by Alexandra Benedict, historical (2007)
Avon, $5.99, ISBN 978-0-06-117043-8
Too Scandalous To Wed is related to the author's previous book Too Great A Temptation in that the heroines of both books are close friends and the two stories even intersect at one point here. This story is a merry little romp featuring an unapologetically determined heroine and her hapless victim, er, hero.
Henrietta Ashby has been obsessed with Sebastian Galbraith since she was twelve. For eight years now, her sole ambition in life is to marry him and become Viscountess Ravenwood. Alas, her brother's best friend is not giving her the affection she feels she deserves, treating her like his little sister and running off to cavort with other women instead. This Christmas, Henry is determined that things will be different. When she finds courage to write to a retired courtesan asking for tips on getting a man and Madam Jacqueline decides to humor Henry with a crash course on male psychology and stuff, Sebastian comes back from a trip to the Continent to find a much more... er, interesting Henry to deal with.
One can easily argue that Henry is a stalker and I don't think I disagree with that assessment, but I don't blame the poor girl as her father is bonkers. After getting four consecutive daughters, her father has decided to pretend that Henrietta is his son, thus calling him Henry and using male pronouns when referring to the poor gal. I'm just surprised Henry doesn't grow up batting for the other side, what with the gender confusion the poor dear has to deal with growing up.
In this story, the characters are pretty much stereotypes, with Justin being the recognizable rake hero. However, the fun here comes from how the author puts everything together. Despite being bonkers in some way, Henry is too adorable as a heroine who will not let anything stand between her and her man. She also exhibits enough self-awareness and displays an occasional keen perception of the people around her to prove that there is a functional brain in her head. Justin is most amusing when he has to react to Henry. The author also does a good job in the humorous banter system between her characters, with the secondary characters often being entertaining without stealing the scene or being too in-your-face over the top and intrusive.
The only problem I see in this story is that it is quite easy to put down this book in the second half of the story. The thing here is that there is a point when I feel that the characters have exhausted every amusing repertoire in their cat-and-mouse game and the relationship has to move on, or at least take on a different rhythm, because everything else after a while becomes repetitious or going in circles. Here is where I feel that some silly subplot involving missing gems may actually be good here to give the relationship between the main characters some kind of spice to catalyze some change in their behavior pattern.
Still, Too Scandalous To Wed is an entertaining story that, despite having some bumps here and there, is a enjoyable read from start to finish.
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