being a romance reader for a number of years, i have to admit i've never read a novel by jacquie d'alessandro until now. now that i have, i wonder what took me so long to find such a gifted author.
NOT QUITE A GENTLEMAN is one of those romance novels that sneaks up on you and before you know it, you're emersed in a story of passion and intimacy. why does it sneak up on you? because the premise is overused and more times than not, means witnessing a heroine's petty attempts at exacting revenge against the hero who used her. not so the case in this instance.
lady victoria wexhall is a young woman on a mission. three years prior to the beginning of the story, she shared a passionate and mind-blowing kiss with dr. nathan oliver. she anticipated he would court her after the interlude but he instead disappeared from her life and left her embittered. now her father has sent her to dr. oliver's estate in cornwall so that she can contemplate her future plans, which includes two offers for marriage. she sees this as the perfect opportunity to get her revenge and with the aid of the scandalous book "A Lady's Guide to Personal Happiness and Intimate Fulfillment" has devised a plan to kiss and leave dr. oliver just as he left her three years ago.
dr. nathan oliver is a retired spy who is now a physician living in a small cottage with a menagerie of farm animals. his reputation was ruined as a result of a botched plan to steal jewels for the crown. he is thought to have betrayed the mission, which resulted in his brother and best friend being shot. while both of them lived, the hurt at their lack of faith in him and his guilt over his part in their injury forced him to leave his family for three years until he is summoned back to the family estate by victoria's father who says he has a note hidden in victoria's luggage that will help him to clear his name.
initially i thought this would be a story full of misunderstandings because nathan is an ex-spy and victoria is a somewhat jilted woman who i thought would harbor nothing but ill-will and suspicion towards nathan, only enhanced by his secretive behavior. imagine my surprise and relief as d'alessandro skipped over those trite plot devices and instead had nathan be honest with victoria from the very beginning. also, victoria could have been a bitter, petty heroine. instead she turned out to be anything but.
d'alessandro did an amazing job of creating two characters who were both intelligent, passionate, and honest with their feelings with each other while also creating the kind of sexual tension that left me breathless. as victoria and nathan embark on trying to locate the stolen jewels, the reader is able to witness them fall in love as they spend time together learning about each other and finding out all of the things they have in common, despite the fact that she's a london chit and he's a country doctor.
this is a beautiful love story. nathan is sensual, loving, and honest with his feelings about victoria, even while he was afraid of the depth of those emotions. victoria, despite her plan for revenge (which was discarded pretty early in the story), is the perfect match for nathan in that she is also intelligent, courageous, sensual, and honest with her needs and desires. what a refreshing change when so many authors think an innocent heroine means she must also be stupid and afraid of her sexual needs.
the intimate scenes weren't graphic. in fact, while they were VERY passionate, there was more description of the emotions going on during those moments than there was of what the hero and heroine were actually doing (although the author gives us that, too). d'alessandro does a phenomenal job of depicting the passion and yearning the hero and heroine feel for each other and there is romantic gesture at the very end that had me shaking my head at the beauty of it. let me just say that nathan is a memorable hero. there are a number of romantic moments throughout the book that had me falling in love with nathan, too!
as for the plot about the jewels, it's little more than a plot device to get the hero and heroine together for long periods of time throughout the book, so if you're looking for a marsha canham type of adventure, this ain't that kind of story. it centers almost solely around nathan and victoria's interactions with each other, which allows the reader to view intimately the characterization and chemistry between the hero and heroine.
ultimately, it's like this: this is a historical where the hero and heroine are unafraid of intimacy and vulnerability, the uncontrollable yearning for intimacy is felt equally on both ends, the story itself focuses more on the growth of their relationship, and the intimate scenes are strong on emotional detail and lighter on graphical detail, and it's all done VERY WELL.
if you like those things, you'll love this story. i HIGHLY recommend it.