Mills & Boon, £4.99, ISBN 978-0-263-91691-1
Historical Romance, 2016
Just like the previous book in the author’s Men about Town series, Saved by Scandal’s Heir boasts characters that do not resemble human beings; their emotions can swing from zero to 9,999 in the blink of eye, and behaviors are often motivated by the need for conflict rather than anything organic that arises during the story. Factor in the fact that this is a big misunderstanding story, compounded by the heroine who refuses to talk even if her life literally depends on it, and this is one book that is destined to create dents in a reader’s wall.
Years ago, Harriet, Lady Brierly, and Benedict Poole, the ward of Sir Malcolm Poole, were in love, so naturally, he pushed her magic button and she automatically moved into “Yes, let’s go way beyond third base!” mode. Alas, soon after someone said something to somebody and, Benedict, despite knowing that Malcolm is despicable scum, bought the story wholeheartedly that Harriet had had her fun so she would go marry a rich bloke now. Years later, he still considers her… let me quote, “rotten and mercenary to her core”. Meanwhile, she got knocked up, learned from her father that Benedict supposedly just said whatever, bye bitch, and she had to marry a nasty man who, for some reason, didn’t like the idea of marrying a woman who was bearing another man’s brat. How inconsiderate of that villain.
That was then. When the story opens, Harriet storms to Malcolm’s place to confront the man about seducing her friend’s sister, who then took her own life. You know, why would all these knocked-up women commit suicide when they could have just gone for an abortion? I mean, killing themselves ended up killing the child they were carrying anyway, so I don’t get the whole rationale of all this female melodrama running wild in the story. Anyway, Malcolm is like LOLOLOL at her face, and Harriet really doesn’t know what to do next, other than to make her way to the exit. How embarrassing, but that’s the heroine for you. Benedict happens to be there, but he hates her, and she hates him, even though they both think the other is still so hot, so HMMPH, WHATEVER.
Alas, her maid trips and falls down the stairs, forcing Harriet to spend time around Benedict a little longer, and no, the whole thing doesn’t feel contrived at all, snort.
And that’s basically the set up. The rest of the story has Harriet basically playing the martyr. She has to protect everyone and anyone, even those who have wronged her, and because the author is incapable of creating consistent characters, the poor heroine ends up like a robot programmed to be a typical martyr, only there is something wrong in the programme and she ends up just crazy. Maybe masochistic too. Her behavior is all over the place. One moment she hates Malcolm, and the next moment she is feeling sorry that Malcolm is dying – huh? – even as she would then reiterate how despicable Matthew is to have seduced a poor girl rotten like that.
When she has the chance to clear the air or demand explanation – and she has many chances here – she just clams up, and depending on the page number, it’s either because she does not want to drag so-and-so’s reputation down with her or he is just a hateful asshole who should know what he has done. And then, she’d decide that Benedict must somehow pay, pay, pay. And then, I turn a few pages some more and she’s happily putting out to Benedict. Huh? And then, she’s wondering whether he loves her as much as she loves him back… no wait, she hates him back now, but she loves him, blah, blah, blah.
Along the way, she does weird things that only make Benedict wonder whether she’s really a whore of the whores, because our heroine is exactly the kind who insists on solving her own problems (no, she can’t), keeping mum and trying ineptly to sneak around (making herself look like an incompetent sneak in the process), and so forth. Everything Harriet does here is designed to dig a deeper hole under her feet.
And when she finally reveals the big truth to Benedict, his response is to accuse her of being some other bloke’s lover.
These two characters are just ghastly because they behave in ways designed in the most contrived manner to prolong everyone’s misery, and the author is unable to spin a convincing tale around her machination. Nobody here behaves or talks like human beings, they are all like marionettes clumsily manhandled by a first-timer. Given that the author isn’t new to the business, I don’t know what to think. Just save yourself from the bile and the pain by giving this one a miss.