Mills & Boon, £4.99, ISBN 978-0-263-92618-7
Historical Romance, 2017
Don’t be shocked, but the consequence is a brat. It’s what you get when you sleep with a romance heroine and then runs off to America to get amnesia. There, I’ve summarized the plot in two sentences.
Oh, alright, I’ll go into it a bit more. It’s the least I can do for a book that makes me want to stand up and rain confetti on it because, baby, after weeks of tepid to painful stories to come my way – Kindle exclusive ghetto, I won’t miss you one bit – Sophia James’s A Secret Consequence for the Viscount is like tall glass of water. It has plenty of romantic overtones and none of that “I wrote for market!” vibes that dripped from every other one of those… things… that I read over the last few weeks.
Nicholas Bartlett’s memory slowly came back to him some time before this story opens, and he manages to piece together that he is Viscount Bromley, the same dude who has been considered dead all this while even by his BFFs that plagued the last three books in the multi-author The Society of Wicked Gentlemen series. However, he can’t remember the events that happened shortly before and after his trip to America.
Also, he is always being ambushed and attacked by all kinds of thugs even all this while; it’s probably a good thing that he is now all action-hero’ed up by his sojourns in the rugged wilderness of America. Thus, he returns to London not just to catch up with friends, he also wants to track down who wants him dead. His greedy uncle, perhaps? After all, every noble family in London apparently has one.
Still, our hero finds it hard to feel at home in London. His times abroad have irrevocably changed him. He is no longer into pointless debauchery like he used to when he was younger. Instead, he starts to notice things like economic inequalities and tells himself that he must become a better man. Thus, poor Nicholas finds himself in an environment in which familiar faces may as well be strangers considering how detached he feels from them. The only person he feels an emotional connection to is Eleanor Huntingdon, a friend’s young sister. She has always been beautiful, but now, there is something about her that makes him feel that she may be the only person in London who can understand how he feels about life and other deep things.
Oh boy, if only he knows. Years ago, Eleanor was a flighty and immature eighteen-year old who thought nothing of throwing herself at Nicholas. It was so romantic… until he left and never made any attempt to contact her. Worse, she was pregnant with his child. She managed to pass off the kid as that of a late husband, but in the years since, she has kept mostly to herself and the people closest to her, taking pains to be the most proper woman in town for the sake of her daughter Lucy. Sadly for her, her tryst with Nicholas falls into that gap in his memory that he can’t recall. Perhaps this is for the best, she thinks, as she now realizes that this Nicholas may as well be a complete stranger, and she could be exposing Lucy to scandal and shame should she risk letting that man know that her daughter is his as well.
But you know how things are. These two can’t help becoming close, and this time around, both are older, wiser, and more cynical. Perhaps the whole thing will work out fine, but not if the villain who wants Nicholas dead has any say in the matter.
A Secret Consequence for the Viscount is a pleasant surprise, considering my reaction to the previous books in the series. Indeed, despite having some characters from previous books showing up here, this one may as well be in a completely different series altogether. Its tone, focus, and atmosphere are completely different: there are no lazily drawn clichéd characters here, no sloppy double standards, nothing of that sort. Here, the bulk of the characters feel like real people rather than walking, breathing tropes, and more importantly, the emotions resonate with me. In a way, this story reminds me of older books by Karen Ranney – the interactions of the hero and the heroine can be beautifully set up, and their introspection can be almost poetry at times.
The hero is a nice guy whose determination to be a better man can bring on the feels, and I love how no matter how good he can be in dispatching the bad guys that try to kill him, his greatest terror here is him somehow hurting Eleanor and Lucy. Okay, that scene where he beseeches aloud to God to keep him from hurting them can be a bit too over the top sentimental for my taste, but yes, it gets to me nonetheless in a good way. Also, I love how Eleanor is allowed to be flighty and silly without having to pay the vagina tax. Sure, it’s not easy being a single mother, but she nonetheless doesn’t flay herself for her indiscretion. She doesn’t blame the hero either – she is smart and mature enough to admit that they were both different, more foolish people back then. Instead of dwelling too much on her past or the worthiness of her non-virginal hoo-hoo to take in the hero’s pee-pee, she prefers instead to think about the present and the future. I like her – she feels like a real person with relatable strengths and flaws, without coming off as too anachronistic to me.
But the reason why I can’t make myself to give this one five oogies is that, no matter how much I love melodrama, there are certain scenes and dialogues that are too melodramatic even for me. Some memorable examples are scenes which has the hero beseeching God like I mentioned earlier, or the hero telling Eleanor that she and her daughter are, in what seems like a single breath:
“My jewels. My home. My family. The virtue to my vice.”
During scenes such as these, I am forcibly jarred from the story and it then morphs from an intense emotional read to some kind of play by an earnest kid who should have reined in a bit on all those excessive passions just flowing from her. It’s hard to take a hero seriously when he speaks like he’s auditioning for a play.
Still, no matter. Maybe it’s the timing, but this one really hits all the right buttons where I am concerned. It has pathos, romance, characters that seem sensible at the end of the day, chemistry, and everything else that make me want to go wild and throw all the oogies in the house at it. Still, it won’t do to be as ridiculously overwrought as Nicholas can be sometimes, so I’m going to calm down and give this one four oogies. Four glittering, magnificent, amazing, glorious… ahem. Moving on, that’s right. Moving on now.