Rise of the Notorious by Katie Jennings
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I am torn on this one. I very much enjoyed the first book When Empires Fall. It was sometimes over the top & fun. Rise of the Notorious was exceedingly overwrought & not as much fun.
Where to begin… Grant. Grant was easily my favorite character in the first book & I really liked his PA/girlfriend Quinn. This time around they were both getting on my nerves. Grant went from a guy who worked too much to some simpering twit who seriously did nothing for most of the story. For all the adroitness he displayed in the first book, he was utterly useless here. He wasn’t much help to Madision in figuring out what was going on, he wasn’t running the hotel any longer & I am hard pressed to know exactly what he was doing that was leaving him so harried in general that he needed doting on. He did acquire a bit of Linc’s unprovoked jerkdom in the way he spoke Quinn and it wasn’t charming or terribly interesting for very long. I think it was supposed to show some sort of alpha powerful thing but it came across as eye roll worthy. And Quinn, who I’d found charming in the first book became so annoying with her sage wisdom & advice that I wanted her to go away or just be quiet. Truly, I cheered when she was in a car accident because I thought that would improve both characters, even if it meant the death of one of them. It didn’t, by the way.
Linc & Lynette didn’t even make my “like” list in the first book but I was open to them improving. Linc amped up the overbearing jerk (who often wasn’t very nice to Lynette) & still wasn’t the brightest bulb in the box so he wasn’t very much help, to anyone, but offered lots of bluster, impassioned declarations without logic or reason & often showed his bitchface in response to perceived offense. Lynette, who seemed more like an adult here than in the first book, still didn’t have much to offer. She was simply the love interest with the disapproving father. And no, the thread weaved to make her father integral to the mystery of who is trying to take down the Vassars didn’t improve her lot. The best I can say about them is that they were often together so as I read, it killed two birds with one stone.
Madison. Oh Mads, were did we go wrong? What happened? That’s very much what Wyatt was asking for much of the story with regard to Madison & frankly, so was I. Madison was fabulous the first go round but she’s very much changed here. Firstly, most of her time is taken up with her unfinished relationship with ex-husband Wyatt, who, if I’m honest, I didn’t find all that compelling the first time around. Though, I was still interested in what happened in Vegas that ended them. That’s a primary question asked very early on in this book & Wyatt has a secret to tell that is heavily hinted at throughout. I really cared, so it was a good thread in that it kept me reading. That it’s not told until just past the 80% mark & fully revealed around 88% would make you think it’s huge, like Cyrus’ secret in book one. It’s not.
Madison, for her part, wasn’t nearly as interesting this time around & she didn’t DO anything much either. She often talked about doing something but there was nary a sign of it. I’m hard pressed to see why she & her brothers are notorious as they didn’t do anything but talk to each other a lot. They’re riding the coattails of Cyrus’ notoriety & his deeds. I expected more of Madison but it seemed like she was supposed to be likable here & have some sort of inner conflict, be misunderstood & really have deep pure love for her family in her heart (not like the pawn pieces she viewed them as in the first book) & really nothing of Cyrus in her no matter her obsessive devotion to him or the close tutelage. Basically, things that were nary hinted as being who she was in the first book. She went from interesting to what is offered here & I don’t know why. I never believed this change & honestly, kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. For Madision to give a wink to the reader or have some internal dialog that would show she was playing this whole scene & none were the wiser. It never happened. So. That’s that.
Kennedy was the only character that I can say I still truly enjoyed from the first book. She factored in a bit more here & I won’t spoil it, but ultimately, she’s used as a plot point & that was a shame. She was written well and could have been so much more but alas, that wasn’t her purpose in the end. Charlene, the mother of the Vassar brood, was a plot point here as well & that she was the answer to a very important question from book one regarding the most sympathetic character in the story & virtually off the canvass & given about two sentences in resolution almost prompted me to toss my Kindle. It was an epic letdown to a great story thread.
*insert sigh* This kept me reading, so points for that. I needed resolution & there’s something to be said for being compelled to stay with a book even when things feel off in the telling, false or forced. Perhaps that was because the set up in book one was so good that I had expectation. I should have checked my expectations at the cover. The story the author wanted to tell differed from the story I thought she was going to tell. That’s on me. To its credit, all the threads were tied up even if I thought the bows were too tidy & flimsy. Points for that. I don’t know if I’m glad I read it or not. Supposing that ambivalence is of course better than dislike, I’ll say this was about a three star read for me.
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