Sourcebooks Casablanca, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-4022-5952-4
Fantasy Romance, 2011
The back cover synopsis claims that Isabel Cooper’s No Proper Lady is”Terminator meets My Fair Lady“. Fair enough, I can see where the comparisons are coming from. But that movie and its various sequels are all fast-paced non-stop action most of the time. This story, on the other hand, has all the urgency of underpaid supermarket bag boys forced to come in to work on a public holiday.
The synopsis will no doubt make this one sound very exciting. Joan, our heroine from the early 20th century, a time when demons have conquered the world, with all the fun results you’d expect. The weakening human resistance has a plan, however – they will send Joan back to the past where she can then prevent the events that led to the demon invasion from taking place. Joan ends up in 1888, and the first person she meets is Simon Grenville, one of the few people in England who dabbles in magic. It turns out that Alex Reynell, the man she is looking for, is the same man that nearly caused Simon’s sister Eleanor to be possessed by a demon. Can they work together to stop Alex from destroying the world?
If you are expecting a dramatic story that causes your head to spin, well, you may want to lower your expectations. I don’t know why the author does this, but she gives Joan forty years to stop Alex. That, right away, robs the story of any immediate urgency. Honestly, Joan can take over Buckingham Palace, assassinate the Spice Girls’ grand-grandmothers, raise and train an army of demon-killers, and still have plenty of time to found a fast food chain restaurant in forty freaking years. The rest of the story sees Simon doing the My Fair Lady thing on Joan, the two of them worrying over Eleanor, and making eyes at each other. Occasionally there are moments of danger, but I don’t feel any suspense or even the urge to care. The characters go around without exhibiting any sense of urgency, they are not rushed for time, and they have plenty of opportunities to make eyes at each other or go off chasing subplots. Yawn. They do have forty years to get things right, after all, so why hurry?
Joan is a strong heroine, a capable one too, and she has suffered all kinds of losses that actually make her tougher and more determined to do the right thing. I like her. Unfortunately, she is paired with Simon, who is the very definition of a lawful stupid milquetoast. He knows what Alex is capable of – Alex nearly destroyed his sister, after all – but he’d like Alex to stand trial. No, if that is not possible, perhaps Joan can let Simon kill Alex so that Alex can “die like a man”? Oh dear, look at Simon, he disapproves of Joan wanting to tackle Alex by surprise, that’s so unsporting. My god. What is wrong with this imbecile? Poor Simon, it doesn’t help that he’s not only a vanilla waffle, he’s as bland as can be. He does and says things that are often motivated by plot than anything else. For example, he’d say that he can’t be attracted to Joan because the “costs” are “too high”. But what costs? He’s an idiot. I don’t know who is the bigger idiot, he or Peter Petrelli. Maybe Peter, because I only have to deal with this idiot waffle for one book while Peter’s mental retardation stinks up the TV for four years. Still, a microwave should have fallen on Simon’s head and killed him – that would have made this story far more fun. Alex is a far more interesting character compared to Simon, but then again, it isn’t hard to upstage a grubby pipsqueak like Simon.
Perhaps my expectations were too high when I started reading No Proper Lady – heaven knows, I certainly expected a more action-paced story full of suspense and danger. This one is more like a standard regency romantic suspense with magic thrown in here and there. The romance is easily the dullest thing about this story, mostly because Simon exudes as much sex appeal as a wet rag. The whole story is pretty dry and too easy to put down.