Monday, August 15, 2011

"Indiscreet," by Carolyn Jewel

The Chick: Sabine Godard. When a malicious rumour destroyed her reputation, her uncle took her and departed to explore Egypt, the Levant, and Turkey, where she now works as her uncle's faithful secretary.
The Rub: There, she encounters a man who was also hurt by the same rumour, but before their love can truly develop, an avaricious Turkish pasha sets his sights on her. Dream Casting: Scarlett Johansson
The Dude: Edward, Marquess of Foye. Travelling to exotic locales in order to escape his own heartbreak, he falls for the lovely Sabine Godard, even though he was a witness to her ruin and a former friend of the man who did it.
The Rub: But is he bad-ass enough to rescue her from being sent to a harem? Do I really need to answer that? Dream Casting: A younger Liam Neeson.

The Plot:

Crosshaven: Hey, this chick and I, we totally had sex.

Foye: TMI, dude.

Two Years Later...

Foye: Yeah, I used to be friends with the man who ruined your reputation and had you banished from your homeland. But if it helps, he did it to steal my woman.

Sabine: It does help, and I find you disconcertingly attractive.

Foye: Likewise! Well, this was easy!

Evil Pasha: Not so fast! Yoink! *steals Sabine*

Foye: DAMMIT. Well, I'm here to rescue you, but you'll have to dye your skin, cut your hair and dress as a boy.

Sabine: Will do! *does*

Foye: I still find you disconcertingly attractive.

Sabine: Huzzah!

Foye and Sabine's boots: *knocked*

Foye: There's only one spot on the boat to England, Sabine. You have to take it!

Sabine: I'll never let go, Jack Foye!

Foye: You're going to have to if you're getting on that damn boat!

Sabine: I arrived in England! Yay!

Solicitor: Too bad Foye died!

Sabine: NO!


Sabine: HOORAY!

Romance Convention Checklist

1 Vicious, Vicious Lie

2 Pomegranate Sherbets

Several Uncannily Accurate Tea Leaves

1 Evil Pasha

1 Daring Rescue

1 Inconvenient Shipwreck

1 Ingenious Disguise

The Word:
Some books, some blessed books, grab you with the first page, with language so lyrical and hooked you're excited to keep reading even before you're entirely sure what you're reading, with settings so vivid and intricately described, yet never so vivid and intricately described as the characters.

Indiscreet is one of them. It has the plot of an Italian opera, the theme of a fairy tale, and a writing style as rich, textured and gorgeous as only romances can be.

The story begins with a rumour, started by an entitled and foppish gentleman in the company of other foppish gentlemen. Our hero, Lord Edward, feels out of place in such company even before his friend, the Earl of Crosshaven, lets slip that he and the lovely orphan niece of an Oxford don may or may not have had improper relations (wink wink). Although Edward does not doubt his friend's word, he thinks less of the fellow for being so callous and unfeeling of his paramour's reputation, which will doubtless be ruined now.

Two years later, a sadder, more cynical Lord Edward (now the Marquess of Foye) meets the object of that rumour while touring Turkey. From looking at Sabine Godard, the lovely niece and secretary of famed scholar Sir Henry Godard, you'd never guess that such a self-contained, demure woman was ever cut by her friends and English society for a faux pas she never committed. While her loving, if cantankerous uncle refused to turn her out and instead took her abroad to escape the scandal and help him with his book, even he was never wholly convinced of her virtue.

But now Foye is all too certain that Sabine was innocent. It turns out Crosshaven had started that rumour to divert suspicion while he eloped with Foye's fiancee, and two years later, Foye hasn't fully overcome that heartbreak. At first he approaches Sabine only to admit and apologize for his unwitting involvement in her unjust ruin, but he sticks around despite his better judgement, her wariness, and the disparity in their ages (he's 38, she's 23). Attraction sparks instantly and brightly, but the real meat-and-potatoes romance doesn't truly set in until Sabine and her ailing uncle come under the dubious hospitality of a devious pasha, and Foye must come to her rescue.

Indiscreet succeeds through its unconventionality of setting, character, and pacing. No blissfully damp English climes here - our characters eat sherbet in sweltering and dusty streets, warily pass Bedouin warriors (thankfully not the Bonnie Vanak kind!), and smoke honey-soaked tobacco with a narghile.

And while there is definitely a Beauty and the Beast theme running beneath the foundation of Sabine and Foye, these are no cookie-cutter characters from Romance Central Casting - or perhaps they would be, if written by a lesser writer with a looser grasp of description. Foye is repeatedly described as an ugly, brutish looking man - "His nose was hooked, and the remainder of his features were set irregularly in his face, as if someone had put the parts together and then given him a hard shake before everything has settled into place." And yet, for such a physically enormous, leonine man, he worships his tailor and a fine suit of clothes. And he treats the things and people he loves with unbearable gentleness and detail.

Sabine is a naturally wary character, given her upbringing and the scandal that banished her family from England. She treats the people around her like puzzles - she likes to take a person's measure and click all their pieces into place before she deals with them. And yet, with Foye, she always comes up one piece short. And the longer Sabine comes to know him, through their romance and their trials, the more her perception of his looks shifts from aesthetic to subjective, as the personality that burns beneath the face begins to give character to it.

Instead of Jewel's characters being based on a single popular Romantic Ideal (the Savage Aristocrat alpha male character who would ordinarily be tamed by the end of the novel, and the Feisty Orphan in Pants who tames him), they're each a collection of small, interlocking details and memories and personality traits that render them so multifaceted and fascinating - just when you think you know them, you spot them from a different angle.

Lastly, the pacing in this book is surprising but effective. Sabine and Foye's love for each other blossoms quickly - almost too quickly. Less than halfway through. But it's not the burst of burninating passion that makes the story - it's how that burninating passion survives under pressure. It's how the passion survives Sabine getting kidnapped, Foye rescuing her, and a series of lies and disguises both must endure in order to escape and reach their happy ending. The first half of the novel convinced me of their love, but it's the novel's second half that will convince you of their ultimate HEA.

If there was one, teeny, tiny, itsy bitsy thing that wasn't perfect, it was an event that happens at the very end which seemed to add extra tension at the last minute that I don't think we really needed - it was very romantic, enjoyable and angsty but it was a little bit much.

I enjoyed Indiscreet from beginning to end. I read it during my vacation in Ireland - it helped me through flights, and on my last night on the Emerald Isle I even stayed up late in the hotel lounge to reach the end. It's gorgeously written, it works as both an intimate romance and an epic, far-reaching lovestory, and it has an unconventional setting. If you haven't already read this book, you should.


  1. Great review as always! I also recently vacationed in Ireland, I loved it there! Hope you had a great time!

  2. Sounds fantastic. On my TBB list it goes.

  3. Vorkosigrrl11:30 AM

    Wow. Sounds terrific. TBB for me, too.

  4. Anonymous6:52 PM

    I read this one a while ago a really enjoyed it. The review makes me want to reread!

  5. You need to get those blogger links to Amazon so I can offer meagre rewards for the awesomeness of your reviews :)