Review – A Notorious Vow by Joanna Shupe

About the Book:

Joanna Shupe returns to New York City’s Gilded Age, where fortunes and reputations are gained and lost with ease—and love can blossom from the most unlikely charade

With the fate of her disgraced family resting on her shoulders, Lady Christina Barclay has arrived in New York City from London to quickly secure a wealthy husband. But when her parents settle on an intolerable suitor, Christina turns to her reclusive neighbor, a darkly handsome and utterly compelling inventor, for help.

Oliver Hawkes reluctantly agrees to a platonic marriage . . . with his own condition: The marriage must end after one year. Not only does Oliver face challenges that are certain to make life as his wife difficult, but more importantly, he refuses to be distracted from his life’s work—the development of a revolutionary device that could transform thousands of lives, including his own.

Much to his surprise, his bride is more beguiling than he imagined. When temptation burns hot between them, they realize they must overcome their own secrets and doubts, and every effort to undermine their marriage, because one year can never be enough.

Click on title below for direct Amazon buy link:                                                         A Notorious Vow: The Four Hundred Series

My Review:                      

I received a complimentary copy of this book.

A childhood illness caused Oliver Hawkes to completely lose his hearing by about the age of thirteen.  Oliver became proficient at lip reading, and continued to pursue his education and to socialize.  When it became apparent that he was being mocked and thought of as less than human, he decided to withdraw from society, remain secluded at his home, and pursue his invention of a hearing device.  Though Oliver had obviously learned to speak from a young age, he now is silent, fearing that his voice has changed.  He learns sign language and carries a small notepad to communicate.  His carefully controlled environment is disrupted when his pet dog insists on taking him to his garden, where he finds an unconscious and injured beautiful young lady.

Lady Christina Barclay and her parents have traveled from England to stay with their American cousins.  Her family is impoverished, and Christina’s parents hope to marry her off to the highest bidder and restore their fortune.  When she is forced to consider the suit of a repulsive and elderly man, Christina finds solace in strolling in the gardens of her reclusive neighbor, though she is clearly doing so uninvited.  When Oliver’s dog inadvertently causes her to fall and injure herself in his garden, Oliver carries her into his home and summons a doctor.

Oliver’s first reaction is concern for Christina.  When it’s certain that her injury is minor, he inquires as to why she was in his garden.  Christina explains, and tries to charm Oliver into allowing her to continue to visit, but he firmly tells her that he insists on his privacy.  Though disappointed in his refusal, Christina continues her visits, and is eventually caught by Oliver, who ends up relenting.  They develop a friendship, with him telling her about the hearing device he’s working on, and her telling him of her family’s woes, and how they want to marry her off against her will.

Christina’s parents, in particular, her mother, are so vile that they are almost caricatures.  Their total disregard for their daughter is truly loathsome, as they long to fill their coffers, which their own  reckless living depleted.  You’ll have to read the book to discover the lengths to which mother dearest will go to achieve her goals.  Her machinations lead to a marriage of convenience between Oliver and Christina.

Though Oliver intends not to consummate the marriage, and to eventually seek an annulment, he finds Christina very desirable.  He at first runs hot and cold – approaching her, then backing off.  Soon he can’t resist any longer, and they begin to share a loving and passionate relationship.  All does not go well, as Christina’s parents will not go away, demanding more from Oliver.  There are also other enemies who seek to have Oliver’s fortune, and to have him declared incompetent.

I really don’t know how Christina became such a loving and caring person with the example her parents set.  She was totally under her mother’s thumb, and I so badly wanted her to stand up for herself, which she didn’t do, even after her marriage.  On the other hand, she brought joy and love to Oliver’s previous sterile existence.  She accepted his deafness as a matter of course, encouraged him to use his voice with her, and learned sign language.  When Oliver was victimized by his enemies, she stood by him, and worked tirelessly to save him.

The fate that befell Oliver truly made me shudder.  There will always be unscrupulous behavior, and thieves ready to capitalize on an opportunity, but the misconceptions of people toward deafness are truly mind boggling.  I would have liked to see a more definite reckoning for all the villains, as I had the niggling feeling that they would all come back to wreak more havoc at a future date.

I found A NOTORIOUS VOW to be an intense and passionate read, with characters who are flawed, but still I couldn’t help loving.  Oliver did exhibit substantial growth, as he realizes that much of what happened to him was due to his own actions.  I love the chemistry and passion between this couple, who are well deserving of their hard won happy ending.   ~Rose

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