by Carolyn Jewel, historical (2009)
Berkley, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-425-22551-6
Scandal is a very well-written story, but while I can easily fall in the love with the hero, the story is so excruciatingly slow that I have a hard time mustering any enthusiasm for the romance.
Gwilym, the Earl of Banallt, was a rake who would get it on with anything attractive and female, but as of late, he is in love with Sophie Evans. Sophie is the widow of his late partner-in-crime. She is not willing to entertain any possibility of a happily ever with him because he was, after all, her late husband's compatriot when it comes to wine, women, and song. Sophie was badly burned by her marriage. She eloped with Tommy as a young woman full of naïve ideas about love, only to realize that he was a fortune hunter with little regard for her feelings. Worse, he wasn't above manipulating her feelings for him in order to amuse himself. This story, therefore, is all about how Banallt has an uphill battle in his hands when it comes to winning Sophie.
There are some powerful scenes in this story, and I think I can easily fall in love with Banallt myself. He's such a dreamy ideal of a reformed bad boy who is so doggedly (and even pathetically) in love with Sophie that I find myself torn between wanting to mother him and, er, knowing him better. But the problem with this story is how he and Sophie spend pretty much the entire story sighing after each other like lovelorn moony kids.
I get that Sophie doesn't want to trust Banallt, but at the same time, I have a hard time trying to stay with her as she goes on and on about Banallt. She thinks he's a rake who is unable to be faithful to a woman - fair enough, he told her this himself - yet at the same time all she does in this book is to think about him. He's her best friend! He's a rake! He should find a good woman who loves her! And yet he will never make her a good husband! It will be nice if she actually tries to get over him like she says she has to, but no, all she does here is to obsess over him. Really, she thinks about him all the time just like he thinks about her all the time. But at least his excuse is that he's obsessively in love with her. She, on the other hand... well, it's like listening to a friend going on and on all the time about her ex-boyfriend. Whenever I meet up with her, he is all she talks about all the time until I feel like slashing my own wrists because she's making me as morose as her and frankly, honestly, listening to her going repetitively about him ranks down there as one of the most boring things ever.
Sophie is also dangerously close to being a Mary Sue heroine here. I'm told constantly that she's not beautiful, but yet she attracts male admirers effortlessly. I'm beaten in the head many times that she is intelligent and attractive - apparently you only have to look into her awesomely beautiful eyes to know this - but I don't see any evidence of this vaunted intelligence. Sophie spends all her time in a dazed funk, seeing Banallt everywhere even when he's not really there, and acting cold and disinterested when it comes to her own suitors. Not only that, she's pretty bad when it comes to reading people even as she loves judging people's morals as if she's composing a review of a romance novel on Amazon. Intelligent, smart? No, I can't see all that in her. Morose, self-absorbed, and humorless? Oh yes, definitely.
Reading the excruciatingly slow and almost stationary dynamic of this relationship actually makes me miss Stephanie Laurens' historical romances where those people there, at least, won't hesitate to do the doggy in the garden without psychoanalyzing each other to the ridiculous extent that Sophie does here. As well-written as this book is, I find myself wishing that these two character have snapped out of it a little quicker. This is one book where a generic spy plot would have been a welcome distraction from the perpetual self-absorbed melancholy of the main characters.
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