The Seduction Of Scandal
by Cathy Maxwell, historical (2011)
Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-177212-2
The Seduction Of Scandal - what does that mean? Are they trying to tell me that it is seductive to get into scandals, or something? And, really, the plot of this book is as perplexing as the title.
Lady Corrine Rosemont is used to getting her way in things, and that's understandable, given that she is the beautiful daughter of the Duke of Banfield and people tend to let her become the center of attention. However, poor Corrine realizes that there are limits to her parents' indulgence of her. After rejecting so many suitors, she now finds herself in a dilemma of her own making - her father has decided that he'd make a match for her, and she's now going to marry Freddie Sherwin in a month. She doesn't like Freddie - she finds him obnoxious and despicable. Catching him in the midst of shagging her maid in her own bedroom during a family trip to the Sherwin estate is the last straw. However, her parents expect her to marry Freddie despite her protests.
Fortunately, she gets a chance to run away by stowing away in a carriage one night. It's a long story, so let me just say that there is a highwayman in the neighborhood, called the Thorn, that is targeting the coffers of Lord Bossley, Freddie's father. Thorn is actually Will Norwich, Lord Bossley's adopted son who decides to rebel against the iron grip of his father on their long-suffering tenants and steals from him to give to the poor. When the Thorn targets the very carriage that Corrine has stowed away in, she stupidly gets herself shot and forces Will to take her back to his hideout and nurse her back to health. When she comes to, she is actually pleased that she knows the Thorn's real identity. If Will will let her hide in his place for a month, she'd be free of her marriage! In exchange, she won't tell anyone that the Thorn is actually the good Reverend in disguise.
Actually, things in this story aren't too implausible, as long as I can suspend my disbelief at the heroine, who is supposed to be in hiding, happily running around and mingling openly with the locals for so long without getting caught. It is only during the last few chapters that things become a really big ball of implausible developments. The "surprising" revelations that arise in these chapters are actually very predictable, but the author reveals these surprises in a manner that doesn't make much sense. I don't want to spoil things here, so let me just say that I have a hard time believing that nobody can put two and two together early on, and I have an even harder time believing that a former slave not only has the funds to go back and forth from Barbados to England several times, he can also gain access to the highest officials of London without difficulty and actually make them believe his story against one of their own. The whole thing comes off like something the author cobbled together in the last minute to wrap the story up.
This is unfortunate, because the main characters of this book are two of the most memorable characters I've come across in a while. Corrine is actually a well-drawn heroine. She starts out bratty and petulant, but that's because she is, after all, the pampered daughter of a Duke who is aware of her place in society. But she is at the same time determined enough to act on her own instead of passively accepting her fate. Sure, her plots are half-baked and stupid, but then again, she's not the person who usually plots to run away from an unwanted marriage. Ms Maxwell is one of those rare authors who can write ditsy or bratty heroines without making me want to roll up my eyes, and here, she works her magic on Corrine, making her come off as a determined young girl who is out of her depths instead of merely a stupid young girl.
In a nice twist of roles, it is Will here who has been infatuated with Corrine's beauty ever since he first saw her years ago, and it seems like he has never really overcome the infatuation, heh. Will is a fabulous hero. While the author is very coy when it comes to Will's sexual history, he is as good as celibate here as he stays away from the parishioners because he isn't good at opening up to people. Instead, he's that reluctant hero who is forced to play the Robin Hood because he can't bear to see the people being oppressed by his father and the thugs in his employ. With Corrine, he often reverts back to that young lad who was infatuated with the most beautiful girl he has ever seen, and it's actually most amusing to see them try to co-exist together without killing each other. Of course, eventually they fall in love, but when it comes to the relationship, it is Corrine who does most of the leading. Will is, after all, not good when it comes to people. But when he finally decides to let himself love Corrine, he is willing to move mountains for her. I find that really sweet of him. He's like Pascal in Katherine Kingsley's No Sweeter Heaven, only with a more recognizably human core and some nice brooding demeanor to balance the goodness in his heart.
The couple in The Seduction Of Scandal save this story from being dragged down by its abysmal plot, and really, while I do love every minute I spend reading their story, I wish they have been given a better story to begin with.
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