I’m not a fan of this one. Maybe it’s because I read it directly after Julia Quinn’s upcoming (and exceptional) Just Like Heaven, but I think it’s primarily because the entire plot of Guarding A Notorious Lady depends on a failure to communicate. There was nothing memorable about the book. I’m going to have to look the characters’ names up or call them Whatshername and MaybeNicholas. (Rosalind and Nicholas – got one right.)
There are certainly moments in this book that hint at what could have been. In one scene a group of debutantes are contorted on chaises trying to look up a kilt. In a better book, that could have stood out. Unfortunately, this isn’t a better book. Rosalind is a matchmaker, which matters only as an avenue to point out her own unmarried status. She doesn’t really make any matches during this book. In fact, she tries to fix her best friend up with a villain, so her matchmaking doesn’t carry any weight for the reader. She isn’t in the least notorious, title aside, unless you count her seven seasons on the market and a current wager as to who will win her.
Nicholas is just tedious. He’s cranky, he’s condescending, he alternates between dour and dim. Unless, of course, he’s stripping her naked. Apparently Rosalind has been in love with Nicholas for seven years or more and Nicholas has been avoiding her. He agrees to look out for her while her brother is traveling because he feels indebted to the man. He spends a fair amount of time worrying about betraying her brother and a fair amount of time feeling Rosalind up, but the two events don’t really align. His regret seems insincere and fleeting, which keeps it from being a true barrier to expressing himself to Rosalind.
Both of them have Daddy issues. Nicholas can’t stand how his father fell apart after losing his mother, Rosalind can’t stand her father’s emotional distance. It’s about the only thing, besides hormones, they have in common. I suppose muteness might also be a shared trait. Neither of them can just talk to the other, neither can ask the other how they feel. She can kneel between his legs, he can run his fingers down the front of her gown, they can get naked and have sex outdoors, but they can’t ask if the other is interested in more. It just doesn’t ring true. Your best friend’s sister, the woman you’ve pledged to protect, and you’re going to give her a bath with your tongue but not tell her why? Your brother’s best friend, your secret love, you’re going to let him sneak into your bedroom at will and not inquire what he thinks he’s doing? It makes absolutely no sense unless you accept that two minutes of open conversation would blow the conflict out of the book. There is no conflict except a failure to speak. In order for the failure to speak to work, there has to be a compelling reason to keep silent.
There’s an interesting frame here, but no painting. Rosalind is charming when we first meet her but she rapidly enters TSTL territory, or at least too spineless to tolerate. Nicholas could have been multi dimensional, but his libido turns him into a joke of restraint. The strong hints that her brothers have played matchmaker for her are too dimly indicated to work either. Even the late introduction of a villain plays the lack of communication card. Nicholas rages at Rosalind for going off alone with a stalker without having ever told her she has one. The HEA itself involves deliberate miscommunication. I have no idea how this pair would make it through the day. It seems as though a lifetime of needless resentments and unfounded assumptions await them.