Reviewed by Angela:
The entire time I was reading this book I had this overwhelming feeling of sadness and dread. I’ve enjoyed this author previously, so when I saw this up for review I didn’t even read the blurb, I just hit the request button. I wasn’t prepared. You see the hero in A Notorious Vow is deaf, and I grew up in a partially deaf household. I know the stories of how my father was treated, not by family, but by other adults in supervisory positions and even children his own age, before anyone discovered his hearing loss. I’m not going to get into some of the horrible things that happened to him as a deaf child, but trust me, they never leave you once you’ve heard them. The sadness was because there were so many awful secondary characters in this book. The dread was because I knew what was coming at the end, I had hoped I was wrong, but I knew.
The heroine of this story is Christina, a young woman in New York only because her parents spent and gambled away all of their money and they basically fled England. She is shy and introverted and afraid. Mostly because her mother is horrible and by horrible I mean I wanted to jump through the pages and rip her to shreds for treating her daughter like a piece of meat. I HATED this woman. Like deep in my bones hate. Christina’s mother needs to die in a fire. ANYWAY, back to Christina. In order to escape her horrible, terrible, no good parents, she begins taking walks in the garden at the house next door. One morning she encounters a large dog, and in his eagerness to be petted he knocks her over and Christina hits her head. Which is how she meets the dog’s master, and the owner of the garden and house next door, Oliver Hawkes.
Oliver lives in the neighboring estate and is considered a recluse. After losing his hearing from scarlet fever at the age of 13, he adapted to his hearing loss by learning sign language and honing the ability to read lips. He is smart, capable and determined to help the deaf community by developing a device that will amplify sounds. He spends quite a bit of time working on his invention in his green house. So when his companion dog comes to him one day and leads him out into the garden and to the side of an injured woman, he jumps to attention and brings her inside to render aid. It’s not long until they begin to spend time together and end up friends. When it appears Christina’s parents are going to marry her off to the highest bidder, even if that means a lecherous, old man, Oliver steps in and marries her himself.
Christina made me so sad. I absolutely understood that she was a product of her environment and childhood, but she was so incredibly timid and ran away to hide so many times that it was painful. I was kind of afraid that she would never grow a spine, but she managed to step up at the end and defend her husband. I really enjoyed Oliver. He was so smart, and kind and interesting. There were so many misunderstandings between them because, of course, neither thought they were good enough for the other. Christina because her parents have treated her like trash her whole life and she believes Oliver married her out of pity, and Oliver because he is deaf and society treats deaf people like they are abominations. Every time they pushed each other away, I hurt for them. Every time Christina got her feelings bruised, or Oliver didn’t understand why Christina was so sad, I hurt for them. So much sadness.
Now let me get to the other reason I spent my entire time reading this book with a sense of dread. Oliver’s cousin Milton. He was a slimey, gross, awful person. I mean COME ON, what the hell was with the horrible family members in this story? They almost felt like one-dimensional caricatures. I absolutely, 100% knew what hellishness Milton would bring to this story and this couple toward the end and I was absolutely, 100% correct. All I’m going to say is that it involves an asylum and a dirty judge and some fraudulent signatures. What made me so mad, and broke my heart, was that it was completely believable.
It all turns out fine in the end, and our couple actually has a lovely HEA, because Christina steps up to the plate and rescues her husband. But I definitely had that tight feeling in my chest and an upset stomach watching them get there. This is not one of those witty dialogue, light, make you laugh historical romances. I don’t know how to rate this, but I do feel like that is completely on me. So I’m not going to. I feel like Christina and Oliver’s story will appeal to quite a lot of historical romance readers and fans of this author.