Harlequin Mills & Boon, £3.49, ISBN 978-0-263-90054-5
Contemporary Romance, 2013
Yes, I’m sure you all notice by now that TBR Review Challenges has become one of the very few things in life that can drive me to voluntarily read a Modern title. The others being, well, I know the author’s style is usually okay with me – not a common occurrence when it comes to this line – and having to choose between reading a Modern story and having to stare outside the window during a long, long trip. Oh, and maybe if someone is paying me money to do it, I suppose, but unfortunately that has never happened to me. This month, the theme is any book that is part of a series, so hey, here’s a series title that is part of a series about two idiot twin sisters finding husbands in ways that, in real life, would probably warrant a few trips to the psychiatric ward at the very least.
I didn’t know it when I randomly picked this one up from the bargain bin, but A Hint of Scandal is actually Tara Pammi’s first book for the Modern line. She will eventually move on to write poorly-researched, ersatz sheikh romances featuring “Middle-Eastern” culture that is more of American norms and traditions insultingly repackaged with a few “Ya, Allah!” on top as Middle-Eastern. Not something one should do in a time when religious sensitivities are approaching peak insanity among the woke white people of America, but I digress. This one is more on the safe and acceptable side: here, we ovulate over boorish, mean, nasty, cruel billionaires because that’s how we like them to be… which I always find odd considering how at the same time we’re also supposed to hate a certain President of the United States that is said to embody such erotic masculine traits. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t have a flat six-pack washboard and a full head of hair?
Olivia Stanton is the irresponsible, loser twin sister, but when the story opens, the responsible sister has fled her wedding day, after asking Olivia to take her place so that the lucky hubby, Alexander King, will still be around when this sister finally decides to really get married for good. Instead of telling her sister to, you know, take a long walk off a short pier, Olivia agrees, so ta-da, she’s now married to the man who immediately wastes no time trying to force “Kimberly” to cut off all ties with Olivia, whom Alexander hates, hates, hates. What a catch of a man, I tell you. Alexander knows that something is wrong when he kisses his bride and his husband bulge immediately fills up his crotch in what must be sheer hatred, as he’s never felt like this with Kimberly, the very proper and prim brood mare he has always wanted to hang lifelessly from his arm. Olivia is naturally an epic fail in deception, so he soon catches on that he is married to and lusting after a woman whom he hates, hates, hates, hates, hates.
A Hint of Scandal is remarkable in that this is one story where the designated male love interest spends a significantly far more amount of time and words calling the heroine all kinds of negative slurs and insults. I’m not sure what kind of message I am supposed to take home with me, as Olivia’s reaction to Alex is basically “Oh, I don’t want to lust after him, but oh, I’m so horny so what can I do?” every time he throws her an unnecessarily mean cut down just because. If Alex suffering from a raging case of what seems like congenital assholery isn’t enough, he’s also an idiot who insists that he can never feel anything nice and warm for a woman, or else he will get hurt and start crying like the big baby he is, so here’s more unnecessarily mean stuff he’d do to the heroine to ensure that she will never get under his skin.
Here’s the thing – the author is aware of what a non-catch her hero is, but she just keeps going ahead with the Modern formula anyway, probably because she loves her publishing contract far more than my blood pressure levels. But the hero basically has a few pages of epiphany, which culminates with him deciding that the heroine must forgive him just because he’s come to such a realization – someone please hand him a giant pickle-shaped medal or something – and she does, easily and quickly.
So, A Hint of Scandal is how Tara Pammi gets her “Yay! I am now a Harlequin Mills & Boon Modern author!” membership card. Good for her, and I hope that she continues to have a long and rewarding career. No, I’m not being facetious – this, for a debut Modern title, is polished and very easy to read, and the author does some extra duty to flesh out the heroine into something that almost resembles a human being now and then. Not bad at all for a new author. If the author ever does something outside of the Modern ghetto, I’d certainly be interested to see what the result will be like, but for now, I’m just going to head back to my turf and push this book into the pile of read books that I’d give away once I’ve run out of storage space.