Avon, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-06-112858-5
Historical Romance, 2008
A Notorious Proposition is closely related to Winter Garden. Here’s the problem: Winter Garden first came out in 2000, and while I still have that book, I have moved house recently and you know how things can be, I’m sure. The book is in my house… somewhere… probably in one of the dozen boxes I have yet to unpack. I can’t remember much of what happened in that book and rereading my review of that book doesn’t help much. The author has included plenty of details I spend much of time trying to piece together the details to help me see the big picture, to the point that I’m too distracted to get into the flow the first time around. It is only during my second reading that I finally get to appreciate the story better. The question here is, if you have not read Winter Garden, are you willing to put that much effort to appreciate this story?
About two years ago, Garrett Burke and Ivy Wentworth attempted to work together to locate some missing diamonds. While the main characters are different from those in Winter Garden, the plot is in a way a spillover from that of Winter Garden, so for the purpose of this review, I’ll just keep things simple. So, some diamonds are missing. In the prologue, I learn that Garrett has finally gotten lucky with Ivy, but alas, he’s not so lucky when his subsequent attempt to retrieve the missing diamonds earn him a hard knock in the head.
Two years later, these two are reunited in Winter Garden. The diamonds are still missing, and the man Ivy has come all the way to that town to meet is also MIA. Garrett’s clues also lead him to Winter Garden, where he believes the diamonds can be found. The problem here is that Garrett vanished after deflowering Ivy two years ago. She believes that he had just dumped her like that, so he’s an untrustworthy jerk. He on the other hand has some kind of amnesia (really) so I suppose we can excuse him for not writing and calling this time around. He has suffered a hard knock in the head, after all. He also believes that Ivy has betrayed him, and if you read this story, you will understand why he feels this way. Can these two find the diamonds, missing person, and love by the last page of this story?
The mystery is pretty dry, mostly because the author spends so much time dumping information for the reader’s sake that the whole thing feels more like a history lecture than a mystery subplot. The characters are fine, although they do feel too much like typical romance clichés (the spy/nobleman action hero and the psychic heroine whose gift doesn’t really help her much). Still, they are fine except for one annoying tendency of theirs that I notice when I reread this book: these two have a very difficult time separating their emotions from their investigation.
The heroine is especially – and predictably – guilty of this. For example, on page 82, she and Garrett are told that the previous owner of the house they are investigating used to bring in women for the happy hour in his bedroom. Instead of paying attention, Ivy immediately feels “a slight flush” because she is certain that he is remembering, like she is at that moment, the naughty things they used to do in Garrett’s bed. I tell you, if I’m the resident psychic in that scene and I have the misfortune to read her thoughts at that moment, I’d have to give her a hard knock in the head. Honestly, the way these two get distracted by their history of whoopee at the oddest moments, I’m amazed that they actually get to solve the mystery.
On the bright side, Ms Ashworth allows her characters to communicate when the need arises, therefore what could have been a toxic big misunderstanding between those two ends up being a significant internal conflict that ends up being resolved in a mature and most reasonable manner. This bodes well for the relationship, although I’d personally never want to hire these two to investigate the neighborhood mysteries. They are too emotional when it comes to conducting investigations and Ivy, especially, gets distracted way too easily by Garrett’s amazing body, smoldering presence, and such when she should be paying attention to the investigation.
At the end of the day, I wish Ms Ashworth has created a plot for her characters that isn’t so intimately linked to Winter Garden, because the amount of information she has to clutter up the story with and the unfortunately dry way she presents this information cause A Notorious Proposition to be a very dry read. That is probably the biggest flaw of this book. Despite Ms Ashworth’s attempts to make this one a standalone story, it really isn’t. I suspect that the reader has to either remember Winter Garden well or has a large amount to patience to wade through the information dumping in order to fully appreciate this story.