As historical fiction, I really liked this book. As a historical romance, however, I was somewhat disappointed.
Notorious is set at the time of the turbulent reign of Edward II, a period of great political strife and intrigue, and revolves around the relationship that develops between Brianna de Beauchamp and Wolf Mortimer.
To set the scene, Edward II is under the evil influence of his lover, Hugh Despencer, and together they take power and wealth from the nobility. The great barons of England unite against Edward to remove Despencer from his position of influence; leading the barons against the king’s lover is Roger Mortimer and his sons, one of whom is Wolf . The barons are initially successful in their revolt, but Edward finds a way to bring Despencer back to power and both are out for revenge.
The daughter of Jory and Warwick from Infamous, Brianna is now of age and wants to experience freedom before becoming a wife and mother. When she meets Wolf, she does not care for his arrogance, while Wolf, who is gifted with second sight, realizes instantly that their fates are connected. Wolf is greatly disappointed when he learns of Brianna’s betrothal to her cousin, Lincoln Robert de Warenne.
Upon her betrothal, Brianna is granted a year of freedom during which she will serve as one of Queen Isabella’s ladies in waiting. It is during this year that she and Wolf realize their love, but both see it as impossible for them to actually be together.
I normally do not care for extremely young heroines, but Brianna is an exception. At the beginning of the book, Brianna is only sixteen, but the plot spans a good deal of time and she grows through the course of the book. The hero, at age twenty,is also very young, yet little immaturity comes through with either character. Brianna is loyal and brave and assists in the conspiracy to free Roger Mortimer from the Tower of London, with none of the TSTL characteristics that are often present in situations like this. She guides Isabella and arranges for her secret liaisons with the elder Mortimer. And, finally, when Brianna and Wolf are at last free to love each other in the last quarter of the story, the love is sweet and sensual.
The book is rich in history and detail, and the political intrigue is interesting enough to carry the story. I liked the novel for those reasons. However, for three quarters of the story, the two main characters are separated. They long for each other, communicate through dreams (his second sight), yet they do not come together until page 271 of 400. The reader, in fact, learns far more about the character of Brianna’s betrothed and Roger Mortimer, with whom she is at first somewhat infatuated. There is also far more sexual tension leading up to the romance between Roger Mortimer and Queen Isabella, which is consummated much sooner than that of Brianna and Wolf. And, as a heads up for readers for whom this may be an issue, there is homosexual sex described in this book.
Ultimately, Notorious is rich in historic detail, but lacking in romance. As a history person myself, this is something that I can appreciate. But readers looking for a traditional romance with the focus on the relationship between the hero and heroine, would be better off looking elsewhere.