Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-207593-2
Historical Romance, 2012
My Scandalous Viscount is part of Gaelen Foley’s long-running The Inferno Club series, but I think it’s okay to dive in when you have no clue what happened in previous books. It’s been a really long time since I last read the previous books, so I can’t remember a thing when I read this one. I can catch up easily, and while there are allusions to events in previous books here and there, what I don’t know does not affect my ability to follow this story. So I think it’s all good.
Carissa Portland is a self-proclaimed snoop – a lady of information, if you will – and she makes it her life mission to know as much secrets about the people in Town as possible. Why? It has something to do with her secret and how she believes that offense is the best defense. If you know their dirt, they can’t back you into a corner – that kind of thing. Her friends, heroines of previous books, are MIA, and she’s annoyed because she tried to get information from the rake Sebastian Walker, Viscount Beauchamp, whose BFFs were last seen canoodling with those missing ladies, won’t tell her where her friends are. Instead, he kissed her when she last confronted him (this happened in the previous book, but mentioned here). How annoying… and how hot.
On his part, Sebastian has lusted after Carissa for a while now, but hesitated to do anything because he’s a secret agent with the Inferno Club, dedicated to fighting evil and what not, and besides, she’s a proper lady and he’s not sure whether he’s up for the long haul with Carissa. But they end up wedded anyway in this story when she interrupts his meeting with a former colleague who apparently has gone rogue and ends up getting shot. He takes her to his place to tend to her wound, she just has to discover a secret passage in his house and end up eavesdropping on him and his butler discussing Inferno Club business, and now he has choice but to marry her so that he can make sure she doesn’t blab about what she knows of the Club.
I know, the story sounds horrifying on paper, but then again, this is a story by Gaelen Foley. She does the over the top action-laced kind of stories that border on being fantastical at many instances, and she’s a bit of a take it or leave it kind of author. You like her style, or you don’t. I personally have no issues with some fun swashbuckling tale, but the author can be a hit or miss sometimes. Fortunately, she hits with My Scandalous Viscount.
The main characters are not very deep, but they are adorable. Carissa can be frighteningly reckless at times, but she can walk the talk, often being an asset to Sebastian. Seriously, this lady can find out anything if she puts her mind to it. She can also put two and two together quickly. I also like how aware she is of her own strengths and foolishness. That scene where she realizes that her husband treats a courtesan-cum-spy as his equal while he coddles Carissa like she’s a helpless child makes me smile, especially when Carissa decides that she’s going to be more assertive and show more confidence like that courtesan to get her husband to treat her differently. There is a degree of awareness to Carissa that is rarely encountered in many other romance heroines, and I find this most refreshing.
Sebastian is a subversion of sorts of the whole “boss of the brotherhood of sequel baits” thing: you’d expect him to be bossy and arrogant, but this guy actually wants the wife to respect and trust him. He guesses that she has a secret, but instead of going all “She must be a whore! I’ll start behaving like an asshole now because whores are icky!” on her, he actually gives her time to trust and open up to him. Of course, he’s all alpha and who’s-the-boss on the bad guys, but then again, he is the action hero.
The mystery is also pretty well done. The identity of the villain and the way things go are not too unexpected, but the author has the whole thing done very nicely. The momentum is good, the way the characters run around doing their investigation is interesting, and on the whole I am entertained.
But there is another aspect of My Scandalous Viscount that is simply adorable: many scenes here gently poke fun at conventions of both sleuth-oriented historical mystery and historical romance series. I laugh when a secondary character scolds Sebastian for letting his colleagues – all titled gentlemen – to go on dangerous mission and, thus, risking those precious men’s lives. Sebastian’s response is to scoff – what, he should send ordinary people to do the job instead? As I always groan at the abundance of titled noble spies running around the genre, this exchange makes me laugh. Meanwhile, the first thing Carissa realizes upon learning of Sebastian’s parents being all estranged from one another is to tell herself, no, she will not interfere. She doesn’t even know them, so it’s none of her business! Again, I laugh at this scene as I remember just how many heroines who have no problems immediately trying to bring all their in-laws together into one happy family ten seconds after they have been deflowered by the romance hero.
If I look at it one way, My Scandalous Viscount feels like an adult’s homage to those investigative kiddie adventures by Enid Blyton. If I look at it another way, this is an entertaining story with the occasional playful pokes at the genre. It is almost a show of genius how everything comes together so well here to become so much fun.