Two strikes and we’re out. Something about Kate Noble’s voice doesn’t work for me at all. The Game and The Governess is my second Kate Noble attempt. Previously I failed to love The Summer of You. Although The Game And The Governess uses two of my least favorite tropes (exchanged identities and bets about seduction) I had high hopes for it. I enjoy books that take place in the working classes or that somehow involve privilege recognition. After a few months of struggling with this one I’m dropping out at 163 pages.
Ned Ashby and John Turner are the main couple of this book despite the presence of Phoebe Baker. Ned, raised modestly but elevated to an Earldom, was once close friends with John. Ned has used his status to blithely ignore the responsibilities of his fortune, leaving John to handle all the details as his hired secretary. Ned’s unofficial motto is “John can do that.” For his part, John has failed to assert himself. Having suffered numerous slights at Ned’s hands he’s nursed his resentment into a plan. He and Ned will exchange identities. Ned will see that he’s not the likable fellow he self identifies as but rather a figure pandered to because of his rank. If John wins, he will gain the funds needed to save his family business. If Ned wins, he will gain control of the business and cut off John’s only route to financial freedom. Hell of a guy, our Ned.
Despite opening the book, nothing about Phoebe Baker really matters. She undergoes a stunning fall from cherished and wealthy daughter to unloved and barely employable orphan. It’s a lovely few pages about facing reality and teenage self obsession that is pushed aside in favor of invisibility. When her nemesis appears on her doorstep Phoebe is moved only to exasperation. She has accepted that her life is different now. Phoebe strives to be unseen and unremarkable. The author has set such a cruel fate for Phoebe. She is the object of a bet between men. She has almost no power. She is apparently going to wind up with the man who (deliberately or not) played a major role in all the losses of her adult life. The only way Phoebe is getting a happy ending is if the reader believes either Ned or financial freedoms are worth the price. This reader did not. How is it a prize for her to win the love of a self centered society darling? What good is that? Better for Phoebe to gain a man with a work ethic, a man who understands the importance of security, a man who will respect her not for enduring her social fall but for succeeding within it. But it doesn’t matter. In 163 pages I learned less about Phoebe Baker than I did in the first twenty. She’s not important.
I failed to care about the Ned and John show. First they arrive at the home of people Ned grew up with. These people should have some concept that Ned is Ned, but they accept John the Imposter without a moment’s hesitation. This is despite the two men having radically different manners. If it was someone they barely knew I could go for it, but several scenes paint a familiarity between the parties that should have lent itself to some degree of recognition. There’s a scene where Ned comes face to face with his childhood home and is taken aback. No one notices. Ned has been rendered invisible by his fall from The Earl while John is feted and fawned over. John’s surprise at this also rings false. He has seen how people crowd around Ned. He has based his entire plan on Ned being unable to function without that acclaim. That it is now turned on him should be completely unsurprising.
Forgiving these niggles would have been easy if Noble had swept me up in the story. Instead the pace is glacial. The Game And The Governess is a book of tiny realizations. No1curr. Noble is so focused on making Ned the misunderstood or misguided hero that all else suffers. Ned’s been a right bastard to John and he deserves far more than an uncomfortable week at a house party. John needs to pack that passive aggressive attitude in a box and level with Ned about why their friendship has burned to ashes. They need to talk. Then they should have sex because they are far more emotionally involved with each other than they are interested in anyone else. Deciding if I should call it quits, I checked a few other reviews. My eyes rolled at the late developments. Kate Noble has a lot going for her but I’m DNFing and moving on. If you like Cecilia Grant, I’d give Kate Noble a try.
This post originally appeared at Love In The Margins.