From the BLURB:
What happens when society's wallflower is found in bed with London's most outrageous bachelor?
To save his inheritance, Lord Julian Blackworth must propose to a woman he would just as soon forget. Izzy Temple, spinster housekeeper, wants nothing more than her freedom. Together, they strike a deal to pretend an engagement until the fuss dies down.
But when the lie becomes the truth, can Izzy and Julian set free the hearts they've been protecting for so long?
Isadora ‘Izzy’ Temple is sensuously awoken from a wonderful dream by a strange man in her bed. Scared and angered at this predicament, Izzy knocks the offending gentleman into unconsciousness with a candlestick before anything untoward can happen . . . which in turn brings half a household to her room and sets in motion her downfall in society.
Lord Julian Blackworth stumbled into spinster Temple’s bedroom by accident. Intending to have a tryst with an unhappily married woman in the room opposite, Julian was brained for his miscalculation and hitched to a wife in order to save face and gain his inheritance.
But truly, Izzy doesn’t want to be married. She is quite happy as a free spinster, and even has high hopes of venturing to America . . . ironically enough, her accidental fiancée has made her travel wishes come true. Now that Izzy is a ‘fallen’ woman she no longer needs an escort and can truly be by herself (since she is ‘ruined’ beyond repair). Now if she and Julian can keep up appearances and continue this farce of an engagement, Izzy can venture to America and start her life afresh . . . but first she needs to set a scandal in motion and break her engagement . . . if Julian will let her.
‘Fallen’ is an historical romance novel by Celeste Bradley which was released in 2001.
This novel has a rather interesting premise as Bradley explores the freedoms of forbidden romance. Izzy Temple is an over-the-hill spinster (at the age of twenty-six). She is resigned to living out her days in dull, dark gowns and acting as governess, maid and gardener to her spiteful cousin. But an unexpected rendezvous with London’s most notorious bachelor turns Izzy’s life around . . . Izzy knocks Julian into unconsciousness before anything can really occur. But the damage is done when a houseful of ton guests burst onto the scene and think Julian to be a debauched rapist. Izzy knows it was a simple (drunken) mistake, and cannot bear the thought of this strange man being cast out of society for such foolishness. So Izzy makes the spur-of-the-moment decision to claim that she and Julian are old lovers and the candlestick-braining was a lover’s quarrel.
The events that follow send London’s notorious ton society into a tail-spin. They lap up the gossip of the plain little spinster who managed to snag a Lord on the same night that she brained him. Izzy becomes unaccountably famous overnight, with Julian’s help and society’s thirst for gossip;
“You are the flaming temptress who lured me to her bed. You are the fiery lover who brained me in a passionate rage. You are the mysterious woman who has always been there, but no one remembers ever seeing. If you kicked off your slippers and performed a French cabaret dance on the tabletop, you could not be more scandalous or outrageous than you already are.”
Julian and Izzy (despite a rocky start) actually become wonderful friends. Izzy understands Julian’s late-night mistake and finds it quite funny. Izzy is also all too happy to help Julian retain his inheritance by carrying out a sham-engagement (with the firm understanding that she will be leaving for America when news of the break-up gets out). She and Julian share many tender, funny moments as they navigate a new friendship while keeping up the appearance of a couple in love. . . until the lines begin to blur.
The novel starts out interestingly enough, and I quite liked that Izzy and Julian established an easy repartee and friendship early on. But half-way through the novel things get complicated and convoluted.
It’s as though Bradley realized that Izzy and Julian had it too easy and so began writing obstacles for them to conquer. There’s Julian’s over-bearing, villainous father. Izzy’s hateful, inheritance-stealing cousin. A lot of ‘much ado about nothing’ style misunderstandings and half-heard conversations which lead Izzy to believe that Julian is cheating on her, and Julian to believe that Izzy is in love with his best friend. The second-half of the novel didn’t work as well for me because of all these layered storylines and complications. I thought Izzy and Julian had an interesting enough coupling to begin with, and didn’t think that Bradley needed to layer so many more obstacles before them.
‘Fallen’ was a wonderful historical romance with an interesting premise about a fallen spinster navigating her new popularity in ton society. Celeste Bradley lost me a little halfway through, when she starts piling complication on top of misunderstanding for the sake of a more spectacular ending . . . but otherwise I enjoyed this romance.