Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-267600-9
Historical Romance, 2018
To get to the good stuff of Beyond Scandal and Desire, one has to get past some head-scratching plot. If you can’t get past that, then it’s probably better to put down this book, because the late quarter of this one serves up an even more head-scratching twists and turns. Amidst all this mess is a couple whose emotions ring real enough that the conflicts that stand between them make their relationship even more poignant to follow.
Mick Trewlove will never forgive his father, the Duke of Hedley, for abandoning him to the care of a widow who specializes in disposing unwanted illegitimate brats of noblemen. As far as he is concerned, his father paid a hundred or so pounds to ensure that Mick will not survive, and this knowledge fuels his need for vengeance. Today, he is a very rich self-made man whose purchases and development of large swathes of London have various toffs who would normally not talk to him to discreetly approach him for investment opportunities. Thus, he is perfectly capable to execute his plan… which involves ruining both Hedley’s son and the son’s betrothed.
The last is the part that has me scratching my head. Okay, ruining the son would force the old man’s hand, that I can get, but ruining the poor woman? What does that achieve? What’s to stop the son, Kip, from just tossing aside that poor girl and shack up with another? What will ruining that girl achieve in the larger scheme of things? Nothing, that’s what. That last part of his revenge plot makes Mick look needlessly cruel to drag some innocent passerby into the mess. She stirs his juices too. Hmm, this has me thinking – what would a story with this plot be like if both the hero and the heroine are butt ugly, and they fall in love only after getting to know one another better?
But back to these two, the author wisely has them actually interacting – talking, laughing, finding out bits and pieces of one another to put together a beautiful picture that they can fall in love with, that kind of thing – and that’s when the magic begins. The chemistry feels real, and oh, I can feel every second of how those two are supposed to be falling in love. I can feel myself working into an involuntary smile at a number of the lighthearted moments, and I probably hold my breath a bit longer than I should when these two are getting into angst mode. Despite the silly set-up, I believe Mick when he realizes that she’s too precious to him, to be broken as collateral damage, just like how she realizes that he is worth taking a risk on.
And then, comes the late quarter or so when the author rushes through a series of family revelations that have me rolling up my eyes. I like how Kip is given a chance to be more than just some caricature of the Other Man – I doubt he’d be given this opportunity if he has a vagina and hence no sequel bait value, but I digress – but I snort in disbelief at how the author tries to persuade me to overlook some hard-to-forgive actions just because the perpetrator has a sad story to share. These pages remind me painfully of how I snort and roll up my eyes too at early chapters of this story, and I find myself wondering what it is again that has me thinking that this book could be it.
Beyond Scandal and Desire, therefore, is an unevenly done story that offers both great and oh-god stuff in equal measure. The reader will have to decide whether the solid emotional aspects of the story make up for the shaky premise and some head-scratching decisions of the author when it comes to certain aspects of the story. Me, I waver a bit about the final score for this book, but what the heck. I’ve not had much luck with romance novels recently and this is the first one to stab my heart and give me feels. So four oogies it is, then.