Sourcebooks Casablanca, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4926-0223-1
Historical Romance, 2016
Susannah Tremaine is staying at the Grand Hotel in Baden with her friend, Lady Olivia de Vaux, and her elderly Aunt Augusta. Most of the other guests are of, uh, “a certain age”, coming to this place to soak in the baths and what not, so she expects to have a peaceful stay. Well, she’s not going to get that, when Count Maximillian von Staufer from Sigmaringen loses the princess while escorting her to her future beau in a marriage that would be most politically advantageous to the nations of both the bride and the groom. Eventually he comes across “Princess Mila” and gets physical (in a non-sexy way, of course) with that outraged woman trying to keep him off the “Princess”, only to find later that the “Princess” is actually Olivia, and the two ladies are dead ringers for one another.
Before long, Olivia is posing as the Princess, and Susannah tags along, as does the Aunt, so everyone is going to have a blast.
A Scandalous Adventure is the closest story Lillian Marek has done to date that resembles a madcap adventure. At least, there are some twists and turns here that are madcap in nature. Unfortunately, these developments are actually very predictable – I can see them coming from a mile away, because the author isn’t very good at keeping her cards to herself, so to speak, in this one. Still, the end result makes for some rather entertaining read. A nice plus is that Susannah, who seems to be often the only sane person in this story, can hold her own very well against the rest of the cast, and she also seems far smarter than everyone else here without being insufferable.
Alas, Max is not smart… at all, so pair him with Susannah and the poor dear comes off even worse than he probably otherwise would. Let’s see, it never occurs to her that the princess may have been kidnapped until it smacks him right in the face later on. And this guy manages to rise up to the ranks to become a captain in the army? I know, noble blokes usually have their daddies buy them their way into the higher-ranking echelons of government posts, but I’m sure a romance hero could be someone better than that. And then, while he wants to keep the princess’s MIA on the down low, he makes a public scene when he tries to physically drag Olivia, whom he mistakes for the princess, away with him. And then, he comes up with the plan for Olivia to pose as Mila because he wants the chance to snuggle up with Susannah, only to realize later on that, oops, the princess may have become a target of villains and worse, and if that is the case, he has dragged the other ladies into danger.
No, come on, how on earth did someone like Max, who seems to be all muscle with little brainpower, manage to be placed in charge of escorting a princess again? Don’t they require men in such a gig to have some minimal comprehension that members of the royalty may become targets of kidnappers and political enemies?
Still, if you can get past Max’s bewildering stupidity, you may be able to enjoy the rest of the story better, as Max, for all his dumb dumb nature, is not an arrogant lummox who insists on being right and being in charge all the time; Susannah seems to be calling the shots most of the time, and that’s a good thing, because she’s a smarter person of the two.
But even then, Max will pull off some dumb stunts now and then, which drags Susannah into the mess too, so I can’t guarantee that you won’t cringe or are forced to take a deep steadying breath while reading this story. Our hero is all impulse first, thinking never, guilt and remorse later, and I’m reminded once again that stupid romance heroes, while rarer than the ubiquitous idiot romance heroines, are akin to Godzilla when they do show up. Stupid romance heroines love to try to harm and even kill themselves in their quest to martyr themselves, but stupid romance heroes are often in the position of power to actively cause havoc and drag everyone else into danger. Latest case in point: Maximum von Stupider.
A Scandalous Adventure is a readable story, mostly due to the heroine’s presence and brainpower defusing much of the hero’s efforts to sink the story with his lamentable dull-witted ways, but still, there are some fundamental flaws that prevent it from being anything more than just okay.