Nowhere Near Respectable by Mary Jo Putney
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
3.5 stars, really.
When Lady Kiri Lawford accidentally overhears her potential mother-in-law insulting her and her mother, she is so furious, she "borrows" the best horse in the stables and sets off alone for her brother's house in London. Not the smartest plan in the world, as it turns out, because while still far from home, she stumbles across a group of smugglers who capture her, chain her up in a cave, and then begin debating the merits of raping & killing her versus holding her for ransom. She is ultimately freed by a combination of an honorable customer of theirs and her own skills, including using her diamond ring to saw through the manacles and her knowledge of hand-to-hand fighting.
Her rescuer turns out to be Damian Mackenzie, friend and former classmate of her brother's, owner of a fashionable gambling establishment and the illegitimate brother of Lord Will Masterson. Even though Mac is not really suitable marriage material, he appeals to Kiri's rebellious side, and she can't quite make herself stay away from him once they are back in London. One night, she and a friend sneak out and go masqueraded to Mac's club under the pretense of repaying him the money he spent rescuing her. They see it as a great adventure, but the adventure turns serious when Kiri notices a young woman being abducted and charges into the fray. The kidnapping turns out to be part of a much larger conspiracy, and soon Kiri is going undercover, using her unique perfumer's talent of identifying scents to locate the culprits.
The reason this novel didn't rate a full four stars (or more) from me is that it requires more than the usual amount of willing suspension of disbelief. I could believe that Kiri's childhood was unusual enough to have afforded her training in a particular type of Indian hand-to-hand combat, and I could even believe that she'd been trained as a perfumer. My own husband has an incredibly strong magnetic pull on me, so I could just barely stretch far enough to believe in the power of her attraction to Mac. But I had a hard time swallowing the concept that her brother the Duke, her stepfather the General, or her mother the Hindu princess would have ever allowed her to move into a boardinghouse for spies and go out unchaperoned, dressed as a doxy, looking for traitors and criminals!
Still, the story was highly engaging, and I enjoyed the historical thread regarding the state of the British royal family during the Regency period. It was a fun read.
For readers' advisors: story, character, and setting doorways. Some sex and swearing.
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