Notorious by Iris Johansen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Notorious could have been a soap opera story arc. I don't mean that in a demeaning way, either. Soap operas can be very watchable, and enjoyable. I did my share of soap opera watching before I became a working woman who didn't have time for daytime television, and I don't judge people who enjoy them. So, in a good way, this reminded me of my soap opera-watching days.
Sabin starts out a pretty scary character who mellows over the course of the book. Although Mallory's husband's murder paints her as a 'bad girl' in the public eye, she's not. Instead, she's a calm, dedicated actress who is trying to rebuild her career after she is acquitted for her husband's murder. Too bad she married into a crazy family. She's kept the bad aspects of her short marriage to herself. She thinks that Sabin Wyatt blames her for her husband's death and hates her. She's so wrong!
I have to admit to something. Strangely, Sabin's machinations kind of creeped me out. Yes, this from a self-admitted lover of stalkerific heroes. I think he was a little too cold-blooded about it. The whole aspect of his brother making suggestive tapes of Mallory and sending them to Sabin to blackmail him for money was just so wrong! How intially Sabin held this over Mallory's head. That part made my hair stand on end, in the way I feel when I see a swarm of bugs. Not a good feeling. I do believe that Sabin truly was mostly obsessed with Mallory, with a little love mixed in, initially. Fortunately, I think their time together caused that obsessive fixation on an image, a visual perception of this woman, to become a fully-realized love for her. I liked seeing that transformation, and how he was able to put her needs first, and to give her the time to heal, not pushing (much, anyway) her to something she couldn't commit to. It was clear that he liked and respected her for the person she was inside, not just for a beautiful face and a sexy body. That helped me to like Sabin.
I liked the cinematic aspects, and the movie references. As a movie-buff, that did sit well with me. Mallory was an actress who cared about her craft. She wasn't just an ambitious starlet out to trade on her incredibly beautiful looks. The director on the film Sabin's company was bankrolling was determined to give Mallory a hard time because he thought she got the job because she was sleeping with Sabin. Mallory took his stunts like a champ and earned his respect. She showed that although she was a gentle woman, she was strong in the manner of being able to weather and endure what came her way. And she stood up to Sabin when he came on set and was trying to throw his weight around on her behalf. The way Sabin reacted showed his respect for her. I was glad that scene this was written, because it helped me get past my feelings of wrongness about Sabin's feelings towards Mallory initially.
If anything really detracted from this read for me, it was the way the ending descended into overt melodrama. I love drama. Drama makes for a great read. But the change in tone was a bit inconsistent. Mallory's stalker comes out of the woodworks, and he goes from apparently sane to completely bonkers too quickly. It was interesting that this character served as a contrast to the hero, who definitely had some obsessed/stalker tendencies himself. In Sabin's case, his need for Mallory wasn't pushing him off the edge of sanity, but seemed to settle him and make him a better person. I could see what Ms. Johansen was going for with this, at any rate. I just needed a little more subtlety in the execution, I suppose. The ending was a bit abrupt as well, leaving a rather important loose end with someone important to Mallory, who was indirectly involved with the situation, in my opinion (not on the romance front though).
Notorious was a good read, but it's not for a reader who doesn't like drama/unrealistic/over-the-top elements. If you don't like stalkerific heroes, you'd want to avoid this one. Sabin was scary to me, and I have a very high tolerance for these kinds of heroes. All in all, a fun, sexy, old-school read to add to my Iris Johansen collection.
View all my reviews