Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-233514-2
Historical Romance, 2016
The first time Mary Channing spots Geoffrey Westmore, she is in London staying with her heavily pregnant sister and he is urinating over her sister’s plants. Geoffrey leers at her and makes some crude remarks that cause Mary, who has a phobia with being around people due to some heavy issues in her past, to cower. He’s pleased that he’s “teased” her like that, so the next time he sees her at a benefit thrown for wartime veterans, he trails her as she looks for some peace and quiet, corners her in the library, shuts the door behind her so that she can’t escape, and generally comes on to her so strong until, aha, he manages to force a kiss onto her. Oh, don’t worry, this isn’t creepy. He’s hot, and we all know hot guys are incapable of being creepy or predatory, and besides, she kisses him back after he’s given her no way out of his rampaging mouth, so it’s not like this is a non-consensual thing.
And then, when they are compromised and he learns that she is the sister of a powerful, high-ranking nobleman, rather than some nobody he could sport with – remember, hot guys are incapable of being predatory creeps, so don’t be disturbed by the whole thing – so he pouts until, oh well, he’d marry her because he doesn’t, he’d drag the reputations of his family down with him. He probably should have thought about the reputation thing when he made it a habit to carouse, drink, and whore nightly until he comes home in a bleary-eyed stupor, but hey, this is indeed The Perks of Loving a Scoundrel. Alcohol breath for everyone, with added bonus of his forcing his attentions on women he deems beneath his station!
Mary is like, oh, it’s okay if she is ruined forever, because she will never marry, blah blah blah – you know, that broken record again, but she will marry him anyway so heroines like her are just encouraging me to tune them out each time they talk, think, move, or even exist.
Oh wait, there is more. While Geoffrey is checking her mouth with his tongue to determine whether there is gold lodged in her throat, they overhear men coming in the room to plot the assassination of Queen Victoria. Mary, who loves her books, decides that she must investigate this matter ASAP. Geoffrey is also on the case, so the story immediately morphs from two screwed-up fools bumbling around one another to a more investigative one. Not that the mystery is in any way interesting – the big bad is obvious and the villains have a tendency to launch into long exposition, maybe because subtlety is dead.
Mary has issues, while Geoffrey’s antics are described as a means for him to avoid facing the demons in his past. Yes, he isn’t a creep or a sex fiend preying on women he believes cannot fight back – it’s all because he isn’t thinking straight, how sad. But once these two decide to play in their Horny Boy and Nancy Dunce amateur mystery hour, all issues magically get resolved. In other words, the issues aren’t here to catalyze character development, they are substitute for personality and characterization. I’m to believe that Geoffrey can magically erase his bad habits to become a cracker investigator and family man, and that romance can happen because someone tried to kill Queen Victoria. What happens after the honeymoon then? Let’s hope that people will line up to keep trying to kill Queen Victoria, or else these two characters will discover how little they know of the other person and live miserably ever after.
Actually, given how incompetently put together this story is, miserably ever after is exactly what these characters deserve.
Normally, this book is well written enough to get two oogies, but I’m taking one oogie away, because I personally don’t condone authors taking this kind of short cuts, using issues as a poor substitute for the work needed to expand and develop their characters. The Perks of Loving a Scoundrel may not be a badly written book, but it is done lazily and shoddily enough to be treated like one.