I was the VERY FIRST person from my library to borrow Carolyn Jewel’s new historical romance novel, Scandal. There has been a quite a bit of very positive buzz about it throughout romancelandia so when I saw the gorgeous cover languishing in the paperback romance section I snapped it up immediately!
Plus I needed a nice, regency, historical romance as I had been on a paranormal binge that started to affect my dreams. I don’t like waking up worried that my mind can be read or that my blood is in danger of being sucked out.
Here is the intriguing summary:
The earl of Banallt is no stranger to scandal. But when he meets Sophie Evans, the young wife of a fellow libertine, even he is shocked by his reaction. This unconventional and intelligent woman proves to be far more than an amusing distraction– she threatens to drive him to distraction. Unlike the women who usually fall at Banallt’s feet, and into his bed, Sophie refuses to be seduced. And soon Banallt desires her more than ever– and for more than an illicit affair.
Years later, the widowed Sophie is free, and Banallt is determined to win the woman he still loves. Unfortunately, she doesn’t believe his declaration of love and chivalrous offer of marriage– her heart has already been broken by her scoundrel of a husband. And yet, Sophie is tempted to indulge in the torrid affair she’s always fantasized about. Caught between her logical mind and her long-denied desire, Sophie must thwart Banallt’s seduction– or risk being consumed by the one man she should avoid at all costs…
This was the first of Jewel’s novels that I’ve read and I was immediately caught up in her writing voice, between the descriptive prose, witty dialogue, and internal thoughts of her characters I was hooked from the beginning. Take, for instance, this quote:
She stepped back and hit the chair. He caught her upper arm, steadying her. He leaned closer. “Lovely, sad little Sophie Mercer Evans,” he said in the voice of Satan himself. “When I take you to bed, I assure you, it won’t be because I’ve coerced you. It will be because you want to be there.”
If I were Sophie I would have been hard put not to respond with, “You promise?” But alas, such is not in her nature, for she manages to resist that voice of Satan, and I respected her for that. And mon Dieu did I LOVE LOVE LOVE the first scene when Banallt and Sophie meet for the very first time and she slaps him! You go girl! I did a little jig in my chair when I read that.
Especially since Banallt is proven to be a hard man to resist! Jewel writes him as a true rake, she shows us why and how he has that reputation where in so many other novels we are just told “he is a rake” end of discussion.
There were a few unexpected twists in Scandal the first of which being the novel opens with Banallt fully in love with Sophie, this is not the typical path of a romance novel, but certainly more intriguing to watch Sophie’s path to acceptance, trusting, and understanding Banallt’s changed character and true love for her.
Another twist is a very depressing and disastrous event that befalls Sophie. I won’t write any spoilers* but I was very surprised at this turn in the story as it made the remaining 1/3 of the book quite dark. I also didn’t really connect with Sophie’s immediate reaction to this life-shattering news (she gives Banallt a blow job [wtf?!?] right after her tells her this horrible news) or her long term reaction, shunning Banallt and any external assistance and passively accepts a fairly miserable existence for a while.
But what I enjoyed the MOST about this read was all the flashback scenes to Banallt’s and Sophie’s first five meetings (they each remembered exactly how many times they had met), in fact I think I liked those early scenes rather than the “present day” ones, but unfortunately maybe 90% of the book is set in presen, so that was the only negative for me. As a reader I guess my preference is to have the full scoop on the “meet cute” and “getting to know you” part of the story, and in this case I didn’t feel like I ever fully understood why Banallt fell in love with Sophie back in the day.
So overall an A- for me, because I really didn’t have any problems with the book and really like Ms. Jewel’s writing voice. But due to the darker tone and flashback scenes I doubt this will be a major re-read for me.
*Ok fine, I feel compelled to write a spoiler, but only because I fantasized about this horrible event and made up a Happy Ending what if that I want to share…after the jump…
For any of you who haven’t read Scandal please read no further! For those of you who HAVE here is my fantasy:
So I imagined that Sophie’s brother John was not REALLY dead (I still have the same pathetic hopes about Dumbledore). That yes, he was shot at the inn while trying to save an elopement victim, BUT that he was tapped to be a secret spy for the Crown, so it was the perfect way to let the rest of the world think he was dead, but instead he assumed a secret spy idenity in order to spy on Old Boney.
But one day when the war with the frogs all blew over he was able to reclaim his life and reunite with Fidelia Llewellyn and live HEA.