Avon, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-06-246362-3
Historical Romance, 2017
The Scandal of It All is closely related to While the Duke Was Sleeping, in that everyone here knows everyone already because they all met in that previous book, but I don’t think it is necessary to slough through that book just to appreciate better this equally tedious book. If that other book is a cheap, inferior knock-off of the movie While You Were Sleeping, I don’t know what movie is this book is based of. Maybe that segment in The Road Runner Show which has Wile E Coyote blinking stupidly before pulling out his tiny parasol as a boulder comes crashing down on him, played in a loop, because that’s how the heroine behaves each time a penis threatens to invade her personal space.
Graciela or Ela, the widowed Duchess of Autenberry, realizes that she has been a dutiful lady all this while. Her husband had been dead for about ten years, and that man didn’t leave her with positive opinions on the pleasures of the boudoir, so she has been a charming 100% romance-approved sexless heroine all this while. Now, she decides to accept her randy BFF’s invitation to Sodom, your usual neighborhood friendly sex club where our heroine will basically stare at things like an asphyxiated goldfish before getting assaulted and having to be rescued by our hero.
Colin, Lord Strickland, is the BFF of Ela’s stepson. Before you happily break into Fountain of Wayne’s Stacy’s Mom, though, yes, while he has been wishing to mow Ela’s lawn back in those days, now he disapproves of how Ela dares to feel “entitled” to be in Sodom like other noble ladies who want to play. He will maul her, kiss her, maybe finger her now and then, but he will also toss words at her afterwards to suggest that she’s morally wrong to be enjoying these things. Given how our heroine’s first husband shagged other women because he didn’t like how she responds in bed, I have serious doubts that she needs a “true love” who seems to be 180 from that dead first hubby, but is still cut from the same kind of cloth that will still damage her self esteem. I mean, one thought she was dead fish in bed, while this one has no qualms suggesting that she’s “too slutty” for responding to his fingers, tongue, and pee-pee.
But the most tiresome thing here is Ela. Everything about her is self-inflicted melodrama, little things exaggerated into tedious angst that sees her reeling from one end of the room to another because her entire brain threatens to explode from even the barest hint that she wants that thing bad. She is only six years older than Colin and they are both way into their adult years, but watch her act like she’s too old – TOO OLD – to be with him and therefore, even the idea of an affair with him is IMPOSSIBLE EEEE BUT SHE REALLY WANTS THE DEE SO EEEEEE EEEEEE EEEEEEE EEEEEE EEEEE. Instead, she will try to throw herself at other blokes even as her body contorts in ways suggestive of demonic possession, her lower end wanting to be impaled on Colin while her upper body strives to crawl away because she really cares what everyone and the dog think so EEEEEEEE WANT THE DEEEE BUT EEEEEEEEEEE. That creature is exhausting to follow, and her antics, coupled to Colin’s occasional slut shaming, give this story an unfortunate sex-negative vibe. Sure, the author mentions sex clubs and what not, but the implication here is that good girls really shouldn’t enjoy these things or even the idea of getting destroyed by a big fat pee-pee, and happy orgasms only come when the man somehow manages to overwhelm their resistance and make them have sex, and even then, this man has better be the true love or these women would be whores that deserve to be tarred. The road for a good woman to get an orgasm in such a story is riddled with non-agency, dependent on an increasingly unlikely series of odds that is basically summed up as: “Get shagged and pray desperately that he’s your true love, or you are SO WHORE and SO NO HAPPY ENDING FOR YOU.”
The Scandal of It All has me wishing that Ela will get attacked by an army of sedative-containing syringes by the time page 100 rolls in. There are many ways to make Ela’s drama more believable – for example, make her the current Duke of Autenberry’s mother instead of stepmother, widen the age gap, allow Ela to actually have believable sexual desires instead of OH MY GOD I WANT SEX THIS IS SO TERRIBLE EEEEEE hand-flailing histrionics, et cetera – but I suppose it’s easier and less risky for the author to just serve up another tedious tale of a gasping trout finding true love without having to take any accountability over her sexual desires.