The Scoundrel's Vow
by Sherri Browning, historical (1999)
Dell, $5.99, ISBN 0-440-23527-8

Calandra Locke is the steward's daughter in the house of Sir Scarborough ("Scar") Weston. Scar and she are childhood friends and sometimes pests to each other. However, Cal has a crush on Scar, and now, six years later after being sent to Lady Shelbourne's School for Girls, Cal is all prettied up and has nice manners befitting a noble lady. This time, surely Scar would see her as a woman worthy of his manly affections.

Not quite. The Scarborough House staff welcomes her warmly, but to her annoyance, they still see her as a plump, greedy girl with sweet-tooth, offering her sweet custards and biscuits. Within minutes of meeting, she and Scar are already exchanging old insults. Callie-locks he calls her, and Sir Grumpy she responds. Not an auspicious start for a courtship.

Cal has more work cut out for her than she had foreseen, however, for Scar just refuses to marry. But she is not one wimp to give up so easily, no way! Scar is going down.

Mind you, I know the story in Sherri Browning's The Scoundrel's Vow has very little plot to sustain its 300 plus pages. There's no external villain, just internal conflict. I also know that Cal spends most of her time acting like an immature child, trying her petty best to drive Scar jealous and throwing tantrums. Quite unbecoming really. I also realize that I have no idea why Scar refuses to marry - has the author forgotten to add that into the novel?

But no matter. What I love about The Scoundrel's Vow is its absolutely lively writing. The words are full of pizazz. Conversations zing with snappy, crackly gusto, and it's a pleasure to read the book all the way to the last line: So much for dreams! What a line! I actually burst out laughing upon reading that, a perfect ending to a madcap courtship. Ms Browning has a rather direct, always humorous way of writing, and there are enough glimpses in scenes between Cal and Scar to convince me that in time, this debut author can really shine.

Never mind the inconsistent characterization or lack of depths in the plot. This book makes me feel good. I have a whale of a time, and that's good enough for me. Since I know Ms Browning can write wonderfully enough for me, I simply can't wait for her next one.

Rating: 70

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