I’m a sucker for heroes that are tortured by their own sins—men many people would consider beyond redemption, but find peace in their hearts through the love of a heroine. Shameless by Karen Robards has this plot line, but unfortunately it’s not done as well as I’ve seen in some places.
Neil Severin is an assassin. He kills people on the government’s orders. (I’m not sure why his being a government sanctioned killer makes him any better than a free agent, but it does.) He decides not to kill Lady Beth Banning when she interrupts his attempts to assassinate her brother-in-law, but later decides to kidnap her to use as leverage against him. Unfortunately, someone else gets to her first. Beth is a flirt and has jilted three fiancés already, and one of them was pissed enough to pay to have her kidnapped and sold into sex slavery.
So Neil rescues her (and a bevy of other women who had been kidnapped), still hoping to draw her brother-in-law the Duke of Richmond out and kill him—because he is the only person who knows his true identity beyond that of the “Angel of Death.” However, in the course of their adventures, he and Beth begin to fall for each other, and Beth will do anything to keep these two men she cares about from killing each other.
The biggest thing that felt off about this book was the pacing. Every once in a while, after pages of meandering, we came across a moment of development that felt like it should have come sooner, or been of a greater focus. There’s a throwaway line about three quarters of the way into the book that could have been the key to understanding Neil, and should have been the focus of his own personal conflict and development. In reality it was so crucial to his characterization, I was shocked when I came across it that it hadn’t been mentioned nor emphasized previously.
Speaking of Neil’s characterization, I really enjoyed his evolution and development from a cold-hearted killer into a caring, unselfish man. I think it’s good that he didn’t completely reform; he still had some hardness to him beyond his love for Beth.
She, though, was almost TSTL in her reaction to Neil. Her response to learning he’s an assassin is so passive it’s unrealistic, not to mention stupidly risky. She had a tendency to annoy me. That said, she also had an almost transcendental trust of him that he unexpectedly deserved. I’m not saying she needed to ignore her instincts toward Neil; I just think some of those instincts should have included a warning bell or two.
Other characters had lapses of normal human reactions to trained assassins as well. I just don’t get why people in this book got over Neil’s profession so quickly. It’s not normal, and led to plot lines that therefore felt unrealistic and forced to me.
A few other things about this book bugged me too. The gaggle of women accompanying Neil and Beth were so annoying, I almost hoped Neil would give in to his urge to abandon them. To his credit, though, he didn’t—which was one of the first signs of his transformation. That development was the best part of the book, but unfortunately it fell short of many other books that humanize a deplorable hero.