Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-238978-7
Historical Romance, 2016
Six Degrees of Scandal can most likely stand alone, but for the best results, it may be better to read Love in the Time of Scandal first, as there are a number of references to events in that book. There are some exposition in here to help new readers fill in the blanks. but it may not be enough for some folks out there.
Olivia Townsend in the previous book was hounded by the nasty Lord Clary, who was part of the fast and unscrupulous crowd that her late husband used to run with, and in this one, she is still being chased by that villain. Clary doesn’t just want her to put out, he believes that she has something of her husband that should be his, and he wants it now. The thing is, she had little idea of what her husband did when he was alive – their marriage was cordial, but distant – so she has clue as to what Clary is looking for. However, she may have a clue – she received a book of her husband that was full of mysterious transactions, although she can’t decipher them fully so she has not much idea as to what she should do next.
Into the scene comes James Weston, the older brother of the heroine of the previous book. James and Olivia were each other’s first love and, uh, first person to do the deed with. Back then, though, they were teenagers, and she took his vows of love very seriously while he was already planning a trip abroad the morning after. He did mean it when he told Olivia that he loved her, but he took life for granted to the extent that, when he finally caught up with Olivia again, she was married off by her parents to another bloke in order to bring some much-needed money into the family coffers. She was understandably miffed at him and told him that she would like to be merely friends with him, and he sulked off.
Today, he still feels a degree of remorse over his youthful carelessness that allowed Olivia to get away from him. He also feels some guilt, as Olivia marrying the wrong kind of man is what got her in her current predicament. This time around, he is older and wiser. He will help her, and then, when things are settled, he would convince her that they deserve a second chance together, and this time, he would do things right.
In this story, the romance and the mystery are about 50-50 split; the mystery and investigative elements are pretty strong here, although they never overwhelm the romance. The mystery is closely tied to that in the previous book, hence my recommendation to read that book first, and although it is not exactly suspenseful, the plot is well done to keep me interested. The villain could have more nuances and be less of a snarling cartoon villain, though, as it is hard enough to take him seriously with his unimpressive level of competency without him having to go all “Mua-ha-ha! I am also a lecher lusting after the heroine!” bastard son of Skeletor on me.
But I find myself having a hard time getting into the story because, ultimately, the main characters feel a bit dull. I like them, but I don’t feel like I want to like them better, as I can take them or leave them. James is a nice and sweet guy who can also kick ass. There are times when Olivia comes off as head-shakingly clueless, but on the whole, she can hold her own pretty well beside the hero. But these characters don’t come to life to me and I’m not really sure of the reason why. Maybe it’s the dynamic of the romance – Olivia is often self-depreciatory in a woe-is-me manner that she comes off like a wet rag at times, and James often fall into a pattern of reassuring her and propping her up. Often, she is confused or lost when it comes to details of the plot, and James has to explain things to her. Such is not necessarily a bad kind of dynamic, it’s just not a very exciting kind to read about.
Oh, and the identity of the author of 50 Ways to Sin is finally revealed! While this leads to a pretty ingenious way to take down Lord Clary, that angle has been an afterthought for quite a while now in this series, that I have to spend some time wondering why I should care about this.
At any rate, Six Degrees of Scandal is a readable story, just not one that I would all excited and passionate over.