Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-233482-4
Historical Romance, 2015
No, this is not the story of Lyon Redmond and his girlfriend – I think Lyon was last seen floating with the rocks around the rings of Saturn. The next book, though! If you are not tired of being strung along all these years; if you are still delighted over the notion of a guy leaving the woman behind with no word at all because he needs to puff up his own ego by validating his own masculinity and self-worth first, only to come back when the woman has had enough and wants to move on with her life – the next book! The next book, people, because It Started with a Scandal is the perfect definition of a filler book in a series. If one day this title disappears from existence, I wonder how many people would realize that it is gone.
This is a “housekeeper with a brat meets the surly withdrawn hot guy” story, and it doesn’t break away from the formula. Elise Fountain made the mistake of falling for and putting out to the wrong guy a few years ago, so she ends up an unwed mother to a walking plot device called John. Or Jack, as she calls him because this is the author’s take on the Jack and the Beanstalk story. Elise is the one who bought the wrong kind of magic seeds – get it, get it? – and ended up disowned as a result, and she also lost her job as a teacher at a finishing school when word got out to a student’s sister of Elise’s indiscretion. Never mind, the school principal pulled some strings and got Elise placed in the household of the displaced French prince Lord Philippe Lavay (who is very tall and very… big) as the man recuperates from a pretty bad beating that he took some time before this story opens. And so the story begins. What will Elise find when she climbs the giant’s beanstalk?
The clichés come fast and hard. He is surly but he can be charming and adorable once he thaws. She has no housekeeping experience, but she soon wins the hearts of the staff – aside from that token bad seed in the staff, that is, but she would deal with that too. The brat naturally gets into trouble at the last minute to force the hero and the heroine to come together and have sex. Elise of course flees after experiencing the orgasm of the year because she’s so noble like that. There is that spiteful hag who had Elise dismissed back then, who of course shows up again as the woman Philippe wants to marry. It’s easier for the hero to boink Elise and ditch Alexandra without appearing like a foot with cracked heels and fungus-infected toes when the other woman is an unlikable soiled feminine pad, after all. And on and on, we go.
On the bright side, Phillippe can be such a gorgeously romantic fellow when he puts his heart into it, and there is some beautiful poetry to the way he discovers his feelings for Elise. Let’s just say that when his heart sings, the author has me convinced that I can hear the song. I do like Elise despite the fact that she is straight out of central casting – her determination to succeed and stay strong despite her nerves is adorable… well, until she gets boinked by the hero and becomes a stereotypical “I just got shagged – now my IQ is down by 300 points!” romance heroine, that is. The brat plot device has his moments too, despite the fact that he exists solely to get his mother to have sex with the hero. The kid resembles a brat his age – he’s not creepily sage or horribly cutesy. Also, he gives me that beautiful scene in which Phillippe tells Jack to never doubt his worth or his mother’s love for him, so I guess he can live.
It Started with a Scandal is, at the end of the day, a pretty forgettable story. It does have its share of beautiful moments, but that’s all they were – moments. Taken as a whole, this story is predictable, very formulaic, and rather unworthy of the author herself. Like I’ve said earlier – the next book, then! Even if the next book turns out to be absolutely putrid – and let’s face it, the way the author builds that book up for so long, people would either have too high expectations and end up disappointed, or they are predisposed to disliking it because no one likes to be strung along so obviously for so long and so hard – something tells me it’d still make more impact on my mind than this one.