Grand Central Publishing, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-446-57273-6
Historical Romance, 2011
Ripe for Scandal is a pretty hard book to grade fairly, because it is an unevenly paced story. The first half – the more romantic part – just meanders along. However, the second half, the more action-driven part, has me at the edge of my seat that, by the last page, I have a hard time remembering how I found the first half of this book a snooze.
Boudicea “Beau” Vaughn comes from a pretty unorthodox family, but even they have their limits when she finds herself in trouble yet again in this story. It’s not really her fault, but because she finds herself abducted in broad daylight in full view of the folks in Mayfair, this time there is really no way her reputation can survive this latest incident. What happens is this: Beau had, in the past, fended off some men who attempted to elope with her, and she even took out the eye of one of those men, George Granby. George has arranged to force a man who is heavily in debt with him to kidnap Beau in an effort to ruin her completely as payback for his damaged eye. Fortunately for Beau, Gareth Sandison happens to be at the right place at the right time and ends up rescuing her from Padrig Nowlin.
Beau and Gareth have the standard “my brother’s best friend whom I’ve always adored” story between them, and yes, Gareth has always been infatuated with Beau as well. But as a second son, Gareth knows that he cannot support the lifestyle Beau is used to. He made himself content by playing the rake and consorting with married women in need of diversion, but now that he should marry Beau in order to protect her from ruin, he realizes that it is no hardship to play along. Beau is actually pleased to marry Gareth, but she also feels that she had forced him into this situation. When her brother goes all out to ensure that Gareth is shunned by his former friends, well, that complicates their marital bliss. But it is when Gareth’s brother forces him into a most uncomfortable situation that marriage life becomes really complicated and things heat up.
The good news is this: Beau and Gareth are a fabulous couple. Beau is strong, intelligent, and smart enough to put things together, and no, she doesn’t pull that Avon Romantic Boyfriend Test thing, so there are no ridiculous moments from her. Gareth is a great hero. Despite being put into some of the most painful situations here, having to choose between his family honor and his own well-being, he manages to acquit himself pleasantly without being silly or cruel. Both he and Beau are really great together as they have a cozy chemistry. The love scenes are pretty nice, I have to say, because Beau is no contrived coy maiden. She is that kind of heroine who isn’t afraid to enjoy life to the hilt without feeling guilty, and Gareth is more than happy to indulge her.
It is really unfortunate that the first half of the story, which deals with how these two get married, suffers from slow and meandering pacing. I also have no idea why Leo, Beau’s brother, is so determined to make life hell for Gareth. Doesn’t he understand that, by shaming Gareth, he is also affecting the reputation of the sister that he supposedly is trying to protect? And yet, it is Gareth who has to earn Leo’s forgiveness. I wouldn’t be so charitable if I were in Gareth’s shoes. It is only in the second half, when Beau’s past and a skeleton in the Sandison family closet intersect, that things become far more happening. This part of the story is far less romantic as it focuses on action-driven drama, but that’s to be expected given that by that point, the relationship between Beau and Gareth has mostly been established as rock solid. Still, this more exciting half offers suspense, tension, and plenty of opportunity for Beau and Gareth to individually shine as they work together with the rest of the secondary characters to clean up the mess. As a bonus, a capable heroine like Beau, who manages to stand on her own and by her husband, is not common in the genre so it is always a pleasure to follow a character like her.
The downside to this second half of the story is how abruptly it ends. If I have my way, I’d have cut short the first half of the story, and use the space freed up to give this story a bit more closure.
The second half of this book is a solid and emotionally gripping read, but the first half of this book nearly puts me to sleep so many times. Seriously, it is so frustrating when a book is this unevenly paced. I love so many things about this story, but that first half of this book will always be the albatross around its figurative neck. The second half of this book and the fabulous main characters are reasons I’d give this book my cautious recommendation. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you guys about the really slow start of the story.