A Notorious Love
by Sabrina Jeffries, historical (2001)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 0-380-81803-5


Hmm, there's something missing in A Notorious Love. It took me awhile to pin down what it is, and it is only until page 229 when heroine Helena Laverick indulges in yet another complain/whine/sputter session did I know what is missing: the fun factor. A Notorious Love isn't very fun.

Daniel Brennan first meets Helena in A Dangerous Love (a much better book) when Daniel was posing as his then-employer Griff Knighton. In this story, Helena and Daniel still don't like each other much. But Juliet, Helena's sister, has eloped with some ruffian and Helena needs Danny Boy's help to find them and stop them before things get even more downhill.

Daniel thinks Helena is overreacting, but nonetheless, they embark on a road trip, posing as husband and wife, to find the runaway and her boyfriend. They want each other bad, but there's this difference in station (she's a gently-bred lass and he an ex-smuggler) coming between them. Put in Helena's insecurities about her leg (she has polio), Danny Boy's insecurities about where he can stand in Helena's life, and they have a lot to work on.

Thing is, oh Helena. Even if I take in account her naivete and her sheltered upbringing, I am hard pressed to cheer her on when all she does most of the time is to either second-guess (wrongly) Danny Boy, complain, express her disbelief or indignation at whatever he does to offends her womanly sensibilities, or acting all haughty and puffed up at some imaginary slight she imagined Danny inflicted on her. Come on, if she goes on a mission of subterfuge and rescue with a man like Daniel, she has to get ready to lie, do some unladylike things, and maybe kiss that sexy rogue one time or ten. May as well lay back and enjoy the fun. Or think of England, at least. The entire relationship seems to be mostly Daniel leading the way and teasing Helena into a hissyfit fireball.

I like Daniel. I just wish Helena could have kept up with him and maybe throw a surprise or two on him (and me) in the process. But throughout this story, she is always a step behind Daniel, and she vocally lets me and everybody knows it. I'm not saying she shrieks and causes plenty of annoying arguments based on misunderstandings, but she does come off hot and cold for too long. I'm not even mad at Daniel for feeling unworthy of her for so long. If I'm him, I'll be confused by the all the mixed signals Helena sends out.

A Notorious Love is always readable and pleasant, but it just isn't fun, I'm afraid.

Rating: 74


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