Headline, £5.99, ISBN 0-7472-5795-7
Contemporary Fiction, 1999
From the back blurb I’m led to believe that A Whiff of Scandal is a hilarious story. Hilarious, my bum. This story fits the term “half-baked” perfectly.
This is what the book promises me: Rose Stevens scandalizes her neighbors in a rural village right outside Milton Keynes because she is an aromatist and has men coming in and out of her house at various time. She however finds love and some kooky, friendly, eccentric neighbors and all ends well. This is going be a bang of a comedy.
What it is is another matter. Rose’s “friendly, kooky, eccentric neighbors” are surprisingly mundane – an elderly woman who tries to shock me into laughing by saying risque things and a housewife who loves her husband but sets up a part time business of entertaining men for £69.99 an hour (phone version is only a special £29.99). The latter has a rather interesting story, especially when a lonely, ugly client falls in love with her, but that is eventually shoved away for more silly laughs.
That’s the main problem of this story. Plots go nowhere. Whenever the characters threaten to get two-dimensional, the author pummels them back to being caricatures to be ridiculed. People appear and leave haphazardly, and cheap laughs are few in-between.
Worse, the romance is tepid, lackluster, and totally unconvincing. Dan is a hunk who is content to sleep with Rose while keeping his long-time girlfriend dangling. It is the irritated girlfriend who takes the first step in packing up the bags and leave. I wonder how long Dan is content to let both women dangle in and out of his life. He is also a passive idiot, and it is Rose who has to practically beg him to return to her at the end. Gee, I can see long years of marital bliss in the years ahead for these two people.
But I must say the aromatherapy scene where Rose massages Dan (read that in any way you like) is simply temperature-rising material. If you must read this book, just skip to that scene. For educational purposes only, of course.