No Decent Gentleman
Holy hemlock! Characters who spout zingy catch-phrases belong in cartoons, not historical romances. Sabrina Savage, the heroine of No Decent Gentleman, liked to say “holy hemlock” often. Every time she did, I pictured Robin – the boy wonder. That was just one of the many problems in this convoluted, unlikable novel.
Sabrina Savage and her sister Courtney are adopted bastards. They love their adoptive father dearly, and when he is found dead by hanging, they are sure he didn’t commit suicide. No one else seems to believe them, however, so he is buried at a crossroads at night – not in hallowed ground. Sabrina wants to ring a death knell for him, which is forbidden. As she is trying to do that, friends of her father show up and help her. One of them is Charles St. Aubyn, the Duke of Kingston. For some reason (which is never explained) Sabrina has never met Charles, even though he was her father’s closest friend. Charles bring along his nephew and heir, Adam.
When her father’s will is read, Sabrina is shocked to learn that she and Adam are betrothed. While she is attracted to him, she finds his behavior high-handed and dictatorial. In another convenient plot device, the will states that Sabrina and Courtney are to abandon mourning and head to London immediately for the season. So off they go. They keep their betrothal secret at first, and Sabrina is a huge hit at her come-out. While they are in London, Sabrina and Adam begin to fall in love with each other. They are also on the trail of her father’s killer, and to further complicate matters, Adam is really an exiled Muslim prince, a secret he tries to keep from Sabrina.
This book is full of problems. There are plenty of minor ones, mostly having to do with continuity. The reader is told several things three or four times, which gets annoying. The main characters find a huge, filthy dog, and they decide to give it a bath in the study. The author mentions how the dog shook himself dry, but doesn’t mention any damage to the expensive furniture, books, or carpet. Wouldn’t the kitchen be a better place? Or outside? Then there is the scene where the heroine bakes gingerbread, and it magically cooks during a two minute conversation – without the benefit of a microwave!
The two sub-plots are both annoying for different reasons. The killer is obvious from about page one, but the main characters are completely oblivious. The matter of Adam’s secret identity is a constant irritation. Sabrina thinks he is from the south of France, although he servants are obviously Muslim. Later in the book both Sabrina and Adam are at his estate, where he keeps an entire wing locked. This is an opulent area where he says his prayers. The author has him pray three times a day, when actually the religion requires five prayers.
As a hero, Adam was terrible, and I couldn’t stand him. He constantly lied to Sabrina, even after he promised to stop. At one point, Sabrina thinks, “Except for his constant lies, Adam St. Aubyn was all she’d ever dreamed about in a man.” I guess I just don’t find pathological liars to be good hero material. Even aside from the lying problem, Adam was no prize. He liked to eavesdrop on Sabrina and speak in stupid double entendres like “I would like to whip your cream”. He always used a suggestive, “husky” voice. The love scenes were pretty hot, but they were about as romantic as the mating of anatomically correct paper dolls.
Did I get anything out of No Decent Gentleman? Well, at one point, I was inspired by the amazing, fast-cooking gingerbread and made my own. It took much longer to cook, but it was pretty darn good.