Felicity Smoak, My Heroine

And the title of my blog comes from this scene in the CW’s Arrow.  No copyright infringement intended.

Good Omens Review

  • Series Title: Good Omens
  • Season: Mini-Series
  • Episodes: 6
  • Discs: 2 (Blu-Ray)
  • Network: Amazon Prime / BBC
  • Cast: Michael Sheen, David Tennant, Frances McDormand, Sam Taylor Buck, Adria Arjona, Michael McKean, Miranda Richardson, Bill Paterson, Jack Whitehall
  • DVD: Widescreen Blu-ray (R1, NTSC)

This review contains spoilers for Good Omens.

Good Omens is a 6-episode mini-series adaption of the novel of the same name by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. The series follows Aziraphale (an angel) and Crowley (a demon) for 6000 years, though the vast majority of the series focuses on the last 11 years before the End of the World. Though Aziraphale and Crowley are meant to watch over and prepare humanity for the coming apocalypse, the two become comfortable in their respective positions and even become friends. And the series really does emphasize the friendship between two people who are, by definition, very different.

After the introduction of Aziraphale and Crowley, we see Crowley deliver the Anti-Christ to a convert of demonic nuns who are supposed to see he is substituted for the child of a spoiled, rich, American ambassador. However, another couple arrives at the convent hospital the same night. In a sequence illustrated with 3-card monte, the baby is delivered to the wrong couple and the Anti-Christ is raised by a typical English couple in Tadfield. The couple name their child, whom they don’t know is the anti-christ, Adam. The wealthy, privileged American couple, at Crowley’s suggestion, name their child Warlock. For 11 years, Crowley and Aziraphale look in on occasion on Warlock, not realizing that things have Gone Horribly Wrong.

It isn’t until Adam/Warlock’s 11th birthday that Crowley and Aziraphale realize something has gone wrong when the promised Hellhound never arrives at Warlock’s photo op with his adoptive parents. Meanwhile, Adam is playing in the woods with his three friends, when a dog approaches them. Adam wants to keep the dog, despite his own (adoptive) parents having previously told him he can’t have a pet. He names the Hellhound, Dog. And thus, the hellhound rather than being vicious and scary is a small black and white dog that’s loyal to Adam, but would never hurt anyone. This also starts the countdown to the end of the world.

Crowley and Arizaphale figure this out, decide they like their jobs on Earth, and they each have no desire to “serve” in Heaven’s or Hell’s final fight to the death after the Earth is destroyed. Most of the rest of the series involves their trying to prevent the apocalypse. But considering they don’t even know who the Anti-Christ is, they aren’t having much luck.

Meanwhile, Though Shalt-Not-Commit-Adultery Pulsifer, gets ready to burn a witch in 1600-hundreds England. When he and his crowds appear at her door, she accuses him of being late. When she’s burned Pulsifer and his crowds are destroyed in an explosion because Agnes, as we learn later, had loaded herself with gunpowder and small metal objects like nails and pins. Agnes was a prophet and wrote her prophecies down in a book, that is handed down among the women of her family. But unlike most books of prophecy, Agnes’ prophecies are always accurate, if at times hard to understand. The current owner of the book is Anathema Device. She travels to England from San Francisco to prevent the end of the world. She arrives in Tadfield, meets Adam, and his friends, and even meets Shalt-Not-Commit-Adultery Pulsifer’s decedent, Newton – who by chance had been recruited into the Witchfinder Army by Shadwell, the sergeant-general.

All the characters converge and things start happening. But in the end, after feeling his power, Adam (along with Newton and Anathema) rejects it, decides to stop the end of the world (his friends influence him in this) and he even rejects Satan (his father). Crowley and Arizaphale are to be punished for “not doing their jobs” by their respective bosses, but find a unique way to get out of it.

But really, that is plot – what this series is really about is a friendship, a strong friendship between Crowley and Arizaphale. And it’s also, in the end about more romantic relationships especially Newton and Anathema and Shadwell and Madame Tracy (the madam/psychic/etc who has the apartment below his). Despite what could be dark subject matter – the series has a lighter touch. I read the novel years ago, and remember it being more funny, but I enjoyed how the series presented the story. I recommend this mini-series.

Book Review – Naomi Season 1

  • Title: Naomi Season 1
  • Author: Brian Michael Bendis, David f. Walker
  • Artists: Jamal Campbell, Josh Reed, Carlos M. Mangual
  • Line: Wonder Comics
  • Characters: Naomi
  • Publication Date: 2019
  • Publisher: DC Comics
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 02/11/2020

**Spoiler Alert** Naomi is one of four titles in DC Comics’ new young adult Wonder Comics imprint. Naomi is a young girl, who was adopted as a baby. She has good parents who love her, friends, a therapist, and she’s a fan of Superman – the way one might be a fan of a sports star, musician, or actor. One day, her dream comes true as Superman fights Mongul in the heart of her small northwestern town. The fight only lasts 17 seconds, does a lot of damage – and Naomi misses it. Even when she researches what happened online – she can find nothing. In the grand scheme of things, the biggest thing to happen to Oswego in years isn’t even a blip on the national news cycle.

However, this event sends Naomi on a new journey. Superman returns the next day to clean up the mess from the fight – but again Naomi misses it, and again Superman doesn’t stay long. When someone tells Naomi this “isn’t the first time, you know” meaning a super being or something unusual had happened in Oswego before, Naomi starts looking into it. Most people ignore her or claim nothing ever happens in their small town. But the town mechanic tells her the date of the last happening – the date of her adoption. Naomi starts asking questions – who is the mechanic? How does he know the date of her adoption?

In the middle of the night, Naomi decides to get her answers and goes to interview the mechanic. She assumes he is her father, and when she sees him with a photograph of another woman of color, she assumes that is her mother. Dee, the mechanic, denies it, denies everything. But he explains that he was a soldier, and not simply in a foreign army, but in an alien army – he is a member of the elite fighting corps of Thanagar. He and his partner were tasked with surgical strikes, assassinations, spying, et cetera. But the more time they spent undercover on different worlds the more he and his female partner began to question their orders and the war. And they fell in love. After a mission goes sideways, they end up together on Gemworld. But they cannot hide there very long. They find out about a portal – Dee is able to get to the portal and to Earth, but his love and partner doesn’t make it and is presumably either still on Gemworld or she was caught by Thanagarian solders.

Reeling from this information, Dee and Naomi are interrupted by her mother – her extremely angry mother. She takes Naomi home, they pick up her father, and head to the hills and a cave there. In the cave, her father shows her a spaceship. Naomi asks if it’s the ship she came in, and her father says – nope, it’s his ship. He was a soldier too, from Rann, and also in an elite squad. He was sent on a mission to Earth to track down a missing elite Thanagrian soldier. Once on Earth though, he met Naomi’s mother and fell in love. He decided to abandon his mission. And once he found Dee, finding him to be no current threat, he, Dee, and Naomi’s mother basically decided to stay out of each other’s way and to keep their secrets, secret.

Naomi’s parents were happy but her mother desperately wanted a child and they couldn’t have one. Traditional adoption would be difficult since her father had no history from before he suddenly arrived. One night something happens. Dee and Naomi’s father rush to where their communication equipment points them – and find a small battle. And a baby that all the warriors are trying to kill. The battle ends quickly, everyone else leaves, and the baby, Naomi, is left behind. Dee admits he cannot care for a child, so Naomi’s father takes her in. The only information they have is a blanket wrapped around the baby and a device with it.

In the cave, Naomi gets into the spaceship belonging to her father. She touches the device and suddenly glows with power. Next, she is telling her best friend, Annabelle, everything that has happened. When she touched the device, she felt a rush of power – but also received a message. The message was from her biological mother, an alien from a planet that experienced something called The Crisis. After an environmental disaster, and the destruction of the Ozone layer, the planet is bathed in radiation. But instead of killing everyone outright – 29 people receive superpowers. In short, they are turned into gods. One of these gods is a serial killer and criminal, who makes himself dictator of the world. The others band against him, but there’s some sort of infighting as well. Several of these new superheroes/gods die, others leave. Only a few are left, and the dictator, Zumbado, rules the planet, destroying everything with constant war. Naomi’s parents, both newly created superhero-gods, fall in love and have Naomi, but Zumbado wants this child. They give her to a friend, Akira, to bring to Earth. Akira succeeds. Zumbado kills Naomi’s birth parents. Naomi is able to use her power to escape and return to Earth. When Zumbado follows her, she uses her power to banish him. But although she is extremely powerful, she also has no idea how to really use her powers or what they are. But she is back with her family.

Naomi is a beautiful graphic novel. The artwork is incredible, it really is. The story, well, it’s an origin story, and is mostly exposition, with the promise of more to come. But that’s not really a criticism, as this is a very fresh and exciting story – it’s just only at the beginning. I hope to read more soon. Naomi does join another title in the Wonder Comics line, Young Justice plus notes on the graphic novel collection make me think her title will continue. I hope so. This book is highly recommended. Read it – you will not be disappointed.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Catalyst

  • Title: The Catalyst
  • Series: Doctor Who Companion Chronicles
  • Discs: 1 CD
  • Author: Nigel Fairs
  • Director: Nigel Fairs
  • Characters: Leela, Fourth Doctor
  • Cast: Louise Jameson, Timothy Watson
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 02/06/2020

**Spoiler Alert** The Catalyst is a story in Big Finish’s Companion Chronicles series, and it is an early one. The story features Leela of the Sevateam as she tells the story of one of her journeys with the Doctor. The wrap-around story has Leela, captured, held prisoner, and being tortured by a member of the Z’Nai, a fierce, prejudicial, and evil warrior race. The main story has the Fourth Doctor and Leela encountering the Z’Nai in Edwardian England. It works much better than the framing story.

The Doctor brings Leela to a country manor house in Edwardian England to “teach her some table manners”. After an awkward dinner, Leela and the spoiled young daughter, Jessica, explore the servants’ hall and the cellars. They discover a hidden “trophy room” belonging to Jessica’s father and the Doctor. It turns out that her father had traveled with the First Doctor for a time. But it isn’t just “certificates and cups” as Leela refers to a trophy room that the two women find. An alien is imprisoned in the room, held in a stasis and decontamination field.

Jessica finds and presses a button that wakes up the soldier, though he is still trapped and unable to move. The soldier claims he is the last of his people, that they were destroyed by the Doctor. Leela doesn’t trust the soldier and leaves to find him to find out more about the situation. Jessica refuses to leave the room with Leela, telling her she wants to learn from the soldier. It will be a fatal decision.

When Leela and the Doctor return – the soldier has been released, and Jessica is dead. Tracking the soldier – they find both of the Douglas family’s servant girls are dead, as well as the butler and Mrs. Douglas. Leela and the Doctor find the warrior, who goes on and on about the Doctor “causing” the disease that wiped out his people. But the Z’Nai that the warrior leads (he is the Emperor, not a simple soldier) are Xenophobic, prejudicial, and arrogant – they had been wiping out everyone who was not Z’Nai when the Doctor and Mr. Douglas encountered them. And even on their own planet, the Z’Nai had opened purification camps, where those who did not agree with the Emperor’s hatred of everything and everyone different from himself were killed or converted into soldiers – clones of the emperor. Clones that looked, sounded, and thought exactly like the Emperor. Almost immediately after finding the Z’nai emperor Humbrackle, he collapses, a victim of the disease that killed the clone Z’Nai. The Doctor and Leela take him into the TARDIS for medical treatment then return him to his stasis field in the house.

When the Doctor and Leela return to the Edwardian House, a Z’Nai warship arrives. It’s arrival causes the windows and door frame of the house to blow out. The Doctor is knocked unconscious by a flying piece of wood. The warriors attack and kill Mr. Douglas, the only one left alive by Humbrackle. One of the soldiers attacks Leela after she tells him she doesn’t know the date because she is a time traveler. Leela fights back and the soldier immediately becomes very sick from her touch. The other soldiers shoot down the infected warrior. There’s a massive fight between Leela and the soldiers – but when she touches them, they die. The Doctor wakes up and trying to mitigate the fight, but he is attacked as well. Leela spits at the soldier attacking the Doctor – and the soldier dies. At the end of the fight, all the soldiers are dead from the now airborne virus. The Doctor tells Leela she’s become a carrier, a catalyst. The Doctor burns down the house and all the evidence of the invasion and the Doctor and Leela leave in the TARDIS.

In the wrap-around story, an ancient Leela is still held prisoner by a Z’Nai warrior. It speaks as if generations of Z’Nai have existed, as clones, destroying everyone that is not Z’nai in their path, all the so-called “lesser” species. Leela remarks that the Z’Nai used to leave a panel open in their armor, exposing their skin. The warrior remarks they no longer follow such absurd customs, but he likes to remove his helmet and look someone in the eye before killing them.

Overall, The Catalyst is a good story, but it’s about average for the Companion Chronicles. Basically, it’s War of the Worlds fierce, genocidal, alien race is knocked out by the common cold (or some sort of virus). I also found it strange the Doctor would use “carrier” and “catalyst” as synonyms. A carrier is someone who carries a disease or genetic defect but isn’t affected by it, such as a carrier for color blindness or hemophilia or typhoid. A catalyst is a chemical substance that causes a chemical reaction – but isn’t affected by the reaction. Not really the same. And for the Doctor to explain what a carrier is to Leela by saying it’s like a catalyst probably made the idea as clear as mud to her. And yet again – Leela dies at the end of the story, but of extreme old age after being imprisoned. The central story worked, but I felt the wrap-around story did not and wasn’t even necessary. The listener gets all the information they need from the dialogue in the central story, so the wrap-around wasn’t needed. But this is an early story in the range. I still recommend it, especially if Leela is one of your favorite companions because Louise Jameson is terrific performing this.

The Rookie Season 1 Review

  • Series Title: The Rookie
  • Season: 1
  • Episodes: 20
  • Discs: 4 (DVD)
  • Network: ABC
  • Cast: Nathan Fillion, Titus Makin Jr, Melissa O’Neil, Alyssa Diaz, Eric Winter, Afton Williamson, Richard T. Jones, Mercedes Mason
  • DVD: Widescreen DVD (R1, NTSC)

The Rookie reminded me of the 1970s cop shows I watched as a kid – shows like Police Woman or SWAT or The Streets of San Francisco, basic but watchable shows with great characters and lots of action – that had a very black-and-white view of policing. The series has, of course, been updated both in terms of technology and in terms of casting – the three rookies are Fillian, an Asian woman, and an African-American man who happens to be the son of a police officer. And it turns out there was a 1970s show called The Rookies with three male rookie LAPD officers, co-starring Kate Jackson as a nurse and wife to one of the officers. But that doesn’t make The Rookie a bad show – it’s nostalgic and incredibly fun to watch. The show is set in Los Angeles and filmed there. And, though I used to get annoyed with “everything filming in LA” even if it was set somewhere else, after a decade or two watching television shows filmed everywhere else for economic reasons – it was surprisingly nice to see Los Angeles again. The early episodes really show off LA in all it’s sunny, star-studded glory.

Nathan Fillion is John Nolan, a 45-year-old who joins the LAPD after his life falls apart – he’s divorced, his construction business has failed, and he’s decided to restart his life and do something he’s always wanted to do. He also has a son, Henry, who is away at college. Initially, John’s age and sudden life change is a source of rubbing and annoyance to other officers, especially his sergeant. But as John consistently proves himself – the other officers learn to respect his life experience. John is also incredibly empathic, which helps him to de-escalate situations with criminals and civilians alike. Between his life experience and his people skills, John is turning out to be a good cop – which isn’t to say he doesn’t make mistakes, he does, as do the other rookies. The show is about how the rookie year is a chance for the rookies to learn through experience.

Each episode of The Rookie usually starts with a brief, often humorous scene that feels like it was pulled from the real-life experiences of police officers. These scenes aren’t connected to the main story of the week, usually, but they are fun and they make The Rookie enjoyable and fun to watch. Each episode then follows the three rookies and their Training Officers (TOs) from roll call to end of shift. Early episodes of the season emphasize the variety of situations the new officers face in their day – from the absurd to the dangerous. Later episodes get a little bit darker – but this is never an overly grim series. We see the officers date, some, and at times learn about the home lives of the rookies and their TOs, but the show emphasizes the job, not who is dating whom, which is refreshing.

I recommend The Rookies if you are looking for something light and fun. Yes, it ignores the darker and more racist actions of the LAPD, as well as the lack of education of officers that commit those crimes. But if you want to want Nathan Fillion in a great role, again, and just kick back and binge something fun to watch, then watch The Rookies. I will definitely look for the second season this Summer on DVD.

Book Review – Doctor Who: The Good Doctor

  • Title: The Good Doctor
  • Series: BBC Books New Series Doctor Who Adventures
  • Author: Juno Dawson
  • Characters: Thirteenth Doctor, Yaz, Ryan, Graham
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 01/30/2020

I found The Good Doctor to be disappointing – it’s basically a chance for the author to bash organized religion and even make lots of anti-Catholic attacks at the end of the book. And that type of bigotry is something that doesn’t belong in Doctor Who, especially the more recent years which have tried to be more accepting of diversity.

The story opens at the end of another story as the Doctor, Graham, Ryan, and Yaz are on Lobos, a planet with two races: human colonists and intelligent dogs. The two races are in a civil war, so the Doctor with help from Ryan, Yaz, and Graham, brokers a peace agreement. There’s even an interracial couple that’s a symbol of the new way, with the Humans and Lobos sharing the planet. Having “fixed things” the Doctor and company leave.

But Ryan realizes he’s lost his phone on Lobos so they return. And it’s 600 years later and someone has started a new religion – worshipping “The Good Doctor”. This religion has become the state religion of the humans and sees the Lobos enslaved. Women are also second-class citizens, forced to worship separately, not allowed out by themselves after nightfall, and basically denied their civil rights. Women are blamed for “The Fall” and a “plague” that nearly wiped out everyone on Lobos – the Lobos are also blamed for the plague, and it’s revealed they were hunted and killed. And this new religion thinks Graham is “The Good Doctor”.

The abuse and enslavement of the Lobos and lower status of women have led to a resistance movement. Unfortunately, the rebel leader has been pushed so far, especially after the death of his wife in a raid, that he wants to destroy the ruling humans completely. The entire city, especially the TARDIS-like temple rests on a network of caves and tunnels from previous mining. And the rebel leader has been expanding the tunnels, causing earthquakes. But his big plan is to literally topple the temple by tunneling under it.

Although the story moves along quickly, it’s marred by the author’s attacks on religion, which weaken the story as well. It would have been more interesting if Ryan’s lost phone had had some sort of effect on the culture of Lobos, but as it is, the phone is barely mentioned and never recovered.

The Doctor confronts the leadership of this new religion, while Yaz talks down the rebel leader from his winner-takes-all position and Ryan works with one of the Lobos. It works out, but it’s hinted that now the Thirteenth Doctor is the subject of adoration and worship. The book is OK but not great. I’m very glad that this was the last of the three Thirteenth Doctor BBC novels I read, though it may have been published first. I’d recommend only purchasing it to have a complete set.

Doom Patrol Season 1 Review

  • Series Title: Doom Patrol
  • Season: 1
  • Episodes: 15
  • Discs: 3 (Blu-ray)
  • Network: DC Universe (Warner Brothers)
  • Cast: Alan Tudyk, Diane Guerrero, April Bowlby, Matt Bomer, Timothy Dalton, Brendan Fraser, Joivan Wade, Phil Morris
  • DVD: Widescreen Blu-Ray (R1, NTSC)

This review contains spoilers for the first season of Doom Patrol.

Doom Patrol is weird, wonderful, strange, and extremely good – and it’s not your same old-same old superhero show. It’s a deeply psychological show that aims to really show what mental illness is like for the people that have it, which is a vastly different approach to a superhero show. Nevermind being screw-ups, the Doom Patrol is doomed to never be successful.

The pilot and first episode of Doom Patrol are narrated by Mr. Nobody, whom it turns out is the villain. His narration pops-up occasionally throughout the series, especially in the Penultimate Patrol and the finale. Each episode of the series also is the “blank Patrol” or the “something Patrol”. Also, the Chief, played by Timothy Dalton, is kidnapped by Mr. Nobody in those first few episodes, so the Doom Patrol are trying to find and rescue their chief, who we do see occasionally in the series – including a flashback episode that somewhat explains why Niles Calder is interested in the unusual in the first place.

The characters are:

“Crazy Jane” – she has 64 multiple personalities, each with their own special abilities. The personalities exist in the “underground” a place we visit once. Jane is the primary. Everyone calls Jane by her name of Jane, though her birth name is possibly “Kay Challis” we learn later. Other personalities include: Hammerhead – a foul-mouthed, angry, extremely strong woman (in the underground she is bald and a punk); Baby Doll – with pigtails, and a giggly manner she’s both sweet and annoying in equal manner; Penny Farthing – a young British Cockney girl who’s purpose is to run; Silver Tongue – when she speaks her words appear in copper letters which she can then use as a weapon; and The Secretary – who we only see in the Underground, a stern woman, with severe dress and hair, but she seems to be in charge of keeping Jane’s head together – organizing the personalities and preventing further harm from coming to Jane.

Cliff Steele (Robotman) – a race car driver, who is in a horrible accident. The Chief transplants his brain into a robot body. At first we, the audience, like Cliff think he was in an accident on the race track. But he avoids that, then is a normal traffic accident late at night. The accident kills his wife, and he thinks his daughter too, but later he discovers she survived. Cliff had been raised in an abusive home, and he and his wife fought constantly and both had constant affairs.

Rita Farr (Elasti-girl) – A movie actress in the 1950s, she complains about a “disfigured” cameraman then falls through a wooden pier into an African river, where some strange substance enters her. Now her skin and form aren’t solid and she has little to no control of the situation. We usually see Rita losing control of her form by her face drooping or her legs turning into a goopy mess.

Larry Trainer (Negative Man) – A test pilot in the late 50s/early 60s – Larry is testing a new plane when an extra-terrestrial creature enters the plane. He crashes – and is rushed to a secret government facility. He is extremely radioactive and has to wear special bandages to prevent harm to others (he discovers this when he accidentally kills all the doctors and nurses at the first hospital he’s taken to). The creature inside him can leave, but when the Energy Spirit leaves, Larry is knocked out cold. Larry is also gay but hides it from nearly everyone.

Vic Stone (Cyborg) – He’s been Cyborg for an unspecified amount of time, but ends-up joining the Doom Patrol due to complications. He’s a friend of the Chief but has a complicated relationship with his father, Dr. Silas Stone, whom he doesn’t quite trust.

All of these characters face serious mental issues. Jane is the most obvious – her multiple personality disorder was caused by abuse – and the meta abilities were caused by the same agency that got their kidnapped Larry, giving her some sort of injection. At times Jane is the most normal of the group.

Rita’s ability is a visualization of body dysmorphia. As an actress, especially from the 1950s, her looks were her livelihood – and we often see Rita checking her makeup in a compact, or sitting in front of a makeup mirror. As we learn more about her, we find out she was also a victim of the “casting couch” – forced to provide “favors” to get roles. Rita Farr isn’t even her real name, but her stage name – further complicating how she sees herself.

Larry cannot accept he is gay. He has a wife and children, a job in the military as a test pilot, and pretty much has faked his entire life to create an appearance of “being normal”. He’ll have the occasional affair or fling with a man but cannot commit or even admit who he really is. Through the season, we see Larry slowly grow to accept who he really is.

Cliff is the son of an abusive father, who becomes abusive and a womanizer as an adult. But he also, despite the bravado, is close to accepting his faults and becoming a better person.

Even Mr. Nobody has only one talent – to manipulate people (and he manipulates all of the Doom Patrol, even the Chief, throughout the season). He has ideas about weapons and such that he thinks will gain him membership in the Brotherhood of Evil, but his lack of follow-through gets him fired instead, and his wife leaves him.

Vic Stone is still coming to terms with being Cyborg and is deeply distrustful of his father. He’s trying to find his own place in the world.

Besides Mr. Nobody, the villain of the piece is The Bureau of Normalcy – a “secret government agency” that both Larry and Niles (the Chief) had worked for at one time. The Bureau seeks to lock-up, study, turn into weapons, or just out and out destroy anything that isn’t “normal”.

Doom Patrol is visually stunning, weird, wonderful, and a must-see. Highly recommended.

Book Review – The Infamous Duchess

  • Title: The Infamous Duchess
  • Series: Diamonds in the Rough
  • Author: Sophie Barnes
  • Date Reviewed on GoodReads: 1/12/2020

**Spoiler Alert** I enjoy good historical fiction, but I’ve never really read that much Regency Romance – it all seemed so predictable: boy meets girl or girl meets boy, they are perfect for each other but have issues, those issues get resolved, and in the end, they end up together. Sigh. But, when you think about it – a lot of genre fiction as a certain formula to it – the detective solves the crime, the superheroes defeat the villain, etc. etc. so dismissing something as genre shouldn’t be the “insult” it often is. Besides I really enjoyed reading The Infamous Duchess and it even got me out of my funk from the holidays, work, and the weather crashing in on me at the same time. So a book that I liked that made me feel better? In my book, that’s a good thing.

Viola Cartwright, Duchess of Tremaine – wasn’t always a Duchess or even a member of the Aristocracy and therein lies her problem. The daughter of a doctor who was a private physician to a Duke and his family, Viola grew up in the Duke’s household but not really a part of it. She became friends with the Duke’s son, but then he took advantage of her when she was 16 – an event Viola has blamed herself for years. Fortunately, the elderly Duke of Tremaine isn’t the cad his son is – he sends his son off to a British colony in Africa or someplace and marries Viola, making her a Duchess. He also changes his will to leave everything to Viola, because he’s become estranged from his family, especially his son.

Once the elderly Duke dies, Viola buys a small house for herself, sharing it with two former prostitutes she met through her good works and charity. However, unlike many others of her class – she doesn’t look down on the unfortunate women, but genuinely wants to help them and she becomes friends with them. But her main project is a hospital to help London’s poor. She starts the hospital, hires the staff, and works as a nurse (her father had trained her as a doctor but because she’s a woman she is not able to attend university to get an official degree and certification). Fortunately, the main doctor at her hospital, Florian Lowell, judges Viola by her abilities, not her gender – which is part of why Viola hired him. As the story opens, Viola’s hospital is doing well enough that she’s able to open a second location, a day spa, modeled on the health spas in Bath, where the rich can go to be pampered and looked after. The spa is meant to provide income for the hospital so it can be self-sufficient instead of depending on donations.

The story opens with Florian’s brother, Henry Lowell, being brought in after a duel. Henry is a notorious rake – yet Viola and Henry get along well from the very beginning. He’s kind to her and realizes she’s been hurt in the past, whereas from the beginning, Viola notices that Henry seems to be kinder, more preceptive, and less of a cad than rumor would lead her to believe. Besides Viola knows firsthand how vicious and unfounded the rumors of bored aristocrats can be. Once Henry is released from her hospital, she and he run into each other over and over again – often with good results. Meanwhile, Florian and his wife head to Paris for a long-deserved and planned vacation.

But every story needs a villain, and in The Infamous Duchess that villain is Robert, now Duke of Tremaine, who failed to become successful in whatever colony his father banished him to, and who’s wife died there under mysterious circumstances. Also, Henry had known Robert at school, and they had been friends (something Viola finds disturbing) though their friendship had cooled over the years. Robert returns to London, threatens to take Viola to court and demands his inheritance back. Told the money was invested in the charity hospital and the spa – Robert coldly tells Viola, he’ll just take the hospital from her then and sell it.

Robert not only gets himself a barrister who specializes in “getting back” inheritances – but the two also bribe a judge to rule in his favor. Henry helps Viola to obtain a good barrister and looks into Robert’s past – remembering a scandal that Robert had roughed-up a “lady of the evening”. He also finds considerable proof that Robert probably returned and killed a young woman in St Giles – a notorious slum. Despite sympathetic police, testimony from another lower-class woman, and information from the dead girl’s parents that she wasn’t a prostitute – the police refuse to prosecute a Duke when all they have are “rumors” and the testimony of “unsavory” people (including a gangland boss). The judge in Viola’s case won’t even let her present the information that Robert may have killed someone. Henry also attempts to get information about the death of Robert’s wife – but the evidence that he killed her and bribed a corrupt cop to get away with it arrives too late to save Viola.

Viola and Henry, meanwhile, have become close – and married, which should have protected Viola’s assets, since by the laws of the time they became her husband’s property. However, the judge still rules for Robert and takes the hospital from Viola. It’s quickly sold. But the person who bought it is the gangland boss who feels indebted to Henry for trying to get justice for the girl Robert killed and to Viola for building a hospital to help London’s poor in the first place. He returns the hospital to Viola as a gift, so the hospital belongs to her husband, Henry, now. It’s not clear if Robert was able to take a controlling interest in the spa or not because the other main investor is Florian, Henry’s brother and the surgeon at Viola’s hospital.

With the hospital safe, Henry and Viola honeymoon in Paris for a month. They return and Robert bursts in on them, attacking Henry and nearly killing him. Viola shoots Robert in self-defense but fails to kill him. Both Henry and Robert end up at Viola’s hospital and both survive their injuries. Now, however, Robert has attempted to kill Henry – who is now a Viscount and due to become an Earl when his father passes. Attempted murder of an Earl’s son is considered much more serious than the deaths of two women – and finally, Robert is sentenced to death. No mention is made of what happens to the money and property he took from Viola or even who would inherit his title.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading The Infamous Duchess. It was a fun, light read, but it was nice to read something knowing it would all work out in the end and that the book would have a happy ending. But the story also had a nice mix of traditionally romantic scenes: Viola and Henry dancing at the opening of her day spa, their trip to the seaside, with more action-oriented scenes – Viola meeting Henry when he shows up on Florian’s operating table, a second duel at dawn between Henry and Robert, Henry’s investigation into the truth about Robert – that frustratingly, they can’t use against him. It’s a great story, and it was enjoyable to read. It also appears to be part of a series, with brief references to “difficulties” in Florian and his wife getting together and a hint that the gangland boss with a heart of gold would get his story next. Recommended.