons


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