I want to start off by saying that this book is very far from what I normally read (I like my paranormals to be contemporary, thank you very much). However, I gave it a try because I was looking for something different after going through the entire Pink Carnation Series in preparation for the release of the last book, The Lure of the Moonflower. I was in desperate need for a pallet cleanser and in that regard this book served its purpose.
Before we get into the synopsis and review, I think we should talk about that cover as it was the reason I even clicked on the link to this book. Personally, I think it is a gorgeous cover–all that blue! The colors went together nicely, but what really drew my eye was the obvious tattoo on the woman’s back. I can’t exactly make it out and I wouldn’t want it on my own body (no needles, thank you), but it was distinctive. Women of this time period most definitely wouldn’t have had tattoos.
Based on the cover, I knew this wasn’t going to be an ordinary historical setting, so I looked at the cover copy:
Our main characters are Joan (daughter of Arthur and Leia–with no last name) and Simon Grenville. Joan is from “the future,” which is sometime around 2088 and has been sent to the past the save the future from happening. Paradox City. She doesn’t know all that much about the time period to which she has been sent, although she found an old style dress that she thinks will fit the bill, which doesn’t, except we don’t really know why. Maybe it is out of date? Or only something a prostitute would wear? We’re never told.
Anyway, she suddenly appears on Simon’s property and he’s fine with this, even though she is “half naked” (basically, she’s dressed in black leather, which in alt-Victorian England translated to half naked) and has some gun-type weapon that she fires on what can only be categorized as Hell Hounds (except they don’t bare any resemblance to the ones that killed Dean on Supernatural back in season 3). None of this seems to strike him as the least bit odd. Even with his background in magic, you would think he’d be taken aback by this, but whatevs.
After Joan tells this total stranger why she’s there and that she’s come to kill a friend of his (or ex-friend) because he causes the world to go all dystopic. (In her time, demon-like creatures roam the Earth and have taken control over the human populace, forcing them underground.) Again, he’s cool with this. He does express concern over killing Alex because he figures this guy could be rehabilitated, despite the fact that he knows that Alex has killed at least one person and likes to force women (Simon’s sister included) to play host to various demons. (Alex is the biggest douche to ever grace the pages of a romance novel.)
This seems to be Ms. Cooper’s first book and as such, it suffers from 1st book problems. First of all, it sometimes feels as if the reader is being dropped into the middle of the book. We don’t know exactly what happened to the Earth other than something Alex wrote led to the world being doomed. The prologue literally sticks us into a battle that is being waged to stop Joan from being able to go back in time. You get no concept of what is happening and even with little hints throughout the book, you never really find out.
Second, the pacing is really off. It starts off with this battle and there’s a ton of urgency surrounding Joan’s trip, but once she makes it back to alt-1888 that urgency is completely gone because Joan informs us that she’s got a good 40 years before whatever happens to cause the world to go wrong actually comes to pass. They sent her 40 years before she needed to be there? I guess this is supposed to give her enough time to become accustomed to Victorian life and grow old before fighting the ultimate battle.
At this point, the book becomes a how-to guide. Simon’s sister helps Joan settle into Victorian society by picking out gowns, teaching her how to waltz (allowing her to spend some time with Simon), showing her which fork to use when, and telling her all the things she can’t do as a woman in that time. Seeing as I’ve (a) studied history in high school and college and (b) read plenty of historical romances, I already know the strictures that she would have to live by in order to survive to fight her battle. About half the book was given over to this when really it could have been a chapter or two at the most. The one thing I did find amusing about this section was seeing Joan remember that she’s not supposed to curse because it is unlady-like. As a native NY’er, who did time in Catholic School, I have problems not cursing around people, so I felt her pain. Sometimes, the only response to things is a good “fuck,” but it just wasn’t appropriate in Victorian society (although from what I’ve recently learned about Queen Victoria, who was not at all a prude, I think she might have appreciated a well-place expletive or two).
Let’s talk a little bit about Simon. He’s an aristocrat, although he has yet to come into his title because his father is still alive. He has a sister, who is about 8 years his junior, and who he needed to save from our villain, Alex, before the book begins. (It is alluded to that Ellie was possessed by a succubus (Joan’s guess). If that is the case, then Ellie has a lot of things to be worried about (ruination, pregnancy, syphilis, etc.) and she gets over this fairly quickly once Joan shows up.)
Anyway, Simon is also a magician? Warlock? Wizard? I’m not quite sure what to call him because I don’t remember if we were ever told. He and Alex studied magic together, but when Alex went towards the dark side, Simon pulled away from him. His magic is…different. (At one point, he invokes a variety of deities from multiple religions all while sporting a boner the size of New Jersey.) I get that magic tends to be sexual, but said boner shows up before he even starts to chant. All he has to do is put on his ceremonial tunic and he’s ready to go. (Pavlov wants nothing to do with this one–and neither did I.)
I liked Simon, but he got on my nerves from time to time. For instance, there is this scene in which he’s worried that Joan has lost sight of her objective and has fallen under Alex’s spell. At this point in the book, Simon and Joan have shared one kiss, but despite this he gets ridiculously jealous of Alex and the relationship Joan is pretending to have with him. He knew going in that Joan was meant to bait Alex into thinking there is the possibility of a sexual relationship and he knew what she would have to do to make Alex think this. For some reason, he starts to believe Joan’s little charade. I don’t get it. He knows that for Joan this mission is life or death.
There were a lot of things that bothered me with this book, but as it is already really long, I’m going to skip to the point. No Proper Lady is not something I would ordinarily read, but it is by no means a bad book. Had Ms. Cooper polished it a bit more before publication, it would have been much better than it was. Unfortunately, it reads like a mediocre fan fiction.
If you want to read it, it is available for free on Kindle Unlimited and in most e-libraries (I borrowed my copy from the Queens Public Library, but I also saw it on the Mountain View Library site as well.)