Author: Kate Noble
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: Berkley Sensation
Publishing date: Reprint edition – February 3, 2009.
Paperback: 368 pages
Stand Alone/ Series: Stand Alone
Summary: Miss Gail Alton is not having a good day. Or a good year. First, her new stepmother strong-arms her into attending the Season as a foil to her beautiful sister Evangeline. Then, while riding her mare in the park, she gets toppled by a stuffy, self-important, too-handsome-by-half “gentleman” who has the audacity to blame her for their fall into the chilly lake! Little does she know that the very same man will soon be found in a compromising position with Gail’s sister.
Forced into asking for Evangeline’s hand in marriage, Maximillian, Viscount Fontaine, can’t take his mind off the irksome girl who threw him from his horse and who can match wits with him at every turn. He’s determined to follow through with his best intentions, yet he can’t deny that every encounter with Gail makes him want to cast propriety aside-and whisk away the sister of his soon-to-be bride.
Why Did I read the Book: I read Revealed, the latest book by this author earlier this year and OMG – LOVED it. So much so, it already has a safe spot on my top 10 of 2009. So I had to read her back-list: unfortunately, oh noes, there was only one: Compromised
I find that the hardest part of writing a review is coming up with an opening line. And I think it’s even harder when it comes to books that I love as more often than not, I just want to say: I REALLY like this book.
Compromised falls under this category: it is a delightful book that starts off with characters that seem to be same old stock Romance characters and a storyline that we all have seen before but with enough original traits that makes it unconventional.
The hero, Maximillian, Viscount Fontaine has daddy issues. Because he is more interested in intellectual pursuits and doesn’t care about his family’s History as his father wants him to, he feels he is not respected and they become estranged. Now, instead of raking his way through London and making money out of gambling and keeping a life he can’t afford to, Max actually moves in to rented quarters and decides to put to use what he learnt in Oxford and works as a translator. But then his father, who seems to be dying, gives him three months to get married or be disinherited. He thinks his father is bluffing but finds himself at odds with his own beliefs when he realises he doesn’t want to lose his future prospects – he may have accomplished a certain amount of freedom but that security net was always there.
Enter the Altons. A family recently returned to England. The father, Sir George, a diplomat; the stepmother, Romila a society matron wanting to find a place in High Society . And the two daughters, Gail and Evie who are about to debut. Evie is the eldest, the perfect English rose: well-mannered and beautiful. And Gail, well Gail is plain, feisty, too smart for her own good, almost a blue-stocking in her love for knowledge. She is obviously, our heroine. But instead of traipsing around society showing how smart she is, she is a wallflower, who prefers to shy away from conversations because she is quite aware that Society frowns upon those girls that speak as they thought, not as they should – and she sees this as her greatest failure. She is a shadow to Evie – who is the talk of the Ton.
Then the comedy of errors starts: One day Gail is at the park riding when she meets Max – and there is an accident caused by their horses (as destiny has it: they love each other. The horses, that is) and they end up arguing and sparks fly (intellectual sparks my friends) . He thinks of her a Brat, she seems him as an arrogant brute. Next time they meet is at her coming out ball – but he doesn’t know she is the house’s debutant. She is drunk after some skanky gentleman spiked her punch and she vomits on his feet after he saves her. He finds a place to clean his shoes and runs into beautiful Evie – and promptly falls under the spell of the moonlight and they kiss. Max is therefore prepared to marry Evie and he promptly offers for her the morning after when he is visiting her house and overhears her parents talking about the “scandal”. The thing is, the parents were talking about GAIL and her vomiting spree and not about Evie. When Max realises his, it is too late and he had already compromised Evie by telling her father that they were together in the conservatory. And THEN, he finds out that the Brat is going to be his sister-in-law.
And so, every time Max and Gail meet, they engage in a battle of wits. Every time they see each other, they proceed to banter. More often than not, Max forgets about Evie when he is around Gail but only because she makes him crazy – it has absolutely nothing to do with her golden eyes. One day, they visit the British Museum and it is right there and then that they realise that they do so because they have things in common and they spend a most delightful time together after calling it a truce. And so, they become friends. And it is by way of this friendship that they fall in love with each other and oh God, they can’t. They simply can’t be friends because they can’t be ONLY friends either. And their poor hearts break and there is one scene where they are avoiding each other and it hurts and there is one simple, single sentence from Max’ PoV that says it all: Gail was
“not sharing a laugh with him when someone misquoted Shakespeare” .
When so often in Romance Novels the moonlighting encounter with the stolen kiss is the most important encounter – it is so refreshing to read how both Max and Evie regret their reckless rush based on appearances. Especially when Evie finds herself falling for someone else – and if the obligatory secondary romance is present here, once again it is with a grain of unconventional development as it happens off-page with subtle and meaningful tips that are the only clues that it is actually happening.
The romances develop slowly as do the story as the length of the book, longer than most romance paperbacks , allows for a more in-depth story that no only deals with the romance but also with each main character’s personality issues . Gail’ insecurities are addressed as are Max’ daddy issues which by the by, comes to a stand-off later in the book that was most gut-wrenching.
If the emotional aspects of the book weren’t already good enough, I find that Kate Noble’s attention to details is simply fascinating. In Compromised, there is a plethora of small critical, cynical comments about Society coming from the non-aristocratic Sir George and Romila that I found were great. For example: here Romila thinks –
“a person is only looked down upon until they are looked up to”
Then about Sir George:
“through wit, talent, and determination, three colors that most London High Society eschewed, Sir George had managed during the war with France to become an associate of the current Prime Minister the Duke of Wellington”
and he is quite clear that most aristocrats base
“their worth on that of their forebears.”
And there is this whole thing about gossip that is awesome. These are only small details that I think only add to the story.
I have to say though that on the down side, Gail did seem to have a most modern view on British Imperialism that I found was at odds with her time. As were some utterances from both Max and Gail on how the other should live their lives by being who they were. And if I REALLY want to be nitpicky, both Max and Gail spoke other languages and there were a couple of sentences in Portuguese and Italian. Now, Portuguese is my mother tongue and I speak a bit of Italian and both sentences were wrong. I see this more of an editing problem though which could have been SO easily solved. As you can see, these are very minor problems I had with the book which thankfully is one of those gems that is free from stupid secondary plots, assorted villainous villains or cardboard characters.
At one point in the story , delicious, Beta-Hero Max lists Gail’s accomplishments and traits, asks her if there is anything she can’t do because quite frankly, she overwhelms him. I feel the same way about Kate Noble’s books: they are light, funny and sweet; interesting, deep and heart-breaking. They satisfy me both emotionally and intellectually – they are, simply put: GOOD.
Notable Quotes/ Parts: there is one sequence when Max is trying to woo Evie by using other languages and he realises she can’t understand him and he is utterly bored so he proceeds to say things he really shouldn’t say to a young lady. To his horror and discomfort, Gail understood everything he said and later they have this conversation whilst dancing:
“Do you know, I had intended to blast you for your appalling sense of decorum for even thinking, never mind saying, such things. Then it occurred to me just how utterly mundane your silly phrases were, it seemed almost pitiful to berate you for them.”
Max heard some outraged gasping sounds – he was fairly certain they were coming from him.
“Mundane?” he repeated, shocked to his core.
“Uninspired, to say the least. Unimaginative. Uninteresting”. Gail decided.
“For something so uninteresting, it certainly caught your attention” he shot back, but Gail waved it aside.
“Honestly, you are so British. ‘I want to take off all your clothes’ is the best you could come up with? The French are far more poetic – and more depraved, if that was your intention. And do you know how many words the Greeks have for the curve of a woman’s flesh? I heard far more creativity dockside in a half a dozen cities. You are not unintelligent Max. I expected better. ”
His thumb stopped moving languidly on her back, as his hand fisted in the silk of her dress. A hundred thoughts flashed through his brain -not the least of which was images of a woman’s flesh in Greece, depraved poetry in France, and the removal of clothing in Britain. So this is what the mind feels like when it’s reeling, Max wondered dazedly. What disturbed him more was that the flesh he kept inter-continentally flashing to belong to someone very close at hand.
Since I loved her books so much I just had to invite Kate Noble for a chat. She will be here tomorrow answering some questions and we will have a copy of each of her books to giveaway!
Verdict: Kate Noble’s books are delightful and remind me of Julia Quinn’s. Compromised is quite the accomplishment given that it is her debut novel: different characters, adorable banter, story that flows organically. She has become an auto-buy.
Rating: 8 – Excellent.
Reading Next: Black and White by Jackie Kessler and Caitlin Kittredge