by Julia London, historical (2008)
Pocket, $6.99, ISBN 978-1-4165-4711-2
The Book Of Scandal is a confusing story. The issues between the characters are painful, but the author handles these issues with a bizarre flippancy that has me scratching my head in befuddlement. Also, the heroine for a long time is being exasperatingly stupid and annoying. I like the author's works in general, but she is a wildly inconsistent author, and The Book Of Scandal is one of hers when she's having one of those lousy days. We all have those days, and I understand, but that doesn't mean I like sitting beside that person in a bar and listening to that person all day long, you know what I mean?
Nathan Grey and his wife Evelyn have been living apart for three years, ever since they lost their son. Evelyn went hysterical with grief, shutting out Nathan and since Nathan couldn't read minds, he had no idea how to get through to her. As a result, he felt that she had given up on them while she resented him for not being there when she needed him. Worse, he found a platonic companionship with some woman who seemed to understand him and things went downhill all the way from there. Since there, she lives in London (celibate, of course, because we virtuous romance readers love our heroines to be unsullied by all but our hero's turgid affection) while he stays in the country to drink, gamble, and fornicate with random buxom maids and tavern girls.
When the story opens, the Prince Regent and his estranged wife Caroline are drawing battle lines and Princess Caroline is about to publish some salacious tell-all book that will cast Prinny in a bad light. The book is called imaginatively the Book of Scandal. Nathan hears that Evelyn will be dragged into the court to testify against Prinny should the feud between those two goons of royalty escalates so his only solution is to drag Evelyn back to his side and pretend that they have reconciled in order to keep those rumors away from Evelyn. He's not doing this out of the goodness of his heart, though - he wants to make sure that his title and estates remain his and therefore he has to keep Evelyn out of the way to protect the Prince Regent. I don't know why he wants to keep the title though, since he spends his time drinking and gambling and more. Maybe being a titled gentleman makes it easier to keep the creditors at bay?
Nathan also drags a kid along. For a while, I assume that he's being sneaky because, as we all know, romance heroines are generally stupid creatures programmed to become vulnerable to any solitary kid in need of TLC. Alas, I clearly overestimate Nathan's intelligence as his method of persuasion when it comes to his wife is to forcefully drag her back to the place that holds all kinds of traumatic memories for her because he is so manly that way. Who needs to waste charm and persuasion on a romance heroine, after all? Even better, he drags her to his home... where he still has his useless friends, oops, luminary sequel baits and some random tarts all shacked up. And he expects the wife to sleep with him?
Then again, I don't think he's particularly smart. We are talking about a man who in a way feels that perhaps his debauched life led to the death of his infant son... only to then continue drinking and what not in order to ease the pain. No, he's not the smartest bulb in the garden, that's for sure.
Lucky for Nathan, Evelyn makes him come off like a wise sage in comparison. She has no idea how she becomes the center of controversy and I believe her. She's really hopelessly stupid that way. She also refuses to believe for a long time that she is in danger and acts accordingly like a moronic wretch bent on sabotaging Nathan's attempts to keep her safe. She is hot and cold towards Nathan, letting him cop a feel and sometimes more because she's too weak to resist temptation only to shrilly blame him and hate herself once she's had her fun. Her pain at losing her child is real, but she is way too annoying to be a sympathetic character.
Ms London also for some reason has her characters playing fast and loose with each other when they are better off trying to figure out each other emotionally. The romance here feels more like lust being awkwardly passed off as true love. Am I to believe that these two people, who won't even bother to speak a cordial word to each other in three years, will instantaneously feel attracted to each other so much so that it's true love all over again? That comes off more like a case of randy hormonal bunnies being out of control if you ask me.
The characters have issues that could have been explored better, because these issues are real and heartbreaking. Alas, Ms London treats the whole thing like another "Hate! Shag! Hate! Shag!" drama, complete with those characters running around acting like brainless donkeys begging for a beating. There is a big disconnect between the emotional undercurrents in the story and the actual execution of the story, and as a result, I can never fully appreciate this story.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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