No Proper Lady
Historical Romance/Time Travel
Sourcebooks/September 1, 2011
From Goodreads ~
England, 1888. The trees are green, the birds are singing, and in 200 years demons will destroy it all. Unless Joan, a rough-around-the-edges assassin from the future, can take out the dark magician responsible. But to get close to her target she'll need help learning how to fit into society.
Simon has his own reasons for wanting to destroy Alex Reynell, and Joan may be his perfect revenge. But as each day passes, Simon is less sure he wants her anywhere near Reynell. Because no spell in the world will save his future if she isn't in it.
I love the premise of this story. It's one that we don't see too often. The heroine going back in time to save her world. This time around our heroine is the alpha, the kick-ass, weapon wielding time traveler who has a lot to learn about 1888 London. Simon Grenville is more than happy to show her how to fit in, along with a few other exciting things.
Joan's world is a harsh, bleak land of destruction with little hope of survival. We don't see much of it, mostly in Joan's thoughts and what she tells Simon and his sister Eleanor. It's not a place you would ever want to go but it's home and it's all Joan knows. It's also where her family is but at this point she doesn't know if they're still alive. Even with the responsibility of her world surviving, Joan holds a vitality of life that is surprising considering where she came from. I think it's what gives her the ability to enjoy the little things that many take for granted and overlook. She's a complex character, having to leave everything she knows and everyone she loves behind to attempt to stop a powerful man who might very well kill her. I liked her a great deal, she's very straight forward with no patience for fools.
Magic is a very big part of Joan and Simon's world. It's magic that takes Joan back in time and it's magic that has caused such destruction in the future. Simon is quite familiar with various sorts of magic, having studied it for many years. So he's not exactly surprised when Joan tells him that she comes from the future. It's what she's come back to do that surprises him. Simon is a proper gentleman who leads a secret life filled with magic. He's a decent beta hero, using his powers when needed and offering support and guidance to Joan but ultimately it's Joan who is in charge.
The plot brings not only Joan in contact with Simon but also has Joan forming a friendship with Simon's sister Eleanor. The relationship between Joan and Eleanor lets us see how Joan's life has been lacking in anything we would consider nice or frivolous. She's been trained to be an assassin, not attend balls and take tea in the afternoon. I liked how Joan tried to fit in to the London society but still maintain her independence and continues to rely on her training.
The romance is not at all a conventional romance with Joan posing as a widow from America and trying to get close to one of Simon's colleagues. Joan and Simon keep their potentially doomed romance in secret. Joan isn't what Simon is accustomed to when it comes to ladies. She is bold and experienced, she doesn't play coy but tells Simon what she wants. I think he really enjoyed that side of Joan! Joan doesn't expect to live long so she's making the most of the time she has with Simon. They fit well together even though they're from strikingly different worlds. They have their knowledge of magic and science in common. And a very strong mutual attraction.
The pacing is where I had the main problem. It's fairly slow, having Joan turn from a dangerous predator to a woman of fashion and decorum left me a bit bored at times. There are few action scenes until near the end. Joan spends more time learning and using her training in decorum instead of kicking ass. The antagonist and the man Joan is after did made things more interesting. He's very wicked and has no morals to get in his way.
No Proper Lady is an intriguing story with part My Fair Lady and part Sarah Connor (T2 version). I would have liked more action and more on Joan's family. Still, it was a good way to spend a few hours. I do hope we see more stories from Ms. Cooper, possibly in this same world.