Avon, $7.50, ISBN 0-06-051364-0
Historical Romance, 2003
I have many doubts regarding One Night of Scandal, but most of these doubts are rooted in the fact that the author is actually regurgitating a very familiar plot with very little effort done to make it stand out from other stories sharing the same premise. What this story does have is a heroine that is simultaneously very bratty and very charming. Carlotta Anne Farleigh starts out a really too stupid twenty-one year old, but in the end, she’s the best thing about this story. Seriously!
I don’t blame Carlotta for being stupid. Her sister is after all the poster girl for the really unbelievably stupid, and I guess one can’t expect Lottie to know any better. What Lottie does is that on her second coming-out party, she just has to peek at the window of the Murderous Marquess next door. Why? She aspires to be an authoress of Gothic melodrama, so she needs inspiration for a bad guy, and inspiration, apparently, may be named the Murderous Marquess. So what happens is that she peers into the man’s window, he sees her, mistakes her for a lightskirt his friend hired for him that night, kisses her, and Lotty’s battle-ax school teacher stumbles onto the scene. Oops.
Of course, Lottie wants to marry for love, et cetera, and she isn’t too unhappy when the Marquess, Hayden St Clair, refuses to marry her. Then she overhears her brother-in-law wanting to challenge Hayden to a duel, barges into Hayden’s house for that “courageous heroine stumbling onto a hero in dishabille” thing, and voila, they’re married. Then, when Lottie is at his place, he brings out a little girl who is traumatized by the death of her mother and is need of some TLC.
Lottie is a really bratty heroine that meets her match in the even more bratty stepdaughter Allegra. And this is where the author manages to work her magic on me. I have a good laugh at Allegra and Lottie’s really childish attempts to outwit each other, and the thought of arrogant Lottie hiding in the broom cupboard from Allegra is just pure comedy gold. Lottie and Allegra’s bonding rings somewhat real – Lottie doesn’t show a magical maternal all-wise side of her. Instead, their relationship is more like the big momma tabby cat teaching the lil’ kitty how to go about doing things. I also enjoy reading about Lottie growing up and becoming a little wiser towards the end.
I’m not too fond of the hero Hayden though. He is a whiny brat, but he grates on my nerves the most towards the end of the story. Oh, his late wife has severe bipolar disorder, oh, poor Hayden. He fears that his late wife will suffer from childbirth after carrying Allegra, so he never visits his wife’s bed again! And when the wife gets paranoid about Hayden seeing a mistress (he isn’t), well, boo-hoo, poor Hayden! Anyway, the wife dies anyway, so again, poor Hayden! Boo-hoo-hoo! Allegra is so sad because Hayden ignores her, so aww, how sad for Hayden. Never mind that Hayden in a way has treated his late wife pretty badly and he is partially responsible for driving the fragile woman over the line, it’s all about Hayden. Give me a break, really.
The romance between Lottie and Hayden isn’t the main focus of the story – it shares space with Lottie’s bonding with Allegra and her interactions with the fun secondary characters (maids, cooks, et cetera). I have no complains though – this book really shines when Hayden is kept in the whine closet as often as possible. Even in their scenes together, Lottie shines as the spoiled little girl who is growing up and learning to be wiser. Hayden is just a whiny buffoon whining about the world conspiring to get his boring ass.
A fun and buoyant heroine – if one can overlook the painful first few chapters of the book – and her mini-me stepdaughter along with sparkling humor make One Night of Scandal an enjoyable read despite its trite premise and a hero too prone to self-indulgent windbag self-pity parties. There is also some character development, mostly on Lottie’s side. Still, on the whole this one is a little too shaky to be considered as one of the author’s better books. It’s decent, but I’ve had better.