Monday, November 19, 2018

A Notorious Vow by Joanna Shupe

Joanna Shupe returns to New York City’s Gilded Age, where fortunes and reputations are gained and lost with ease—and love can blossom from the most unlikely charade

With the fate of her disgraced family resting on her shoulders, Lady Christina Barclay has arrived in New York City from London to quickly secure a wealthy husband. But when her parents settle on an intolerable suitor, Christina turns to her reclusive neighbor, a darkly handsome and utterly compelling inventor, for help.

Oliver Hawkes reluctantly agrees to a platonic marriage... with his own condition: The marriage must end after one year. Not only does Oliver face challenges that are certain to make life as his wife difficult, but more importantly, he refuses to be distracted from his life’s work—the development of a revolutionary device that could transform thousands of lives, including his own.

Much to his surprise, his bride is more beguiling than he imagined. When temptation burns hot between them, they realize they must overcome their own secrets and doubts, and every effort to undermine their marriage, because one year can never be enough.

Add to Goodreads –

Book 3
Buy Links

Amazon US  ~  Amazon UK  ~  Amazon Au  ~  Amazon Ca
B&N  ~  Google Play  ~  iTunes  ~  Kobo
Avon Romance

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

A Notorious Vow is the third novel in The Four Hundred series, and can easily be read as a standalone. I read the previous book but not the first in the series, but I found no confusion.

What I find refreshing, for this time period, the novel and series is set in America instead of England. Christina is an English lady transplant, her family broke from the father's gambling debts and the mother's excess spending.

Oliver is a deaf recluse, working on a hearing device, who keeps himself apart from society to not be bullied by his peers. Warning, many deaf slurs are used, making me wince each time. After one use, the impact was lessened. What I mean by that, the impact is deadened as a story device, so I was unsure why it was continually leveled at Oliver by the same characters, other than to show ignorance by characters we already knew were both ignorant and annoying.

Christina and Oliver are both introverts, intellectuals, who want nothing to do with society, which I found refreshing and resonating at the start of the novel.

The pair are thrust into an unwanted marriage by underhanded parents, where the story shifts to a slow-burn, will-they, won't-they romance, filled with high tension. The romance turns sweet, and the juxtaposition of the heat was jarring. Their connection felt innocent, with Oliver's dirty talk not fitting, completely out of place.

As the story progressed, Christina was buried by the story, to the point she had no personality – completely overshadowed by in-your-face, forced dramatic situations. The woman whom I thought had a backbone at the start of the novel, acted helpless, indecisive, and insecure, which does not a heroine make. She devolved as the story progressed, not evolved, until the very end, which I found too late to salvage my view of her.

While I enjoyed the story on a whole, it hit two of my pet-peeves, which lowered the entertainment value for me.

The parents were so over-the-top, with how obvious it was they were scamming any man who would buy their daughter. This was America, not England. Oliver could have easily married Christina and gave no money for her after the fact, as women were not horses for sale. Christina could have easily ran away – her loyalty to her abusers was bizarre. Her cousins would have taken her side, now living in America with a different mentality and mindset, not sided with the shady mother. After all, they were the ones bankrolling the shady parents and their abused daughter, who was the same age as their daughter.

While I know the parents were just a plot point to thrust Christina into Oliver's path, taking both of their autonomy away, it was too frustrating, in a turn me off from reading sort of way. Too over-the-top and forceful. Some subtlety would have saved this for me. Each act by the parents was more atrocious than the last, until it was unbelievable and not taken seriously by me.

The other issue was the miscommunication. I don't mean Christina misreading Oliver's ASL signing. Oliver would speak, write, or sign the most innocuous thing, and Christina would take it as an insult, a rejection – this was no doubt to add angst or a gut-wrenching sensation. Yet again, it felt forced. The mixed signals wouldn't have been mixed if Christina hadn't read into everything, overanalyzed, made it about her, or took Oliver at face-value and at his word. The deaf man communicated better than Christina, unable to hear or read lips if the person was turned away from him.

The mentality of Christina grated on me, seeming emotionally stunted, not ready for marriage, relationships, or even friendship, as she was so quick to misunderstand with purpose to fuel her insecurities. This made Christina and Oliver not a good fit.

The previous novel in the series was one of my favorite Historical Romances, one I didn't hesitate to mention to anyone who reads the genre. I found it fresh, the plot innovated and refreshing, and the writing clear and concise. This novel didn't feel the same to me. While I will most certainly read more by this author, A Notorious Vow won't be on my reread or favorite shelf. I'll chalk this up to a novel that wasn't my cup of tea – every book by the same author can't be a favorite.

With all that being said, I do recommend to fans of the author and the series. My issues are just that – my issues. If it hadn't been for two of my pet-peeves, I may have enjoyed the novel. My pet-peeves are just that – mine.

Also Available in The Four Hundred Series

Book 2
Buy Links

Amazon US  ~  Amazon UK  ~  Amazon Au  ~  Amazon Ca
B&N  ~  Google Play  ~  iTunes  ~  Kobo
Avon Romance

For reviews & more info, check out our A Scandalous Deal post.

Joanna Shupe has always loved history, ever since she saw her first Schoolhouse Rock cartoon. While in college, Joanna read every romance she could get her hands on and soon started crafting her own racy historical novels. In 2013, she won Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Golden Heart® Award for Best Historical. She now lives in New Jersey with her two spirited daughters and dashing husband.

Connect with Joanna

Facebook  ~  Twitter  ~  Website  ~  Goodreads
Google+  ~  Instagram

Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of A Notorious Vow (The Four Hundred #3) by Joanna Shupe to read and review.

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