Her Scandalous Intentions
“He was going to shut her up once and for all! He ground his mouth down onto hers, savagely assaulting her sumptuous lips, plunging his tongue deep into her hot open mouth, wanting her to taste his fury.”
You know, it was getting to the point where I was wondering if we really needed a “purplest prose” category on our annual reader survey, because most authors seem to have moved beyond heaving mounds and turgid tumescences. Just weeks ago I wondered if I would even be able to think of a book to vote for. Fortunately for the poll (but rather unfortunately for me) I found my candidate in the eleventh hour. The above quote comes fairly early in Her Scandalous Intentions, but rest assured the book is full of more of the same. Add the purple prose to insipid characters and an uninspired plot, and you have a debut that’s less than encouraging.
Miss Charlotte Hastings really doesn’t want to go to any house parties or other ton entertainments. Only just out of mourning for her father, she has no desire to marry, and she’s afraid that anyone who courts her probably heard about her South African diamond mines. She would much rather spend her time at the veterans’ hospital, helping those who were wounded and forgotten in the recent continental unpleasantness. Oh, and she’s an artist (though we rarely see her think about her work). However, her Aunt Sylvie and her friend Henrietta manage to persuade her to attend a house party, so she makes the best of it, resolving to spend her time conversing with interesting old men. Her plans undergo a sudden change one morning when she’s out for a walk and spies a man running away for all he’s worth. She quickly sketches the man, only to have her drawing snatched away by James Morgan, Duke of Girard, who had scared off the man in question. Charlotte can’t help wondering what’s going on, but she relinquishes the drawing after James swears that he is not up to anything nefarious.
Actually, James is working for the war office, trying to recover gold that was stolen and rumored to be headed for Napoleon’s coffers. He already knows who is at fault – his evil cousin Mortimer. But he wants to catch Mortimer red-handed so he can punish him appropriately without causing a family scandal. He hears that Mortimer has proposed to Charlotte, so he decides then and there that Charlotte is somehow in on Mortimer’s plot. This erroneous conclusion never makes the slightest bit of sense, but James doesn’t let that stop him from:
- Hiding an important packet in Charlotte’s room, so she’ll be a target for thieves;
- Going into Charlotte’s room in the dead of night to retrieve the packet only to discover that Charlotte is being attacked by a villain intent on stealing her virtue;
- Claiming to all the fellow houseguests (who show up at her room wanting an explanation) that he and Charlotte are engaged;
- and Kidnapping Charlotte, after he has drugged her with laudanum and tied her up.
James intends to take her to his family home in London where they will pretend to be engaged, which will somehow help him catch Mortimer. Never mind that Charlotte is a virtuous woman whom he has compromised; with James, it’s guilty until proven innocent. He figures when their fake engagement is over he’ll set her up in a house somewhere. However, the resourceful Charlotte manages to escape and head to the veterans’ hospital, where James finds her. They both talk to General Cumesby, a mutual friend who convinces Charlotte to agree to the pretend engagement and convinces James that Charlotte is a woman of virtue that he’d better marry.
Charlotte then moves in with James and his mother (strangely, no one seems to find this odd or inappropriate, even though Charlotte’s family also has a home in London). Charlotte is still convinced that James is a jerk who is probably after her diamond mines. James, on the other hand, is warming to the idea of Charlotte as a spouse, even though he still plans to use her as bait of sorts for the evil Mortimer. Towards the end, Charlotte repays James for his earlier “guilty until proven innocent” attitude by believing the villain when he tells her that James has no money and wants her diamonds. The plot plays out to its inevitable and obvious conclusion, as the reader endures purple prose (but surprisingly little actual sex) and some of the most wooden secondary characters in recent memory.
This book isn’t quite bad enough to be an F, but that is about the nicest thing I can say about it. Anyone who is already sick and tired of Regency historicals had best avoid this book, which is the Regency at its most insipid and unoriginal. Every event and every character trait seem to be contrived for the plot; nothing is organic in nature. Why is the heroine an artist? So she can sketch the fleeing man in the beginning of the story. She never thinks or acts like an artist otherwise. Why does Charlotte have to live with James while she’s engaged? Personally, I was hoping it was so she could wander down to the library in her nightrail and have passionate sex with him (while he’s drunk and sitting at his desk in a dark corner), but unfortunately that never happens. Instead Charlotte is instrumental in mending a lame thirty-year quarrel between her aunt and James’s mother. Yawn.
If any one of the characters had been remotely interesting, the book might have been more palatable. Charlotte and James are nothing you haven’t seen elsewhere, and they have no unique traits to give them any life, unless you count Charlotte’s fondness for the word “modicum” (and I don’t). They are both fantastically good looking, and one of the villains likes to enthuse about Charlotte’s “big teets,” but that’s not much of a selling point. The secondary characters are even worse. They are all either horribly bad or terrifically good, and to a man they are dull as dirt.
This is also a book that accuracy sticklers might want to avoid. Even leaving aside the bizarre living conditions, the modern language and thought patterns of the characters is likely to give pause. The characters bandy about terms like “self-esteem,” “closure,” and my personal favorite, “group dynamics.” Also troubling was the scene in which the hero wears a tuxedo – several decades before he could have done so.
Her Scandalous Intentions (and I have to add here that even the title makes no sense, as Charlotte’s intentions are scandalous maybe once in the entire book) commits one of the cardinal sins of a book: It’s just plain dull. With its insipid characters, purple prose, and utterly unoriginal plot, it’s just not a book I would recommend to anyone.
I've been at AAR since dinosaurs roamed the Internet. I've been a Reviewer, Reviews Editor, Managing Editor, Publisher, and Blogger. Oh, and Advertising Corodinator. Right now I'm taking a step back to concentrate on kids, new husband, and new job in law...but I'll still keep my toe in the romance waters.