No Proper Lady by Isabel Cooper

 I was drawn to this cover. It reminds me of both a romance novel and a paranormal novel, and after reading the synopsis, I had to give it a go — set in 1800s England and includes time travel and demons? Yes, please!

 It’s Terminator meets My Fair Lady in this fascinating debut of black magic and brilliant ball gowns, martial arts and mysticism.

England, 1888. The trees are green, the birds are singing, and and no one has any idea that in a few hundred years, demons will destroy it all. Joan plans to keep it that way. All she has to do is take out the dark magician responsible—before he summons the demons in the first place. But as a rough-around-the-edges assassin from that bleak future, she’ll have to learn how to fit into polite Victorian society to get close to her target.

Simon Grenville has his own reasons for wanting to destroy Alex Reynell. The man used to be his best friend—until his practice of the dark arts almost killed Simon’s sister. The beautiful, half-naked stranger Simon meets in the woods may be the perfect instrument for his revenge. It will just take a little time to teach her the necessary etiquette and assemble a proper wardrobe. But as each day passes, Simon is less sure he wants Joan anywhere near Reynell. Because no spell in the world will save his future if she isn’t in it.

 I loved the concept of a kick ass heroine traveling back in time to save the future. It was hilarious to see Joan interact in Regency England. I loved that Cooper dumped a sarcastic, independent fighter into a time where women are seen as delicate and quiet. Simon was a well-balanced hero. He wasn’t necessarily badass but he had a few tricks up his sleeve. I tend to like the good guys more anyway.

 It had a paranormal element that included spells, chanting and demons. It was all very interesting and well thought out which made it believable. It was neat to see such urban fantasy-esque details set back in time. However, it was strange how quickly Simon was okay with Joan being from the future and how quickly Joan adapted to society in 1800 England. The contrast is very stark and that wasn’t too believable to me.

 There was definitely a romance element which dominated the novel more so than the paranormal element. I was surprised at how long Cooper made the reader wait for some steamy action. It sure built the anticipation.  Although the passion was brief and a long time coming, Cooper makes it worth the wait. I enjoyed her lack of cheesy lines in the love scenes. However, it wasn’t as mind-blowing as I’d hoped, it was very average. If it wasn’t for the paranormal elements, the story would be seriously lacking as just a romance. Regardless, I loved that there was a happy ending. (Personally, I need a little more sigh-inducing happily ever afters in my reading. Everything I’ve been reading has been really dark lately.)

 This was a good read. However, I wished it had gone deeper. The plot was intriguing, the characters were awesome but it only went skin deep. I felt like I only knew the characters at a surface level which is unfortunate with the amount of face time each character has with the switching point of views. I wasn’t as caught up in the story and I wanted to be. The lack of connection felt like an invisible barrier keeping me in my own time, on my couch, instead of wandering through England trying to save the world.

Although I don’t read many books like this, it was definitely a nice change. It brought the dystopian elements of Young Adult Fiction that I love and combined it with the romance and history of a Regency novel. It had some flaws but they can be easily overlooked because the story is so enjoyable.

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