Books Read in 2017: ‘The Madness of Lord Westfall’ by Mia Marlowe (Regency Paranormal Romance | 3.5 stars)
The Madness of Lord Westfall (The Order of the M.U.S.E. Book 2)
by Mia Marlowe
Genre: Regency Paranormal Romance
My rating: 3.5 stars
Pierce Langdon, Viscount Westfall is mad. Everyone knows it. He fell from a tree when he was a boy and woke to hear strange voices. When the voices grow stronger as he grows older, his family commits him to Bedlam. But what he hears are the thoughts of those around him—a gift to be used in service to the Order of the M.U.S.E. Until he falls again…this time for a totally unsuitable woman.
Lady Nora Claremont hides her heartbreak behind the facade of a carefree courtesan. Viscount Westfall is the most confusing man she’s ever met. He seems to know exactly what she wants…and what she’s thinking.
Which is a dangerous thing, because what Nora wants is Pierce.
And what she’s thinking could expose her as a traitor to the crown.
My GR Status Update(s):
02/12. . .Currently Reading
02/14 . . . 20.0%—Not sure I like the heroine in this one as much as in Book 1, but still an enjoyable story so far.
02/15. . .54.0%
02/19. . .68.0%
02/20. . .Finished Reading
I seem to be in the minority of people on Goodreads who enjoyed the first book in the series, The Curse of Lord Stanstead, a bit more than this one. In the first book, both main characters had supernatural powers—she as a fire mage, he as someone who can psychically implant thoughts in and influence others’ minds . . . and who, if he gets close to someone, can dream about them (nightmare) and then tragically see that dream come to horrific reality.
In this second book, only the hero, Pierce, has a supernatural ability—to “hear” the thoughts of others. Apparently, he didn’t have it his whole life; it started when he was a child and fell from a tree and hit his head. How head trauma could cause a supernatural ability, I have no idea, so this origin of his superability didn’t really work for me; but I was able to suspend disbelief. Regardless of how Pierce gained the ability, it was overwhelming and confusing for him as a child and, as an adult and the heir to the Viscount Westfall title (and lands and money and social status), his uncle (his father’s brother and therefore next in line after Pierce) had him committed to Bethlehem Hospital—Bedlam.
Having met Pierce in the first book, the idea that he found being around others difficult was already well established. So it was more than a little surprising to find him almost constantly around other people in this book. Yes, he’s learned to erect a mental shield against the thoughts of others (thanks to his mentor and founder of the Order of the MUSE, Lord Camden); but I would have found this much more believable had the toll this took on him been given more than just a few passing lines about how exhausting/difficult it was for him to keep this shield up constantly. I guess I subscribe to the Once Upon a Time school of thought when it comes to magic or superpowers—they always come with a price (or, to put it in real-world physics terms, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction).
The heroine of this book, Honora, is also a bit implausible. And it felt like Marlowe originally started writing her as one type of character (a voracious flirt who’s always saying outrageous things, like the other courtesan in this series, Vesta LaMotte) as that’s how she appears in her first scene; but this side of her is never seen again. And that Pierce can’t read her thoughts the first time he meets her and can’t immediately tell that she’s not the person she’s pretending to be, much less not sleeping with her patron, is one of the worst examples in this book of how there seem to be no rules to how superabilities work in the MUSE universe. At other times in the book, he has trouble clarifying the thoughts of others because they’re scattered, too fast, or too confusing (compared to trying to catch squirrels by the tail in one scene—yet I think that was actually from Honora’s viewpoint when she couldn’t settle her own mind). Okay, fine. But to say that he can’t read someone’s thoughts because they’re pretending to be someone else (actors) . . . it doesn’t really work. Maybe not being able to filter between the real persona and the fake—or having the real thoughts so deeply buried that he couldn’t get to them, okay, maybe.
Anyway . . . Nora (Honora) turns out to be nothing like the way she’s introduced in her first scene. In fact, she’s pretty boring. Her “secret” is both obvious and not scandalous or dangerous at all. (Boring.) She’s not the flamboyant, sensual, free-spirited, outrageous person that she’s introduced as in her first scene; instead, she’s . . . someone with little personality other than wanting to have sex with Pierce and being slightly concerned that her patron’s (Lord Albermarle) secret that he’s being blackmailed over doesn’t get out. (And even here she manages to be boring.)
In Book 1, both Garrett and Cassandra were “extraordinaires”—and both had superabilities that could not only both help and hurt others but could destroy each other. She had to learn to control her power as a fire mage lest she immolate everyone and everything around her (including Garrett); and if he came to care for her, he could potentially bring harm/death to her by having one of his nightmares-that-come-true about her. They had to work together in order to both control and mitigate each other’s destructive potential, and that’s what made the story, and the building of the relationship between them, work so much better than in this one.
Conversely, even after Nora learns of Pierce’s superability and that he knows of the plot that her patron is involved in (because of the aforesaid blackmail), she remains a passive figure in the intrigue part of this story (the supernatural threat/mystery that the Order of the MUSE is trying to solve), being unwilling to help Pierce figure out a way to get rid of the supernatural item that is to be used for nefarious purposes—even though she knows what it is, where it is, and what it’s to be used for and probably had easy access to it the whole time. Instead, Pierce must put himself in both physical and mental peril in order to try to bring a resolution to this part of the storyline. By the time Nora does finally decide to act, it’s almost too late, as Pierce has already pretty much worked out just about everything by himself, and her appearance comes almost as a deus ex machina moment in order to bring the crisis moment to a quick/neat solution.
SPOILER (highlight to reveal) And what bothered me the most about this story was its conclusion. In escaping Bedlam, Pierce once again receives a blow to the head. He’s out cold for about a day (it was a week when he was a child). When he wakes up, he cannot read anyone’s thoughts anymore. I was SO annoyed with this! It’s just like the stories in which a character loses their eyesight due to a blow to the head/injury, only to receive another similar injury/blow toward the end and, miracle of miracles, they get their sight back. It’s a cop out and bad storytelling. (And now the character has even worse traumatic brain injury than they had before.)
I know I’ve focused mostly on the negative in this review. I did enjoy reading this book, for the most part. Marlowe is a good writer and tells a great story. She keeps the narrative/plot moving along and only rarely gets mired down inside a character’s head to the point that I started skimming—but this was usually only a few paragraphs.
This was enjoyable enough that I’m still really looking forward to reading the next book in the series.
My rating matrix:
5 STARS = one of the best I’ve ever read
4 STARS = a great read, highly recommended
3 STARS = it was okay
2 STARS = I didn’t enjoy it all that much, not recommended
1 STAR = DNF (did not finish)
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