Pocket, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4767-0369-5
Historical Romance, 2015
Trapped by Scandal features one of most kick-ass heroines I’ve come across in a while. She’s capable to the point of being a Sue, but hey, I’ll take what I can get when it comes to heroines, especially after the last few walking stupidity headcases I have to endure. Naturally, Lady Hero Fanshawe just has to paired off with a guy who doesn’t appreciate any of her kick-ass traits and insists that she sits at home and twiddles her thumbs while the brave strong men go out to tame the world, sigh.
William Ducasse, Viscount St Aubery, has a French title but he’s half-English and, when the French starts lopping off the nobles’ heads in their country, on the side of the nobles. He works alongside Hero’s twin brother Alec, and meets the lady when she shows up unannounced to look for her brother. The whole gang work together to locate and rescue Alec’s fiancée, and William and Hero soon fall into an affair. She thinks the relationship is going somewhere, but he ditches her the moment they reach England – for her reputation, et cetera. Normally, this would be another case of an asshole using and ditching a woman, but romance heroes always have the “for her own good” excuse for this kind of thing, and in his case, William doesn’t want Hero to be a collateral damage as he cleans up loose ends in England.
Hero is a pretty amazing heroine. She marvelously self aware and her intelligence is a joy to behold, especially when compared to that of most heroines out there. She can put two and two together to come up with four, she doesn’t jump into weird and wrong conclusions, and she doesn’t dangle that tired “no love, no marriage, but he can shag me any time he want in the meantime” nonsense. She can defend herself, take down the bad guys, and keep up with the boys. Now, I have no idea how she can do this – natural affinity to be marvelous, I guess, but this also puts her squarely in Mary Sue territory. But as I’ve said, given how rare it is to find a heroine of this sort these days, I’m more than happy to jump on board the Hero train.
William has plenty of angst and issues, some border on being made-in-Bollywood types, but he treats Hero like he’s a student in the Cynster bohunk masterclass: he expects to bark orders at Hero and she would immediately obey. He doesn’t offer any explanations or justifications – this is his order, he is the big man here, so little missus better sit there all quiet and nice. As you can imagine, Hero rarely bothers to obey. In fact, the late third of this story is arguably driven by Hero, who puts together so many pieces of the plot while William is reduced to being that surly guy who thinks he’s all that but in truth, people roll up their eyes behind his back and just do whatever they want to do.
Late in the story, when he sighs because Hero once again refuses to stay put like he ordered her to, a secondary character points out correctly that she might have if he’d given her reasons to obey him. He’s right – Hero is intelligent enough and she has a strong sense of self-preservation, so she is not an unreasonable sort. William is the one who is unreasonable here, and I don’t blame Hero for not jumping to follow his orders, especially when not doing so actually moves the plot along.
It is a shame that William seems like the sort who would be happier off paired with a meek and malleable ninny, as Hero is a good kick-ass heroine that deserves someone who appreciate her for her kick-ass traits. William appears to the be sort who will only force her to be a sit-at-home baby-making machine after the honeymoon. Thanks to this fellow, Trapped by Scandal at the end of the day feels like a second-rate version of Velvet, still one of my favorite books by the author and one of the best Spy Hero vs Spy Heroine stories out there. This one has a similar underlying dynamics, but the hero’s high-handed tendencies ruin the party considerably.