Pocket, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4516-9349-2
Historical Romance, 2014
As to the big question of How the Scoundrel Seduces, well, according to this book, Tristan Bonnaud does so by lobbing the more eloquent version of “LOL u entitled white cishet slag, check ur privilege now” insults non-stop at the heroine Zoe Keane while panting after her like a hungry dog whose nose is pressed against the window of a butcher’s store, before grabbing her for a kiss. Since he’s hot and he does get the job done for the heroine, I guess he should be rewarded with virtuous honeypot instead of being mocked for the silly twit that he is.
Zoe is in a dilemma. She stands to inherit her father’s title, but recently she suspects that she’s not her father’s biological daughter. She suspects that her parents bought her from a Romany woman during one of their trips, and if this is true, that means she would not be able to inherit the entailed properties that usually come with the title. No wonder her father is pushing her to marry an American cousin, who stands to inherit those properties if the truth comes out. While Zoe is willing to take the plunge out of necessity – she doubts that the cousin is capable of appreciating and managing her father’s properties and their tenants – she also wants to marry for love (well, of course). Therefore, she’d really like to be certain that she needs to marry that man.
Thus, she pulls a favor from our favorite band of unwanted siblings and sons, who now form a private investigation firm that would make Enid Blyton proud, and asks them to discover the truth about her origins. Tristan is the only one who has the connections to look into this matter, so she’s stuck with him, much to her exasperation.
If there were Tumblr and Twitter back in those days, he would have spent all his time hurling accusations that white cis-heterosexual shitlords are oppressing everyone else with the two-pronged dongs of patriarchy and privilege, so it’s a good thing that there weren’t, or he’d have grown fat and pasty, spending the rest of his life writing bitter tracts about patriarchy, sexism, and transphobia for Jezebel. He immediately pegs Zoe as a member of the oppressive privileged crust that he hates and sends verbal #yesallbastards Tweets her way, and to her credit, she manages to calmly rebukes his accusations and insults with common sense that has him scowling. Just like how your typical white middle class girl with too much time on Tumblr and Twitter spends all day hating on white cishet men but still making time to go into orgasmic convulsions over photos of that white guy with the whitest name ever, Benedict Cumberbatch, because he’s so hot in their eyes, Tristan eventually makes an exception for Zoe because, you know, she’s hot.
The story is interesting in that there is a gender role reversal here. Usually, it is the author’s heroine who would do that irrational social justice warrior act, immediately hating all men for being slimy immoral creeps despite having little physical and social contact with any man in the first place, and the hero is the one who seems rational in comparison. Here, the hero is the irrational social justice warrior, although with him having a penis, he’s entitled to have his way with other women without being slut-shamed. It’s an “acceptable” kind of male privilege, heh. At any rate, I realize in the end that it doesn’t matter whether the irrational buffoon is male, female, baboon-kin, whatever – irrational twit is still an irrational twit.
Anyway, the romance has some pretty good sexual chemistry, but then again, most of the author’s books have this. So what makes this one special?
To be honest, I don’t have a good answer to that. I can say that this one is a pretty decent read if fans of the author want another go at the author’s formula, but even then, the plot of this story absolutely blows. I mean, really. The villain is over the top evil, but the worst thing is how the author wraps up the whole mystery in such an unbelievably convenient manner for both the hero and the heroine. There’s coincidence, and then there’s plotting a bit too obviously in a manner designed to clumsily ensure that the heroine and the hero can find their happy ending in one fell swoop, and this book is squarely in the second territory. This particular aspect of the story is so contrived, I’m actually shocked that a polished long-time author like Sabrina Jeffries would pull off such a stunt that feels more at home in an inexperienced author’s effort. It actually feels – dare I say it? – like a very obvious lazy effort at creating a plot.
I can roll up my eyes and still go along with the formulaic romance and the hero’s unfortunate similarity to the everyday histrionic social justice warrior, but ultimately, it’s the plot direction that breaks the deal.