Thursday, 10 September 2015

#CBR7 Book 86: "If I Fall" by Kate Noble

Page count: 352 pages
Rating: 3 stars

On the evening of her betrothal party, the duke Miss Sarah Forrester is set to marry, confesses that he is in love with another. Sarah is instantly named "the girl who lost a Duke" in society and prepares to become a complete social outcast. However, one of the leading ladies in society advises her to reinvent herself, and soon Sarah is known as "The Golden Lady", the glittering, carefree toast of the town. Not everyone is as happy about her drastic changes, though.

Sarah's childhood friend Lieutenant Jackson Fletcher is back in London as the ship he was serving on is too old to sail any longer. While he cools his heels, living with the Forresters, waiting to find out the final fate of his ship, he also determines to breach Sarah's glittering facade and see if there are any traces left of the trusting and adventurous girl he once knew. A truly outrageous scheme involving costumes, lurking in a cupboard and assumed identities leads to a passionate kiss, as well as Jackson being recruited to help solve a high-profile murder. The last thing he wants to do is keep secrets from Sarah, as secrets were what broke up her engagement with the Duke.

This was my first romance by Kate Noble, and I must admit, it was a bit of a hot mess. There were so many different story beats, and it seemed difficult to pin down what the story really wanted to be. There was Sarah's transformation to society "Mean Girl" in order to mask her heartbreak. There was Jackson's struggle to acknowledge that life as he'd known it might be over, and he'd have to get used to a civilian life. There was the preposterous scheme Jack hatched to re-awaken Sarah's sense of fun, which amounted to him disguising himself as "The Blue Raven", a masked spy having worked against the French during the Napoleonic wars, basically Sarah's childhood hero. Then there was the plot to uncover a murderer, which both Sarah and Jack eventually got involved in. Too many things happening, none of which felt like they were really properly committed to.

It didn't help that I couldn't really connect with Sarah. I felt bad that she was jilted, but she clearly didn't love her Duke all that much anyway. The social disgrace and fact that she was no longer going to be comfortably settled seemed to be more hurtful than the fact that her fiancee loved another. "The Golden Lady" is a self-centred bitch and I can't fault Jackson for wanting to make her stop being so dismissive of her sisters and behave better. What I couldn't really see was why he was so determined to "break her cover" or why he fell in love with her. Even when she admits that she behaved badly, she's still not very interesting.

From this book, I learned that after the Napoleonic wars, a huge number of naval officers in England were left without positions, as there simply weren't enough ships for them to serve on. I just didn't particularly care. Then there was the dumb scheme of Jack's, that turned into an elaborate murder investigation and the romance seemed to almost be forgotten.

I've bought a whole bunch of Kate Noble books in e-book sales in the past few years, so at some point I'm obviously going to read them. This is not the first book in the Blue Raven series. I started with this one because it fit in my Monthly Key Word Challenge. One of the books in the series is about Sarah's younger sister, whose hurt that her older sister is completely ruining her first season, and as I liked and sympathised with her a lot more than with the protagonists, I'm hoping that other Noble books engage me more than this one. 

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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