Book Talk: A Notorious Vow by Joanna Shupe

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Talk: A Notorious Vow by Joanna ShupeA Notorious Vow by Joanna Shupe
Series: The Four Hundred #3
Published by Avon on September 25, 2018
Genres: Historical, Romance
Pages: 376
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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Joanna Shupe returns to New York City’s Gilded Age, where fortunes and reputations are gained and lost with ease—and love can blossom from the most unlikely charade

With the fate of her disgraced family resting on her shoulders, Lady Christina Barclay has arrived in New York City from London to quickly secure a wealthy husband. But when her parents settle on an intolerable suitor, Christina turns to her reclusive neighbor, a darkly handsome and utterly compelling inventor, for help.

Oliver Hawkes reluctantly agrees to a platonic marriage . . . with his own condition: The marriage must end after one year. Not only does Oliver face challenges that are certain to make life as his wife difficult, but more importantly, he refuses to be distracted from his life’s work—the development of a revolutionary device that could transform thousands of lives, including his own.

Much to his surprise, his bride is more beguiling than he imagined. When temptation burns hot between them, they realize they must overcome their own secrets and doubts, and every effort to undermine their marriage, because one year can never be enough.

For years, I’ve wondered why there were no books about girls named Christina. I mean, it’s been a common name in several countries for hundreds of years, since it’s a female name which means “follower of Christ,” which may not thrill me tbh. Well, I finally got a book with a heroine named Christina, and actually it was a little weird reading the name Christina. Not insurmountably weird like reading a book written in second person, but occasionally mildly odd. So that was exciting, as was this book.

A Notorious Vow is the third, and I believe final, book in The Four Hundred series, set in Gilded Age New York City. There will, however, be a spinoff series, which I will so be reading. The first book did not totally win me over, but the second one was deliciously shippy, with a logical heroine. A Notorious Vow gets even better yet imo, though book two still wins for shippiest.

There’s not a lot of rep in historical romance, outside of the works of Courtney Milan and Cat Sebastian (which, yes, you should read them ASAP if you have not). There are no POC in A Notorious Vow, but Lady Christina clearly has social anxiety, the poor girl, and Oliver Hawkes is deaf.

Christina and Oliver meet in his gardens, where she has been walking to escape from being near people. His dog startled her, resulting in her falling and hitting her head. Oliver, who has become a recluse because he hates the way people treat him in society due to his deafness, is horrified that a person has violated his safe space. Christina, who has about one judgmental bone in her body expresses interest in learning sign language and always endeavors to be mindful of speaking so he may read her lips; her thoughtfulness slowly wins his trust, and they forge a friendship. And I love how much they bond over both being introverts and not wanting to go outside and deal with people; I feel ya, Christina.

Christina’s parents are THE WORST. Seriously. They’re trying to marry her off because they’ve been to profligate in England, and they’ll take the highest bidder, even if he is a fucking creepy old man. They are garbage people, and, while I do think the hold that her mother has over her is very believable and well portrayed, it’s hard for me to take how forgiving she is of her parents. Off to the special hell with those asshats.

Oliver and Christina make adorable friends, but they both have such low self-esteem that nothing happens, because neither can fathom the idea of someone being truly interested in them. It’s so completely relatable. They end up married because reasons, and even then they’re soooo bad at feelings. Oliver’s unwillingness of commit to the relationship does occasionally ring a bit false, especially given the loving acceptance of his own parents; it’s a bit hard to see why he’s quite so closed off and insecure, even with the absolutely shit treatment he gets from most people. Still, I have sympathy, because low self-esteem is no joke.

From very early on, both Christina and Oliver believe in the strength of the other. He sees a strength in her that no one else does, especially Christina. She never sees him as weak or lesser. Christina’s character can be tough to understand at times, because she does often act like a pushover, but I actually liked that because she has been emotionally abused her entire life by her parents. Her character growth may be relatively small, but considering what she has to overcome, it’s impressive, and also more realistic than massive, immediate progress.

The plot runs a bit hackneyed in points with a very predictable villain attacking predictably, but it also hits on a lot of really cool historical elements in the process. A Notorious Vow highlights the garbage treatment of people with disabilities. Meanwhile, Oliver uses his intelligence to develop an early version of a hearing aid, to help those who are HoH.

In the future, I hope to see more historical romances branching out and taking risks. Shupe does a nice job balancing the fantasy element of romance with the realism of the treatment both receive from others.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

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