HQN, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-373-77587-3
Historical Romance, 2011
Charlotte Featherstone’s Seduction & Scandal is easily one of the most embarrassingly cheesy and overblown attempts at being dark and emo I’ve ever come across.
This is the story about our heroine, Isabella Fairmont, who meets the darkly magnetic Earl of Black and realizes that she has been making him the hero of her unpublished Gothic tales and dreaming of him and… something… while he realizes that he wants to boink her even as he runs around trying to retrieve some magical object that is lost. The story is actually of secondary importance to the awe-inspiring presence of Lord Black.
Except, Lord Black isn’t awe-inspiring at all. He’s laughably embarrassing, like some pathetic kid who thinks he is cool just because he smears his mother’s black lipstick over his eyelids and covers songs by the Kings of Leon badly on his guitar. Lord Black insists that he hates being the subject of gossip, and yet he wears black and makes dramatic entrances into ballrooms from – let me quote – “a black town carriage driven by four magnificent warmbloods the color of midnight”. Can this guy be any more clichéd? Lord Black is not awe-inspiring, sexy, or mysterious. He’s a splotchy stereotype who is trying way too hard to be cool. It doesn’t help that he speaks in a most florid and purple manner – “For I couldn’t bear it if Death were called to pay you a visit and forced to steal the roses from your cheeks.” The only way I can get through his lines without wanting to die is by imagining that he speaks with a lisp. I tell you, ten minutes with this pretentious emo twit and I’d be begging Death to hand me a chainsaw so that I can do a Jason Voorhees on this sad wannabe.
The author’s attempts to make Lord Black arrogant and commanding in a sexy manner backfire spectacularly. Lord Black isn’t just a wannabe – he’s a gauche douchebag. For example, when he first encounters Isabella in the ballroom, he interrogates her like a cop about her life while letting her know that he is aware of every single detail about her life that can only be known if he had been stalking her full time. Isabella may shiver in delight at such a commanding presence, but I personally think Lord Black is already creepy enough without the author turning him into a stalker in the process.
If Lord Black is a big sad loser wannabe, Isabella is just as bad. She’s a martyr, putting out for free while refusing to marry him even if it means that she will lead a loveless and forlorn life as a result, but that’s to be expected, I guess, since every other historical romance heroine is cut from the same hair suit. But oh my goodness, I really laugh when the author not very subtly has a secondary character praise Isabella’s writing by comparing Isabella’s hero to a certain Mr Rochester. Whom you may recall to be a lying twat who wants to commit bigamy with his so-called true love. At any rate, Isabella demurely protests that her hero is not as good as that lying twat, but come on, Ms Featherstone is not fooling anyone there. But if she wants to compare her heroine to Charlotte Brontë, perhaps she ought to have Isabella actually write halfway decently instead of pulling off a bad parody of Anne Stuart.
Oh, and it’s not just Lord Black’s overblown emo act and Isabella’s equally overblown ingenue martyr act that are contrived and hokey in this showcase of hams, the whole story is. For example, in their first encounter, Isabella just has to accidentally drop her journal in front of Lord Black so that the sensitive emo sausage can open it and read her vivid fantasies in front of her. Later in the book, some kids just have to bump into her so that she has to fall into Lord Black’s arms. And so on and on, to the point that the whole story feels so artificial and staged.
I don’t know. Maybe I’m just too old to appreciate this book, because if these guys show up on my doorstep on any day that isn’t Halloween, I’d point at them and laugh. Such overblown pretensions may be fine for teenagers who are angry that they can’t have sex and get high as much as they wish, but outright embarrassing when carried out to such extremes by adults without one single shred of irony or self-awareness.