Friday, June 8, 2012

Book Review: The Malorie Phoenix by Janet Mullany

Title:  The Malorie Phoenix
Author: Janet Mullany
Publisher:  TKA Distribution
Pub Date:  April 24, 2012
ISBN:  9781937776299

I enjoyed Janet Mullany’s novel, Improper Relations, so I was thrilled to be able to read and review The Malorie Phoenix.
Because I am apparently too lazy to summarize today, I’ll begin with the marketing copy/blurb provided by the publisher:

She plays a deadly game, but nothing is as dangerous as love. Benedict de Malorie, Earl of Trevisan, can never forget the masked woman he met one night at a London pleasure garden. The clever pickpocket stole his heart and his family's prized jewel - the Malorie Phoenix. But the family treasure reappears in Benedict's darkest hour, returned by its thief, along with the unexpected gift of his infant daughter.Believing that she is dying, Jenny Smith leaves her daughter in the custody of the baby's blueblood father. Seven years later she finds herself in good health and alone, yearning for her only child. To raise enough money to support them both, she takes part in a daring escapade that requires her to impersonate a woman of quality. She fools the ton and Benedict himself.When Jenny finds herself entangled in a murderous plot against Benedict, the father of her child, her carefully laid plans begin to fall apart. All she wants is her daughter back, but she never thought she'd fall in love with Benedict. Revealing her part in the plot means she will almost certainly lose Benedict and their daughter forever. But continuing to play her role puts them all in terrible danger.

Jenny and Benedict couldn’t be more different. Benedict, raised to be Earl of Trevisan, could never know what life was like for Jenny, whose circumstances lead her to steal merely to survive. Their initial attraction is something that both of them act on without thinking, although they each fully believe their liaison will never go further than that one night in the gardens of Vauxhall.

Jenny Smith is a refreshingly unconventional Regency heroine. She has the guts to make her own decisions and stand by them, beginning with that choice to toss caution to the wind and act on her attraction to Benedict. She consistently trusts her instincts while doing whatever is necessary to ensure her future and her child's. She doesn't apologize for her past or the choices she makes, even when circumstances become challenging.

As for Benedict, he is equally likable. A good man who tries to always do the right thing, he is portrayed as an involved, exceptional father and his scenes with daughter Sarah are warm and touching. Mullany skillfully shows the depth of that father/daughter relationship as well as the progression of Jenny’s understanding of it; while she initially wants to get her daughter back no matter the cost, she quickly realizes how devoted Benedict and Sarah are to one another. Combined with her own evolving feelings, her choices are not quite so easy anymore.

The progression of the romance is realistic, although some aspects of the plot are less so.
Jenny’s motivation for her actions is made clear, as are the actions and motivations of the villain of the story. However, the whole masquerading-as-someone-else trope can often stretch the limits of credulity a bit far sometimes, as it does here. Jenny’s masquerade is pulled off much too easily, and her acceptance by the family of the woman she impersonates as well as Benedict and the entire ton just doesn’t quite ring true. Even considering only the people of the ton that she must have come into contact with during the years between her meetings with Benedict, it seems rather unlikely that no one at all would recognize her, or know she wasn't who she claimed to be. Although some characters’ doubts are revealed later on, for the most part her impersonation is just too readily accepted.

That said, I did find myself rooting for the two to find their obligatory happy ending, and hoping they'd end up one big. happy family. In the end, I just liked them. The romance and characters were strong enough to help me to overcome my inability to suspend disbelief, and The Malorie Phoenix was ultimately a fun, engaging read with both touching and humorous moments. 

*Title was provided courtesy of The Knight Agency, via NetGalley

**Upcoming Reviews:      Thief of Shadows by Elizabeth Hoyt
                                          The Governess Affair by Courtney Milan

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