Wednesday, August 28, 2013

New Review: Jennifer Blake’s NOTORIOUS ANGEL – Unusual and Exciting Bodice Ripper Set in Nicaragua

I struggled with my review of this one only because for much of the story the “hero” appeared the villain and the heroine weak, not my favorite combination, but the second half of the tale (which I think the best) is different. I would give the first half 4 stars and the second half 5 stars—and there is a great ending that will bring tears to your eyes.

Set in Nicaragua in Central America during the years 1855-1857, this is the story of Eleanora Colette Villars from an aristocratic New Orleans family who, because of her brother’s folly, loses her home and ends up following her brother to Nicaragua where he has joined the mercenaries serving William Walker, an American who is trying to take over the country.

Colonel Grant Farrell, head of Walker’s private military, using her brother as hostage, forces Eleanora, an innocent, to pose as his mistress. Then he rapes her and holds her prisoner in his home, without even clothes to wear. When she has the chance to escape, she does not take it (this more than once). She even begins to make excuses for the colonel (he’s a half-breed Apache with a poor childhood). It reminded me of the Stockholm syndrome, where hostages feel sympathy toward their captors.

Once her brother is released and she is free, Eleanora doesn’t tell her brother she was raped and, when her brother wounds the colonel in a duel, she returns to Colonel Farrell’s house to tend his wound. While tending the colonel, Eleanora introduces herself as his mistress, apparently resigned to the role. (He has such a low view of women he will not offer her marriage).

Impressed with Eleanora’s medical knowledge, the local doctor invites her to tend the wounded American mercenaries. She takes on the task and, for her valiant efforts, is dubbed “the colonel’s angel.” But she has rivals, the mistress of William Walker, and the former mistress of Colonel Farrell, both of whom seek Eleanora’s demise.

In an intricately woven plot, Eleanora rises to every challenge as she is rescued from peril only to face further hardships. The scenes as they tramp from Granada to the coast through the jungles and rivers are very well done, and very realistic. The characters are richly developed, too. (Her savior, Luis, was one of my favorite characters and one could not help but feel his pain for his love for Eleanora.) 

The writing is excellent. Blake really makes you feel like you’re in the hot, dusty streets of Nicaragua in a tumultuous time. I could suggest you might want a map, too, so I’ve included one.

Blake has obviously done much research for the book and it is seamlessly woven into the story. (There is also a worthy Author’s Note at the end that gives you more.) It is all told from the heroine’s perspective as were Blake’s other early novels (NOTORIOUS ANGEL was first published in 1977—see the original cover below).

This one will capture you, I promise.

A few notes: The eBook cover has the heroine with blonde hair; it is actually red. And this is part of Blake’s Love and Adventure series, part 2 (SURRENDER IN MOONLIGHT, NOTORIOUS ANGEL and GOLDEN FANCY).
Original Cover

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