[Book Review] A Most Improper Proposal

A Most Improper Proposal / Molly Ann Wishlade

Miss Isabella Adams is a part of fashionable society on sufferance, but even the patronage of Lady Watson isn't enough to keep whispers of scandalous rumor at bay.  After her affianced sampled her favors then broke the engagement to marry a woman of his parent's choosing, and the subsequent assumptions of men "courting" her, Isabella has had more than enough of the opposite sex.  At least until James Crawford crashes into her life.  James is intrigues by his aunt's companion, and how at odds she seemed to the rumors society's ladies are all to happy to share with him.  However, as intrigued as he is, James has his own ghosts of the past that haunt him, with both responsibilities and fears to face.  Can their attraction break them away from their past?

*SPOILERS AHEAD*

This book is flagged as Romance/Erotica, so going in I expected some hot and heavy action.  In reality, there wasn't any overwhelmingly more in the way of intimate encounters between Isabella and James than your standard historical romance, just perhaps a higher level of explicit description in those moments.

I was expecting more of Isabella's "scandalous" past considering how she's considered little better than a tart.

Isabella's scandalous past is that before marriage she and her fiance got a bit down and dirty, then his parents made him break off the engagement to marry someone they preferred.  Somehow the word of her indiscretion escapes, so she's not just jilted, she's now a tart as well.  But the main body of her scandal is that she turned down marriage proposals after the fact (and wouldn't put out to them).  How does this make her reputation so ruined that upper class men openly adjust their privates in front of her at a society social event?  I'm by no means a historical buff, but I'm pretty confident that this was not considered acceptable regardless.  Honestly, I expected significantly more in terms of events that ruined Isabella's reputation, even if they were events out of her control (say an affair of a sibling, a relative's fall from grace, etc).

James Crawford's indiscretion is less shocking due to the wonders of double standards, that after a falling out with his wife, he discreetly visited a prostitute.  The real shocker of the story by society standards is that he ultimately decides to acknowledge the daughter he fathered with the prostitute and to bring her into his household (for arguments sake we'll go with the assured paternity).

The biggest challenge in the book is James & Isabella's inability to communicate easily, leading to various misunderstandings.  This problem effects their communications with others as well, as they struggle with their secrets.

When it comes down to it all, I'm really not sure what the "most improper proposal" is in this story.  Maybe it was their naughty activities, maybe it was that Isabella considered becoming his mistress for lack of better options, maybe it was asking Isabella to become the stepmother to James' illegitimate child? 

Also, what sort of idiot trusts a young child, particularly one they barely know, to carry a incredibly expensive piece of jewelery?  That being said, it was a touching proposal.

Overall, I recommend the book to lovers of racy historical romance.  The story provides a mix of high society settings, reflections on the strictures of the time period, and various historical flavor.

Advanced Reader Copy copy courtesy of Netgalley; differences may exist between uncorrected galley text and the final edition.

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