Harlequin Historical, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-29878-5
Historical Romance, 2016
Lt Edmund Summerfield is a nice guy. An illegitimate son of a nobleman, he has no illusions about his place in the world, but he’s also a very nice guy. When he sees Amelie Grenville – whom he knows that they move in the same circle, although technically he’s not really part of it – being manhandled in the rough streets of Brussels, he has to come to her rescue. Amelie has been abandoned by her fiancé, who said some really nasty things to her prior to that, and she is so shaken by the whole thing that she begs Edmund to make love to her. Of course he does, despite his better judgment. He then has to leave the morning after, as it’s time to show Napoleon who the boss is.
Cut to three months later. Edmund is back, and he quickly learns from Amelie that she is pregnant with their child. She is, of course, sweet and nice enough that she will not name him as the father. Because romance readers will be sent into catatonia at even the very suggestion of abortion, Amelie of course will never get rid of the baby even if she doesn’t seem religious and she knows that the baby will really, really complicate things. Instead, she would tell her parents, let them banish her to France or something where she’d pop out the brat and pass it off to who-knows-who. Because, you see, it is better for the brat to be raised by strangers than to just simply get rid of it if you don’t want the baby. We don’t want readers to be triggered!
Edmund, having known first hand what it means to be an illegitimate child, offers to marry Amelie. Amelie, fortunately, is practical enough to accept. Unfortunately, the story loses me when her family decides there and then that Edmund is the worst thing ever because he dares to want to marry the pregnant Amelie. They are so angry that he slept with her to the point that it seems that they’d rather see Amelie ruined. I don’t get this. Amelie is supposed to be from a loving family, so this development smacks more like a contrivance for the sake of having a conflict than anything else.
And ugh, her family treats Edmund badly enough that I’m actually amazed that he manages to keep an even temper when dealing with these people. They are a horrible bunch and often put both him and Amelie through all kinds of stupid “tests” to see if they are “worthy” of these horrible people’s affections, and I personally won’t shed a tear – maybe I’ll cheer instead – if these people go on a cruise and the ship sinks straight to the bottom of the sea.
Despite its very shaky first half, Diane Gaston’s Bound by One Scandalous Night manages to deliver an emotionally charged second half that can wring me dry and make me feel like I’ve been pulverized all over. Edmund and Amelie really want to make the marriage work, and both are sensible enough to see the best in the other person. This is not one of those stories where both parties shriek and tear at their hair suits as they try to outdo the other person in a martyrdom contest – they really want a happy marriage together, and they try so hard to make it work. When the story finally allows these two to move away from her hideous family and give them some breathing space in the second half, that’s when the story becomes something incredible.
Both characters and the emotional bond they have really resonate in those moments, and I feel for them. They have all kinds of ups and downs, and yet, they keep going that I don’t know whether they are just being naïve optimists or masochists, but whatever they are, I want to cheer them all the way to the end. Amelie starts out rather sheltered, but by the end of this story, she has matured and mellowed, and I especially love how she finds the confidence to know that Edmund loves her even if he doesn’t always telegraph the obvious in big bright letters. When her father gives her the final ultimatum – family or Edmund – she gives the perfect response in making the correct choice. Edmund can be endearingly sweet when it comes to Amelie, and there is a lovely kind of dichotomy in how he can be such an earnest, even bumbling kid when it comes to love but a grown-ass man in control when it comes to managing things and doing other stuff that are far more his elements. He and Amelie make an excellent pair – I love that they love, and I don’t care if sometimes they come off as so sweet that I may get cavities – they are just wonderful.
Even then, the second half has its issues. The author introduces more subplots than the length of this book could accommodate, especially when issues from Amelie’s family have not been completely resolved by that point. As a result, these subplots feel rushed and underdone, giving me this impression that the whole thing would have been better off if it had been a longer story.
Still, the emotional second half of this book hits so hard – I actually get choked up while reading a couple of scenes – that it is so easy to overlook the rocky first half and the problems in the second half. I’m going to be fair and give Bound by One Scandalous Night four oogies, but the mushy, more sentimental part of me will always consider this a five-oogie read. Oh, just read this book.