A Whiff Of Scandal
by Carole Matthews, contemporary (1999)
Headline, 5.99, ISBN 0-7472-5795-7


From the back blurb I'm led to believe that this is a hilarious story. Hilarious, my bum. This story fits the term Half-baked perfectly.

This is what the book promises me: Rose Stevens scandalizes her neighbors in a rural village right outside Milton Keynes because she is an aromatist and has men coming in and out of her house at various time. She however finds love and some kooky, friendly, eccentric neighbors and all ends well. This is going be a bang of a comedy.

What it is is another matter. Rose's "friendly, kooky, eccentric neighbors" are surprisingly mundane - an elderly woman who tries to shock me into laughing by saying risque things (fat chance - have you seen the things I say sometimes?) and a housewife who loves her husband but sets up a part time business of entertaining men for 69.99 an hour (phone version is only a special 29.99). The latter has a rather interesting story, especially when a lonely, ugly client falls in love with her, but that is eventually shoved away for more silly laughs.

That's the main problem of this story. Plots go nowhere. Whenever the characters threaten to get two-dimensional, the author pummels them with her Author-ity back to caricatures to be ridiculed. People appear and leave haphazardly, and cheap laughs are few in-between.

Worse, the romance is tepid, lacklustre, and totally unconvincing. Dan is a hunk who is content to sleep with Rose while keeping his long-time girlfriend dangling. It is the irritated girlfriend who takes the first step in packing up the bags and leave. I wonder how long Dan is content to let both women dangle in and out of his life. He is also a passive idiot, and it is Rose who has to practically beg him to return to her at the end. Gee, I can see long years of marital bliss in the years ahead for these two people.

But I must say the aromatherapy scene where Rose massages Dan (read that in any way you like) is simply temperature-rising material. I think I'll just Xerox this scene and keep it for, er, future reference. Educational purposes only, of course.

Rating: 26


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