A Touch Of Scandal
by Jennifer Haymore, historical (2010)
Grand Central Publishing, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-446-54027-8


Firstly, do not attempt to read this book without having read A Hint Of Wicked first. Not only is the plot very closely related to that in the previous book, there are also many references to events that happened in the previous book that will confuse anyone who hasn't read the previous book. On the downside, if you can't tolerate the hero's antics in the previous book, you may end up finding him less than sympathetic here. At any rate, the existence of this book is a spoiler of the previous book, so if you are going to read A Hint Of Wicked anytime soon, stop reading this review now and come back only after you're done with that book.

Speaking of this book, I can't believe the huge disparity of quality between this book and the previous book. A Hint Of Wicked is at the very least an interesting story, but A Touch Of Scandal seems more like Ms Haymore's apology to readers who were offended by the whiff of potential ménage à trois in that book. This one has a story that is nothing more than a string of clichés, tossed in in a most uninspired manner, and the heroine is grotesquely stupid.

Kate Flynn is aiming for a gold medal from Mary Balogh's Tournament of the Martyrs. She hides her identity and plays the maid of her brother's wife Rebecca. Don't ask. It's a situation linked to William's plot in A Hint Of Wicked. Let's just say that Kate has a nasty mother and a villain of a brother, both of whom treat her like a reject doormat in the bargain bin of IKEA. Kate doesn't mind, because she loves her very sick brother and she also loves to skip along the path every evening to spy on our hero Garrett James swim naked in a pond.

The scene where Garrett catches Kate ogling at his naked body is representative of everything that is wrong about Kate. When questioned about her motives, Kate tells Garrett on page 14, "Perhaps we could just shake hands and I'll continue on my way?" I see that in the time between this book and the previous one, Ms Haymore had taken up some correspondence course from James Cameron's School of Writing Gung-Ho Characters in Historical Fiction. Bear in mind that this is the first time Kate is speaking to Garrett and she knows nothing about him or his identity as the Duke of Colton. From her nervousness in page 14, she quickly and inexplicably morphs into a some child-like temptress, comparing Garrett's body to an Olympian god on page 17. On page 20, she tells him that she'd like to be his friend.

Garrett tells her that he could very well be a villain. We're still on page 20, by the way.

Slowly, she shook her head. "No, I don't think so. You won't hurt me."

His lips twisted. "You think not?"

"I know it," she said in a low voice.

Did I tell you that up to that point, she knows nothing about him?

Kate continues her quest to become the next willing victim of Ted Bundy on page 21:

"You don't understand," he said as gently as he could. "You cannot sneak up to a man, watch him bathe, speak to him the way you've spoken to me..."

"I wouldn't," she said. "I wouldn't sneak up on any man, nor would I speak to him the way I've spoken to you. I'm not stupid."

"I could be dishonest. I could be a criminal, a murderer." He said the words through clenched teeth as a shudder of revulsion slithered down his spine. "A rapist."

"But you're none of these things." A frown line appeared between her eyes as she gazed at him. "Are you?"

"I could be."

"You aren't."

I don't know what to say, I really don't.

The author knows that Kate is being an idiot, but she frames Kate's borderline mental retardation as a positive trait, something to be admired. As you can imagine, Kate gets a pawing and a kiss by the end of this scene, and she is so thrilled because she considers herself a hussy. No, Ms Haymore, Kate is not a hussy. She's a rape and murder victim waiting to happen due to her complete lack of survival instinct. She spied a man bathing naked for eight evenings and now she knows that he can't be a rapist or a criminal, she just knows. Oh god.

Kate remains in this stasis of horrid imbecile state for way too long. She pines after Garrett with the creepy zeal of a heroine in Mary Balogh's novel who has just discovered American Idol, but when it comes to doing anything to fight for her love, she opts to retreat and play the martyr to her love, Garrett, and her two hateful family members. Late in the story, the author teases me by having Kate somewhat stand up to her mother, but she negates that by having Kate then pull the "I'm not worthy! I hate it when I think you have abandoned me but now I want you to really abandon me for your own good!" stunt. Where is that "Please die, imbecile!" button? If I were Kate's fairy godmother, I'd have dropped a pumpkin carriage onto her and then have that carriage run over her crushed body back and forth at least ten times just for the heck of it.

A Touch Of Scandal is more of Garrett's story as he tries to settle the score with Kate's villainous brother. He has more of a character development here, but his story is a collection of tired clichés associated with pedestrian mystery and intrigue subplots in historical romances. Between that and his copulation with the brain-damaged village idiot of his, I don't know where to look anymore.

[spoiler starts] The author teases me by bring back Garrett's French girlfriend, the one whom he ditched when he discovered that he was married to Sophie in the previous book. You know, I've always wondered why the hero is allowed to callously ditch a woman he almost married and not suffer any castigation for his abandonment. I am pleased that the author seems willing to address this issue... until I realize that Joelle is in the story to serve as the villain and therefore be conveniently rid of so that Garrett can marry his brain-damaged village idiot with a clear conscience. Not only is the Other Woman Is Disposable such a tired cliché in the genre, the author happily uses this cliché to justify an asshole action on the hero's part. And the cruel part is, Ms Haymore has Garrett willing to accept responsibility for his actions, only to conveniently remove the need to do so afterward. [spoiler ends]

Oh my, I don't know what else to say about this book. It is truly painful, excruciatingly so, to read this book, and by the last page, I feel as if I had undergone a full body surgery without anesthesia. The clichés are used in an insulting manner and the heroine is easily one of the most ghastly examples of brain damage walking I've come across. The excruciating pain is only intensified by how sometimes this book is almost going to make up for the main characters' nonsense only to backtrack back into its mire of stupidity. Seriously, if this book hadn't contained glimmers of potential greatness that were completely botched up in execution, I wouldn't be as disgusted with this book as I am now.

I don't know. I really don't want to talk about this book anymore, I really don't, so I'd just clam up now and lie down to stare at the ceiling for a while.

Rating: 04


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