Not Always a Saint (Mary Jo Putney)

August 19, 2015 Book Reviews 12 ★★★★

Not Always a Saint (Mary Jo Putney)Not Always a Saint by Mary Jo Putney
Series: Lost Lords #7
Published by Kensington on April 28th 2015
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 294
Format: eARC
Source: the publisher through NetGalley
Goodreads
four-stars
Also in this series: Sometimes a Rogue, Not Quite a Wife
Also by this author: Sometimes a Rogue, Not Quite a Wife, The Last Chance Christmas Ball, Once a Soldier

Daniel Herbert has come to London in search of a wife, someone sensible who can oversee his newly inherited properties, leaving him free to pursue his life's work as a doctor. He never expects to become intoxicated by a woman as mysterious as she is shockingly beautiful. . .

Jessie Kelham's looks have always been a curse. Now alone with a young daughter and a perilous secret, she is in need of protection. But dangerously attractive Daniel is not the kind of husband she has in mind. If he recognizes her, the demons of her past will surely erupt. Yet they cannot keep apart, and soon they are drawn into a union that may bring joy--or shattering danger. . .

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.

Review

Mary Jo Putney has a gift for making even the most unlikely or incredible situations believable through the very real emotions her characters feel. In Not Always a Saint, Jessie’s past holds far more than her fair share of troubles, but I easily connected with her and even more with Dr. Daniel Herbert, now Lord Romayne – who may not always be a saint but is always a good, kind, and honorable man.

The book pulled me in from the very first scene, in which a battered, bleeding, half-strangled woman staggers into Daniel’s surgery in need of help. The descriptions of “Jane’s” injuries are horrifying and utterly realistic. It’s a compelling scene, and gives a lot of insight into Daniel’s character: kind, caring, generous, and progressive in his views about women.

When we next see the battered woman, she’s ten years older and wiser, the cherished wife of an elderly, dying baron and the mother of a little girl. Those scenes establish Jessie’s mature character: she loves her husband and adores her daughter, and she will do anything to protect little Beth… even remarry in a hurry after her husband dies, lest her odious nephew-by-marriage gain guardianship over the child. She isnt weak, but the fears of her past still haunt her.

Jessie tends to hide her feelings, and is extremely reticent about her past, which makes her hard to know. As I slowly learned more about her, I understand why. Putney does an excellent job of exploring the lasting trauma and emotions of an abuse survivor. In particular, she nails Jessie’s mingled fear/anger toward her father and her longing for some kind of tenderness/recognition from him, despite knowing how unlikely it is.

Daniel is a healer first and foremost. As a result, his dismay at inheriting a title and estates rings true, which gives him a much-needed touch of humanity. He’s a perfect match for Jessie, particularly because of his sensitivity toward women’s feelings and his understanding of the effects of abuse. It’s easy to see and appreciate the growing feelings between Daniel & Jessie even before they are able to identify and articulate them to themselves and each other, and I loved their developing relationship.

But where were Daniel’s flaws? If he had any, I couldn’t see them. The man really is almost a saint. I kept expecting him to lose his temper or pull away from Jessie or something, but he is superhumanly kind and patient, even when he discovers she lied to him by omission. And he remains true to his Hippocratic oath even when the patient has tried to harm him and those he loves.

I was a little bothered by the suddenness with which Daniel falls in love with Jessie. You can (and Putney does, a few times too many) call it coup de foudre –¬† the thunderbolt, or love at first sight – but it’s essentially insta-love. I’m not saying that it doesn’t happen on occasion, but I would have preferred if Daniel had simply been drawn to and fascinated by her at first – infatuated, if you will – then found himself falling in love as he got to know her better.

Jessie’s love for her child is one of the best and most joyful things about her, and little Beth is a delight, so I was surprised and a little disappointed not to see more of the child. It made Beth’s presence in the book feel a little bit like a plot device on the author’s part. That said, her absence through much of the book is consistent with the way children were raised in the upper classes, and with the two adults being either at various social occasions or on their honeymoon – neither¬† of them places you would expect to see a four-year-old. (A quick aside: Beth’s speech is surprisingly polite and advanced for a four-year-old, which detracts a little from her believability.)

The only real flaw in the book, though, is the aforementioned odious nephew, who is a thoroughly unlikeable villain. He does at least have motivation – plenty of it – for his actions, but he displays no redeeming features – not even charm.¬† He’s truly despicable; the more I learned about him the more I hated him. But he’s so unrelievedly nasty that he comes across as two-dimensional and unbelievable.

The same could perhaps be said of the other supporting characters – that they are flat, I mean, not that they’re wicked. It’s mainly because they don’t get a lot of page time, and because for the most part their characters were already developed in previous books. That doesn’t mean you can’t start with this book, but you may enjoy it more if you’ve at least read the previous novel, Not Quite a Wife, which features Daniel’s sister.

I’m not sure if this is the end of the Lost Lords series. If so, I’ll be sorry to say goodbye to the characters – but I’m not sure there are any of this group left unmarried. I’ve really liked most of the books and loved several. But then, Putney is one of my go-to historical authors. It will be fun to see what she comes up with next.

 

Read for #COYER Scavenger Hunt #12 – any type of romance novel

four-stars

About Mary Jo Putney

Mary Jo Putney was born in Upstate New York and holds degrees in English Literature and Industrial Design from Syracuse University. She worked in the field of design until her first novel was published in 1987. Since then, she has written over forty books, mainly historical romances.

Ms. Putney’s novels are known for their emotional depth and for tackling unusal subjects for romance, including alcoholism, imprisonment, terminal illness, and domestic violence. Her books regularly feature on national bestseller lists. A ten-time finalist for the Romance Writers of America’s RITA award, Putney has won twice, for Dancing on the Wind and The Rake and the Reformer (later revised and expanded as The Rake. She is also the holder of several other awards, including the Romance Writers of America Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award.

Ms. Putney continues to write new stories for Kensington, but has reissued many of her backlist titles independently, including the Silk Trilogy and her bestselling Fallen Angels series.

She lives near Baltimore, Maryland.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • 2015 Historical Romance Reading Challenge
  • COYER Scavenger Hunt - Summer 2015

12 Responses to “Not Always a Saint (Mary Jo Putney)”

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      Putney is really a wonderful author. Like any prolific author, she’s written a few that haven’t quite worked, but I’ve loved a lot of her books.

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      A bit intense at times, yes. Her books are usually somewhat intense, but that’s often what makes them so good – there’s more going on than “just” a romance, usually some sort of mystery or danger.

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      You should try her! But start with the first in the series, or with her Fallen Angel series. I mean, they can work as standalones, but it’s fun to read them in series – and actually, this one benefits from at least having read the book immediately preceding it, about Daniel’s sister. You get a bit more about his life as a doctor before inheriting the title and estates, and it helps you understand his character more easily.

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      I’ve read a lot of the type of romance you’re referring to, done well and not done well (I usually give up on the latter.) But I really enjoy it when the heroine has some maturity and experience of the world, especially as I myself get older.

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      I’m glad you want to try Putney; she’s one of my all-time favorite historical romance authors! I do recommend starting at the beginning of this series, though, with Loving a Lost Lord.

  1. Handy Orten

    I absolutely adore The Lost Lord’s series by Ms. Putney and have been waiting for what feels like an eternity for Daniels story. Doesn’t it always feel like eternity when one’s waiting on the next book in a series to come out ?

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      It does indeed! I’m curious what she will write next. She’s out of Lost Lords, unless she does the one with the family port business – Ballard, isn’t it? Though it sounds from this book like she could also write about Jessie’s brother, even if he wasn’t one of the Lost Lords. He’s a change-of-heart/life waiting to happen.