by Emma Wildes, historical (2010)
Signet, $6.99, ISBN 978-0451231066
My Lord Scandal is the first book in Emma Wildes's new series Notorious Bachelors, but this is a trilogy revolving around three friends with no overlying story arc connecting the three books. If you don't like this book, you can skip the next two books without losing sleep while pondering whether the grandfather was swallowed by a whale or killed by a randy llama.
This is a Romeo and Juliet type of story, as the families of Amelia Patton and Alexander St James are sworn enemies due to an unwise love affair in the past that ended in tragedy. The tragedy led to an aftermath full of acrimonious enmity between the two families. When the story opens, Alex is forced to break into the Patton house and retrieve something from the study. I won't reveal what Alex is looking for because the reader only discovers the answer later in the story. Contrary to popular belief, I only spoil books when I am in a bad mood.
Alex is assisted in his B&E gig by his good friend, but he certainly needs no help in coming to Amelia's rescue when he believes that she is going to topple over from the balcony. Amelia catches him by surprise when she comes home from the evening ballroom circuit earlier than expected, but Alex has no complaints when she gives him a nice show of her parading around in a lacy chemise. That is, until she seems to be on the verge of keeling over at the balcony and he just has to come out of hiding to come to her rescue.
Amelia has no idea about the family feud because she has been tucked in her father's country estate until her London debut, but she is intrigued enough by the handsome stranger in her bedroom to pursue him, although she has no clear idea of what she wants from him. Excitement, surely, and passion, yes. Alex is intrigued. After all, the lady looks good in a lacy chemise. But can their love hold up against the feud between their families?
I may as well launch the PSA straight away: Amelia is a heroine that you will either like or loathe. She thinks that she is a democratic lady looking for a man whom she can appreciate for his intellect, but our darling is hilariously snobby and rude toward anyone who can't meet her exacting standards. Not to mention, she is certainly willing to swap body fluids with a stranger just because she finds him too handsome for words - which is not exactly the action of someone who professes to look beyond superficial looks, is it? Amelia is strikingly beautiful, adored by all, and she complains incessantly about having to deal with her lot in life. Seriously, I won't blame you if you want to rip every strand of hair from our spoiled darling's scalp.
But I actually don't mind Amelia because I feel that she is in character for what she is: a sheltered and privileged young lady who rarely has anyone for company. Of course she believes herself to be smarter and better than anyone else - she doesn't have meet many "anyone else" to doubt her elevated opinion of herself. If she had been more worldly, she'd probably realize that, in this story, she behaves no better than the people she judges and condemns as shallow.
Still, Amelia's behavior is rarely toxic. It is pretty ridiculous that she is so willing to get ruined by Alex without considering the consequences of her action, but again, I keep in mind that she has very few people to guide her on these things in her youth. She is way out of her depths without realizing it, and it is a good thing that Alex is actually a pretty decent hero who is fond of Amelia. Oh yes, he's not taking advantage of her to get what he is looking for, if that is what you are worrying about. There are no shrieking accusations of betrayal and lies in this story.
This is why I enjoy My Lord Scandal despite the agonizingly mundane and slow first half or so of the book. The first half or so of the book sets up the story pretty nicely, but the pacing is too slow for my liking and it is too easy to put down the book at that point. Yet, the characters actually click very well with each other and I enjoy the "the world can hang, nothing can come between our make-out sessions" melodrama of the interactions between Amelia and Alex. Of course, this is because I like Amelia despite her bratty antics. Any reader who is far less enamored of Amelia will most likely have a hard time getting into this book.
The second half of the book is where things really take off. The whole saga about the family feud is pretty ridiculous in the first place, but it becomes even more ridiculous later on, to the point that even Alex remarks that a simple clearing of the air would have avoided most of the melodrama between the two families. But despite the overwrought backdrop of the story, Alex and Amelia finally consummate their attraction and embark on a refreshingly sensible relationship for a pair of star-crossed lovers. Amelia and Alex display an innate ability to understand each other - his personality complements hers very well and vice-versa and they also can talk and laugh with each other in ease. However immature they might be in the earlier parts of the book, I'm convinced by this point that their love is actually the most sensible and most right development in the story. There is no ridiculous drama of Amelia hurling silly accusations, no Avon Romantic Boyfriend Tests, no nonsense of that sort. Just two well-matched lovers who are both bemused and taken aback by the extent their family members will go to in order to keep the secrets of the past buried.
A nice bonus is how Ms Wildes allows several secondary characters who are not sequel baits to shine without stealing the limelight completely from the main characters. No one is exactly a stereotype here. Even the cold parents are allowed to display some unexpected depths that make them seem more like flawed people than clichés.
I am giving My Lord Scandal a final score of 80, which means that I would happily recommend this book to you. But this is a guarded recommendation. Before you choose to believe me and rush out to buy this book, do bear in mind that the heroine can be quite the polarizing creature and the first half of the story isn't the most exciting read around. While I do not regret buying and reading this book, you may want to read through a few chapters of this book at the bookstore first before bringing it home with you.
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