When the youngest Sharpe sister hatches a plan to gain marriage offers, the straight-laced Bow Street Runner Jackson Pinter knows he'll do whatever it takes to ruin her scheme…
Lady Celia Sharpe hopes that if she can garner offers of marriage from several eligible gentlemen and show her grandmother she is capable of gaining a husband, she can convince Gran to rescind the marriage ultimatum for her. And if that plan doesn’t work, at least she’ll have a husband lined up.
But Bow Street Runner Jackson Pinter seems determined to ruin her plans by disapproving of every suitor she asks him to investigate. It’s only when she and Jackson work together to solve her parents’ murders, plunging them both into danger, that she realizes why–because the only man he wants her to marry is himself!
And here is Caty's review:
Oh, did I take writing this review seriously. There was a mini-legal notepad involved. There was flagon upon flagon of coffee. There was a pencil and a pencil sharpener and many cries of, “Why does the sodding lead keep breaking?” There was a monster heat wave that forced me to stay inside, blinds drawn, huddled under an air conditioning vent to stop withering into a husk of myself from the damned, damned, THRICE-DAMNED desert sun. Even though this book didn’t completely work for me, I’ll always be thankful to it for getting me through a 112 degree day.
First of all, the things I didn’t like. Unfortunately, the hero is one of those things. Jackson Pinter is a bastard with father issues and a massive chip on his shoulder about the aristocracy (namely, their predilection for abandoning their illegitimate children). The book begins with Jackson fighting his attraction to Lady Celia; he’s convinced that he could only feel lust for a woman brought up in opulence. His feelings for her grow, and eventually, his feelings about the difference in their stations grow, too. But he never figures out what he thinks about the aristocracy, despite his recent positive experiences with them and even after he makes some pretty huge discoveries about his own past. After the umpteenth reference to himself as “a bastard Bow Street Runner” (179), I scrawled “Angsty McAngst” across my notes. That about summed him up.
I don’t feel that in order to grow, he had to suddenly love the aristocracy, but I did feel it was crucial that he eventually learn to stop hating his own background. He referred to his home as “cheery and warm,” (282), but claims that Celia couldn’t learn to live there, didn’t belong there, would grow to hate him, etc. It’s a common enough trope. I just wanted him to become a strong enough man to say, Damn it, I love my home, and I’m going to go to her and explain why I think it’s wonderful, and I’ll let her make a decision about whether she can live a middle-class life based on her own counsel, and not by me making the decision for her by just ignoring her and not explaining things.
I felt that would be the stronger thing to do; I wanted him to be proud of himself and his place in the world and not constantly assume that others judged him. It took him forever to say even a tenth of that, and there was a lot of self-flagellation in the interim. His plea to her, at the end, boiled down to I can’t live without you so I suppose we’ll be ok in my comfy house with a coach and a few servants. I mean, we’ll get by. I mean, it’s not like he’s a dock worker sharing a room with thirteen men and a cat and he thinks she may find that a bit of a culture shock. He lives quite comfortably, and when he accuses her, with no evidence, of not being able to live without fancy sugar icing on her cake and 365 rooms to wander through, both Celia and I thought, well you sanctimonious little jackass (her thoughts were more properly phrased, but that’s how she felt, damn it). And while this kind of misunderstanding happens a lot in romances, it felt like it went on and on, angsty thought upon angsty thought, until I wanted to start listening to emo music again and calling my high school boyfriend and wailing, “You could never love someone like me!” Good grief, Jackson, grow up and give her the opportunity to make her own choices.
His feelings about the aristocracy (SPOILER ALERT) do not resolve themselves in any real way by the end of the book. In the epilogue, after being knighted, he even says that “having spent most of his life despising people of rank, he still wasn’t sure how he felt about being one of them” (382). I don’t believe that someone could go through everything he went through during the course of the book and not have a more decided opinion. I could have believed anything: that he was still so turned off by the idea of nobility that he was going to become a radical and campaign against the honor system, or that he now realized that nobles were, in fact, people too, and maybe he had been too hasty to judge them all. And the fact that I could believe either of those or anything in between meant that I was never sure who Jackson was; he was nebulous and impossible to pin down. (SPOILER ALERT CONCLUDED). I don’t mind not knowing all his thoughts; I do mind not knowing how he finally felt about one of the biggest factors in his life.
He’s also the kind of man who constantly starts thoughts with, “God save him, but she…” or “God save him, he was…” It’s a personal, nitpicky thing, but a few of those really put me off. They never sound like the thoughts of a real person to me; more like a rough sketch of a man saying, “God save me, but I have EMOTIONS and DEEP PASSION hidden under my GRUFF EXTERIOR.”
The other main issue I had with A Lady Never Surrenders is that old chestnut: telling instead of showing. For example, “…he said, deliberately being obtuse” (14). There were a few purple-y prose moments as well: “her hair pouring over her shoulders like night rivers of gossamer silk” (258). That one really threw me out of the book. I spent a while staring into the middle distance, trying to figure out what her hair actually looked like. (Night rivers? That would be weird if there were rivers that only flowed at night. Huh. But what if there was a moon? The night rivers would have slivers of moonlight in them. She’s not going grey at 24, is she? Are those supposed to be glints of color in her hair, then? I’m probably meant to imagine a general dark color. No moon. And gossamer silk? Aren’t they the same things? Or…or not. Maybe I don’t really know what gossamer actually is. [checks Wikipedia]. YES! YES! BONUS CUP OF COFFEE TO ME! It’s both spider silk and a fabric. I have learned today).
That wasn’t facetious. I really was taken out of the book trying to figure out exactly what “night rivers of gossamer silk” meant. I’m weird like that, though, so I can easily picture this not being a problem for others.
There are two things I really liked about this book. One is Lady Celia. Where Jackson is perplexing, she is delightful; she is strong and opinionated, but still susceptible to self-doubt and mistakes. She’s human. She’s stuck in a tough situation, and connives a way to get out of it; I wasn’t convinced by her plan, but I didn’t need to be, because I was sure she was going to adjust as she went along and keep fighting. My notepad is full of Celia quotes that can do a far better job of describing her than I could:
“’Because I prefer facts to opinions. And I was under the impression that you do, too’” (35).
“’Besides, if anyone ever shoots Ned, it’s going to be me’” (230).
She’s the kind of person who (SPOILER ALERT) rather than shaking with fear when hiding in a poacher’s hut to escape assassins, looks around for furniture to break into firewood. (SPOILER ALERT CONCLUDED). She’s a crack shot with a great deal of knowledge about guns, having wanted to be able to protect herself since her parents’ murders. She is able to accept some hard truths about her parents and doesn’t resort to head-in-the-sand protestations of their perfection.
The other thing I appreciated about the book is the choice to avoid flashbacks (except in the prologue). This appears to be the last book in a series, and I’ve never read the others. As a new reader, I liked that I wasn’t submerged in a deluge of flashbacks or too much exposition. I was told just enough to catch me up. There was also a specific plot detail to do with Celia’s past that was beautifully hinted at in tiny, intriguing nibbles through the first half of the book and then finally explained in Celia’s voice. It happened organically, rather than being forced into a flashback, and had much more impact that way.
I wasn’t thrilled with the end of the novel. The murder is solved and there are recriminations and such, but what with having to read Jackson’s POV figuring a piece of the puzzle out, then Celia’s POV figuring the same piece out, I felt the pace slowed down.
The grade. Well. I have to take off a couple of points because I didn’t particularly like Jackson Pinter, which means that the romance itself didn’t convince me. Occasionally, the writing style took me out of the story. I did, however, like Celia. I give the book a C, with the full expectation that it is likely an A for other readers. If you like historicals with a strong, intriguing woman at the heart of it, men with a few unresolved emotions, and dramatic language with some witty one-liners, A Lady Never Surrenders is well worth your time.