Thisclose. That’s how close this extraordinary book came to DIK status. Sarah Forrester is beautifully flawed and wonderfully real; there were times I wanted to pull her ears, and times I wanted to hug her and tell her I’d still be her friend. I’ve complained about cookie-cutter, annoyingly perfect heroines. Well, I found my antidote, and I loved her.
If I Fall begins with a scene from Follow My Lead, when Sarah is at her betrothal ball and being dumped by the duke – except now we see it from her perspective. I’ve read the previous book and I know that Sarah is a genuinely nice girl; I know her heart will be broken, because she is sincerely in love with the duke. But the scene still broke my heart. (That, by the way, was the first honking clue that Kate Noble is Talented.)
The problem is, she can’t nurse her grief in peace. Months later, the gossips are still making mincemeat out of her, the Girl Who Lost a Duke. Sarah’s about to retreat to the country when she receives a call from none other than Phillippa, Lady Worth (see Revealed), who metaphorically sloshes water over Sarah and tells her that if she wants to change how she’s perceived, then she has to change, period. No more Miss Goody Two-Shoes.
One month later, Sarah has a new name, the Golden Girl. Men wait hours to see her. The ton hangs on her every word, which can be sly, cutting, or cruel, but is always witty. And Sarah loves it, because it means she’s not the broken, depressed, mocked, pathetic creature she was. But two important parties are not fooled by her transformation.
The first is Lieutenant Jackson Fletcher, Sarah’s childhood friend. Jack’s ship has finally been decommissioned, years after Waterloo, and his future is bleak. What has he to look forward to, a half-pay sailor with neither home nor occupation? To put off dealing with his future, he accepts an invitation from the Forresters to stay with them for a few weeks, and sees Sarah for the first time in ten years.
They were playmates, and yes, even soul mates. They knew each other, deep down, and lived out the fruits of their imagination. But now Jack doesn’t recognize this cattish, beautiful, aloof creature. And Sarah doesn’t recognize this unsmiling, restless, handsome young man.
They affect each other in ways that are startling, bewitching, and never, ever false. Yup, they do stupid things. Yup, I absolutely wanted to smack Handsome Jackson Fletcher on the head several times. And there’s no denying it, Sarah lets her catty streak come out. But they’re both entitled to their mistakes, and their former personalities weren’t really working anyway. (Clue #2: Kate Noble doesn’t take character shortcuts.) Together, they change each other for the better, and I’m actually a bit of a loss to describe exactly how believable, romantic, and true I found their relationship to be. A+, all the way.
The second party that saw through Sarah’s change (or rather, saw her through it) is her family. Her parents and sisters all react in different ways, and Ms. Noble hits a bull’s-eye with each one, especially Sarah’s middle sister Bridget, whose debut was overshadowed by Sarah’s dramas. Three other secondary characters deserve honorary mentions for enlivening the story, bringing back good memories of previous stories (Byrne, I’m looking at you), and never once being useless. Add in a suspense plot that is, actually, suspenseful, relevant, timely, and interesting, and I was dead sure we had a winner.
Except for two things. Because they’re both in spoiler territory I have to be necessarily vague. Suffice to say that I found Sarah’s emotional reaction after her second meeting with the Blue Raven to be unnecessarily exaggerated – really, Sarah? You spent two hundred pages convincing me you knew yourself, then you do this? I also have mixed feelings about the epilogue. Generic, it is not. Shamelessly creepy lead-in that was not entirely in keeping with the rest of the book, maybe.
But don’t let that stop you. If I Fall is a slightly darker novel than Ms. Noble’s previous ones, but the gravity suits the book’s tone and theme. It may not be perfect, but besides being a delight and thoroughly winning, the book is 300 pages of confirmation to what I’d suspected, and now know: The Regency belongs to Kate Noble, and it’s in very, very good hands.
Recent Comments …
She’s gotten mostly DIKs here–I thought this book was fabulous when I read it. I also really like Untie My…
This author (Judith Ivory) used to appear frequently in “best of” lists for historical romance; and it seems that this…
Hope you will!
Yep, it’s good, but sadly not great.
T. Kingfisher is bringing out a new book in her Paladin series on December 5th. I love each of the…
I just discovered C.J. Archer’s Glass and Steele series. (Her books have not been reviewed here.) This one is romance/mystery/magic…