Compromised Into a Scandalous Marriage
Set in the Caribbean around 1900, Lydia San Andres’ Compromised into a Scandalous Marriage represents the wider range of stories, times, and places that I want Harlequin Historicals to be open to. Unfortunately, while I’ve read and even DIK’d San Andres before, this particular book isn’t up to the standard of her earlier self-pubs.
When her brother Antonio throws her out of their house during a storm, Paulina Despradel flees to the home of her neighbor, Sebastian Linares. The next morning, Antonio arrives with guards and pretends shock that Sebastian has kidnapped and despoiled his sister. Paulina doesn’t refute him (not that the corrupt guards would have listened) and Sebastian and Paulina are forced to marry. Despite this unpromising beginning, they begin to grow closer – just in time for their lives to be threatened.
Paulina is not particularly ‘there’ as a heroine. She reminds me a lot of the heroines of old Garwoods and Putneys whose dominant trait is ‘goodness’. Because I didn’t connect with her as a person, I didn’t understand Sebastian falling for her. Her character is also underdeveloped as a victim of her brother’s abuse. Sometimes she is cowed by him and unable or unwilling to stick up for herself and Sebastian, as during the morning when they are discovered. Other times she is confident and confrontational. My concern here isn’t that she is inconsistent (I can see that as a reasonable part of her journey); it’s that miraculously, she only fails to stand up for herself when it serves the plot. Antonio is also such a one-dimensional villain that we never get the push-pull that is a core strategy of abusers.
Paulina isn’t the only source of convenient contrivance here. Antonio, as said, gets Sebastian arrested for kidnapping. This would very easily be overturned by a reasonable legal system, so the author has Antonio have the guards and the magistrate in his pocket. Under these circumstances, Sebastian should easily be able to obtain an annulment or divorce, so the author makes Antonio have a hold over EVERY SINGLE LAWYER on the island. Oh, and the governor. This is the same Antonio who is so poor that he’s sold off almost his entire house of furnishings (which is not a secret; he’s had entertainments at the denuded property). It’s not plausible that an entire island is in thrall to this paper tiger – I mean, how is he even paying his bribes? Meanwhile, Sebastian is shown as having humble origins but is massively rich and beloved by his workers. It doesn’t add up.
The different historical setting – a turn of the century fictional Caribbean island – is the highlight here. The food sounds delicious. One of the heroine’s activities is taking on decorating Sebastian’s home, and it’s fun to watch her shop in a provincial store and set up a dining area outdoors. They debate replacing gas lines with electricity. The sugar mill and Sebastian’s insistence on running it ethically, with fairly paid workers, is an interesting and unusual occupation for a hero. I always love a historical that doesn’t rely on aristocrats.
I’ve read and really enjoyed this author’s work before, so I don’t know what went wrong here. But I’ve seen very good authors go very wrong writing for Harlequin before, so maybe it’s their formula or their editing? Lydia San Andres remains someone I consider worth reading, but definitely try a different book.
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I'm a history geek and educator, and I've lived in five different countries in North America, Asia, and Europe. In addition to the usual subgenres, I'm partial to YA, Sci-fi/Fantasy, and graphic novels. I love to cook.