Caroline Linden, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-9971494-1-8
Historical Romance, 2016
A Study in Scandal is a novella that features Samantha Lennox, a young lady who played a major role in getting the drama in It Takes a Scandal and Love in the Time of Scandal started. It can serve as a standalone, as the author provides ample backstory here for new readers to catch up, but I suspect that the full impact of Samantha’s action as well as a better insight into her personality could be better had if you have read the previous two stories as well, especially in Love in the Time of Scandal. The man’s effect on Samantha and her brother goes a long way in explaining some of our heroine’s antics here, and would make her more sympathetic if you have a better idea of what kind of horrifying monster her father can be.
This story actually takes place before Love in the Time of Scandal. The main couple of It Takes a Scandal want to get married, and Samantha decides to confess to her father her role in the drama that caused so much trouble for that couple, mostly in order to clear the name of the hero of that book. Samantha gets her wish, but at a great cost: her father punishes her by marrying her off to a man well-known for a degree of cruelty that would make even Ming the Conqueror cringe. She decides to take matters into her own hands and runs off, hoping to find her brother in London and seek his protection. But you know how it is with romance heroines: one step out of the house on their own, and they get besieged by rapists and villains. It’s like there is some kind of bat signal-like thing that goes off into the sky every time such a lady leaves the house: ROMANCE HEROINE OUT OF HOUSE – TIME TO GO RAPE, ABDUCT, ETC HER!
Poor Samantha is soon attacked by two men who see dollar signs in her beautiful hair, big breasts, and all. When she puts up a fight, one of them pushes her into the river. Fortunately, our hero George Churchill-Gray is there to witness the whole thing, so he saves her and brings her to his landlady, offering to sleep in his studio (he’s an artist) while she recuperates in his room. Our heroine soon comes to, and quickly realizes that her savior is actually the son of the Duke of Rowland, one of her father’s enemies. Naturally, instead of quickly parting her legs and using the magic hoochie every romance heroine has to enthrall the man into her power and get him to influence his father to destroy her father, our heroine is like, oh dear, how can she get out of her mess without getting a nice man like Gray into trouble. Fortunately for everyone here. Gray is a very nice and sweet guy (almost too nice to be true, if you ask me) who doesn’t mind getting into her mess at all, if you know what I mean.
Samantha’s behavior can be exasperating to readers who have not read the longer books in this series and experience the full extent of her father’s villainous behavior. It is not easy for her to rebel against that man, and even when she manages to bring herself to do so, he would use her mother or other members of her family to get her back under his thumb. One step forward, two steps back. But that’s actually the kind of behavior I’d expect from a young lady who has been tyrannized for as long as she can remember – the fact that she actually tries to rebel is an act of courage in itself.
Therefore, she needs Gray, and this is, at the end of the day, a rescue story. There are some sweet moments here, as Gray is the most perfect boyfriend ever, but for a long time, poor Samantha is a lady in distress who spends the time looking like a panicked goldfish swimming in circles in a fishbowl, unable to go anywhere. Perhaps it’s due to length constraints, but A Study in Scandal doesn’t have much to elevate it from being a rather standard damsel-in-distress story. The characters are fine, the story is fine, but when the hero saves the heroine, how nice but I wish I have gotten a little bit more from this story. It feels a bit too easy to forget, with the characters a little on the bland side.
Not that I have any regrets buying the mass market paperback version of this thing – as usual, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo and friends all don’t want my filthy ebook money because I’m not from the be all and end all that is America – but I can’t help thinking that this one could have been an emotional roller-coaster ride of a read if the author had developed it a bit more.