Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-235864-6
Historical Romance, 2015
While reading Scandal Takes the Stage, I find myself turning back to the cover several times to remind myself that this is a book by Eva Leigh, rather than Sabrina Jeffries, The heroine here, Maggie Delamere, is exactly like a typical heroine of Sabrina Jeffries in that Maggie lives and thrives on self-righteousness fed on ridiculous hyperbole. This attitude of her fuels the story, so basically this is a gender-reversal take of the “All women are whores!” story line. Just like how a heroine can spend the entire story proving to the hero that she is a special kind of not-whore, the hero of this story Cameron Chalton, Viscount Marwood, has to demonstrate that he is a special kind of dude: he’s a rake, but he’s also a great husband material.
Of course, we can all say that flat stomach, fat wallet are two great traits for a husband, but you know romance heroines. They can put out, splay their legs wide from the North Pole to the South Pole to the man they are convinced to be a horrible rake, and more for free, but he really can’t have their hand in marriage unless he says the L word. This is the weird kind of standard they hold themselves and their sex partners to, and Maggie isn’t any different.
Maggie is a playwright who apparently writes tales that mock aristocrats. Well, that’s not surprising – Maggie is a walking, breathing Tumblr animated meme. Once wronged by a noble dude, she now knows that all noble dudes are scumbags. All men can’t be trusted. All men are evil. And blah, blah, blah she will go on a cloud of hyperbolic self-righteousness, convinced that she now knows how the world works and it is her mission to spread the word. Alas, poor Maggie. She needs to deliver a sequel to her horribly popular play, and she has writer’s block. She is told – by men, naturally, evil disgusting men – that she has to deliver or they will pull the rug out from under her feet. Of course, this can’t happen – she has people depending her plays for their livelihood after all – so she has to do something ASAP. Like taking deep martyred breaths and staying at Cam’s place for the muse to come back.
Cam is a rake who has sampled every offering in the honeypot buffet but he only has eyes for Maggie the moment he sees her, and his obsession intensifies when our hero, who is a theater groupie, learns that she is the author of his favorite plays. He must have her. So he makes the moves, she recites to him the all-men-are-bastards mantra, repeat and rinse, until poor Maggie has to martyr herself and stay at his place, even taking a helmet-free ride on his Ducati, so that the kids and old people won’t starve should she fail to complete her play.
Mind you, she only waves at the world from his Ducati at about the midway of the book so Scandal Takes the Stage is one slow-moving story, unless I find myself enthralled by the heroine’s superficial and hyperbolic mistrust and disdain of all men. Okay, to be fair, Cam is the kind of guy whom she has many good reasons to assume the worst of. But her BFF married a guy who was Cam’s boys-gone-wild partner-in-crime, and Cam’s antics are generally not even close to being reprehensible. Therefore, Maggie only comes off as irrational with her continuous assumption that Cam is a bad guy, all based on her ridiculous belief that the sum of nobility and penis equals all men must die.
It also doesn’t help Maggie’s case that, after she’s boinked Cam, she goes on about how they cannot be due to differences in their station and how she doesn’t want to be held back from writing her plays so she will never become his mistress, blah blah blah… only to then agree to marry him when he proposes. Apparently all that so-called “I am an independent woman and I will not be chained to any man!” nonsense of hers is only valid until the man proposes, and then it’s all YES I’M GETTING MARRIED HEE-HEE-HEE nonsense. Way to go in making Maggie look as deep as a puddle!
At any rate, Cam puts up an inexplicable amount of hard work to pursue a heroine who is often unnecessarily antagonistic, stand-offish, or cold (depending on Maggie’s mood swings) – I don’t see what her appeal is, to honest. Maybe he’d kick her out when the next lady playwright comes to town and captures his attention?
Scandal Takes the Stage just doesn’t grab me at the end of the day. It relies too much on the heroine and the hero moving around in circles, in a story that could very well be these two reading out loud screes from Tumblr in place of actual dialogues. It is competently written, but while I do kind of enjoy seeing a theater groupie of a hero waxing poetry and acting like a giddy fan over plays, I wish the heroine is a less of a tedious “man-hating hag who secretly can’t get enough of that hot dog” cliché. Really, if Maggie had been something else – something with the capability of thinking rationally, for example – this one would have been a less snooze-inducing read.