Harlequin Historical, $6.50, ISBN 978-0-373-29788-7
Historical Romance, 2014
Once upon a time, Sandrine Mercier and Nathanael Colbert had an adventure in France. There were some dead people, lots of angst, and breathless amour. And then she betrayed him, and the angels killed a few dozen puppies in their grief. Today, they meet again in the ballrooms of London. Only, she is Cassandra Northup, the spinster whose greatest passion is the home for unwanted women that she has founded, and he is Nathaniel Lindsay, one of those noblemen in a magnificent London that think of nothing of becoming spies for England, as spying is something these men do before they get married. Kind of like mountain biking, I guess. So, now that they are here, together again, which will happen first – they reach their happily ever after or I sit on this book and release a big gust of happy wind on it?
I know, it may be my fault as I arrive at the tail end of the party – this book is the final book of a trilogy – but I find this a fragmented story with so many little pieces missing from the jigsaw puzzle. The story weaves from present day to the past, and while this gives me a decent idea that those two had a great time having an orgy with Mr Guilt and Mrs Self-Loathing back in France, I never get the complete picture of what really happened back there. Perhaps it’s just me – maybe I couldn’t see the big picture because I’m blinded by sheer hatred for the heroine.
Cassandra can die. She is so irritating that I can’t stand her at all. You see, she is a classic example of why some idiots should be suffocated at birth so that they don’t grow up to become imbecilic martyrs. I know something is wrong when, after nearly being raped, our darling here spends more time loathing herself for killing that man. You see, killing people is wrong, it’s a sin, so she’s a horrible person. She also blames herself for the deaths of her mother, her cousin, and various characters, even if these characters’ link to her is that they all breathe from the same atmosphere. Oh, and she also does some classic “I deliberately choose to suffer because I’m a martyr!” nonsense, as if her constant need to flagellate herself for all kinds of sins, context be damned, isn’t irritating enough.
Cassandra sometimes talks about how she is now a stronger woman, but she doesn’t do anything other than to get hysterical because something bad happened, which has to be her fault. Various other secondary characters waste their scenes telling her that this or that is not her fault – that’s how big her drama queen guilt complex is. They should have just beaten her senseless with a heavy stick or something.
Nathaniel… okay, I can understand why he resents her. But he’s an inconsistent fellow. He’d tell his buddies that he understands why she did what she did back there in France, but he’d then turn around and think of her as a whore and say unkind things to her. This pattern persists until late in the story. Which is which now? Cassandra is annoying enough with her running around trying to blame herself for everything wrong in the world, having Nat’s back-and-forth mood swings in this story only adds to my headache.
He’s also the worst kind of guy for Cassandra. He resents her, he thinks of her as a whore, and I have this feeling that he’d bring up the great betrayal every time they have an argument. Cassandra isn’t that kind of person who’d argue back – she’d go into drama queen mode, accepting every blame thrown her way. Therefore, these two would only bring out the worst from one another, and their marriage is basically a pool on how long it’d be before he drives her to fling herself into the sea. Then again, I’m not convinced that the supremely passive and useless Cassandra would actually do anything as nice as throwing herself into the sea – she’d just wail and wring her hands about her many sins non-stop.
Scars of Betrayal is also too busy for a story of its length. In addition to all the tired martyr and guilt tropes, there are also a serial killer plot here and that secret brat thing that Harlequin must really regret not getting a patent on. With the author’s fragmented narrative, Cassandra running around shrieking like an addled banshee, Nat chasing after her and calling her a whore, and a hundred other tired nonsense going on, this whole story is a complete cacophonous mess.