Pocket, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-4391-7593-4
Historical Romance, 2011
Scandal in Scotland follows One Night in Scotland, with our hero Captain William Hurst now about to set sail and deliver that Priceless Artifact that was the source of so much foolishness in the previous book to that sufi in Egypt that is holding his brother captive. Don’t ask – it’s all in the review of the previous book, so feel free to take a look at that review if you are new to the whole nonsense. Alas, before William can do anything, he is drugged and that Priceless Artifact gets stolen by Marcail Beauchamp, his ex-girlfriend and the current darling of the stage in London. She has to do it under the threat of blackmail, of course, and what happens next is pretty predictable if you have read a few historical romances before.
While this plot at least goes somewhere instead of waiting for two-thirds of the book for a plot contrivance to happen, it’s still as painfully banal as the previous book. This is a pretty short story for a full length book, as the fonts are huge and the book is padded with excerpts of the author’s previous books. The problem is, it’s short and banal.
The plot is a laundry list of clichés. Marcail is that favorite darling of the genre: the Determined Martyr. Years ago, when her father flushed the family fortunes down the drain, Marcail becomes an actress to keep the roof over everyone’s head, in the process having to pretend that she’s not related to her sisters. Ah yes, her sisters, whom she’d do anything to ensure that they will become wives of the Ton. Of course, she may pretend that she’s not related to them, but that doesn’t stop her – one of the most recognizable faces in London – from visiting them or her grandmother. Marcail is the only one shocked when the first of the blackmail letters shows up. Romance heroines – they may be as dumb as a box full of faulty electric bulbs, but you can’t deny that they have lemming-like determination to jump off the cliff and die for the cause. I wonder why no terrorist groups have thought of using romance heroines as suicide bombers.
Oh yes, because while they may have the enthusiasm to martyr themselves, they are not very… capable at doing anything. It isn’t long before William is tracking her down and spanking her (don’t ask). As for her romance with William, it’s like this – years ago, she and he were in love and they boinked before he set off to sea and kill dolphins with his bare hands, or whatever it is real men do in their ships. The Prince Regent let it be known pretty forcefully that he’d like to sample her wares, and Marcail knew that William would die if he found out, because that man would challenge the Prince, maybe punch that fat offal, and William would be hurt. She couldn’t stand that, so she accepted the protection of her best friend. That best friend is, of course, gay because we want our heroine to remain pure and untouched all these years, and most importantly, the man’s sexual preference is another reason for Marcail to be silent about the reason she is breaking up with William. Do you get all that? Heaven knows why it is more preferable to fake a hook up with a gay guy instead of actually finding a hot and sexy protector, but I guess in romance novels, if we love someone, we light up a blowtorch and shove the nozzle up his rear end before switching on the thing.
So, William is all “Liar! Strumpet! Tart!” because, honestly, it’s so shocking that an actress – one who let him boink her on the first date, mind you – moves on when he is not offering her anything more than his pee-pee in the name of love. In the last few years, he existed in some kind of limbo where he cast aspersions on Marcail’s head in his mind on a daily basis. Despite his so-called maturity, he never seems to get that perhaps there is more than meets the eye to Marcail’s decampment. Never mind, because Marcail starts crying and insisting that he is the best and most noble person on earth, he suspects that she may be a good person after all. But with Marcail being what she is, she’s not going to accept defeat so easily. Think of her sisters! Those sisters! Of course, there’s also the villain lurking in the background, although we all know that he is not as smart as he thinks he is, since he attempts to enlist one of the most recognizable faces in London to commit a crime.
The characters are one-dimensional and the story meanders around as the main characters lifelessly argue and Marcail tries to tell William that she’s a saintly martyr while insisting that she can’t tell him her secrets. William predictably realizes that Marcail may just be the self-sacrificing tart he takes her for in the beginning – not the floozy who puts out on the first date… oh, wait. The author exhibits some self-awareness by having William and Marcail’s grandmother point out that our heroine is a self-sacrificing floozy, but Marcail is allowed to pursue that part, anyway, so the damage is still done where I am concerned. The suspense plot is laughable, there are many filler scenes that serve only to advertise past and future books in the series, and I am utterly, completely bored at the end of the day.
With no good plot, only plot loopholes, one-dimensional cartoon characters, and all out vapid banality in every one of its pages, Scandal in Scotland is the most flavorless kind of nondescript blandness around. But I guess it can always serve as an alternative to the sleeping pill should the need arise.