Lord of Scandal
Lord of Scandal riveted me at the start, but went downhill all too quickly. Though it’s clear author Cornick tried hard to make her characters likable, their lack of dimension left me unable to empathize with the problems in their lives. and the over-the-top villain is of the laughing-maniacally-while-drowning-puppies variety. Each time he appeared in a scene, I waited for him to twirl his mustache and sweep his cape around.
Catherine Fenton, a nabob’s daughter (a fact which the author made clear over and over and over again), has come to watch the hanging of a criminal with her father, half brother, and her lecherous soon-to-be fiancé. She is in a bind: she can’t touch the money her grandfather left her in trust until she turns 25 or marries. Algernon Withers, her lecherous fiancé and also the puppy-drowning villain, is blackmailing her father and forcing her to marry him. Her father spent all his money drinking and whoring and being the good and sweet daughter that she is, she is strongly considering sacrificing herself to benefit the family.
Benjamin, Lord Hawksmoor, was good friends with Ned Clarencieux, the man in the hangman’s noose. Ben thinks he was framed and determines to uncover who is behind this atrocity. But he also has his own problems – a title but no money. He uses his so-called celebrity status and flaunts it in the newspapers and among the ton so he can maintain the lifestyle to which he is accustomed. Ben has a major chip on his shoulder and wants to show up all those rich snobs like his father, who seduced his poor mother and left them penniless in the London slums.
Ben saves Catherine from a mob at the hanging. He is awed by her beauty and innocence and she is attracted by his good looks and reputation. But she can’t even think of marrying him because he is a fortune hunter and will never love her like she wants to be loved.
This book reminded me of a Regency soap opera. Catherine’s step-mother, for instance, loved Clarencieux but would sleep with anyone to help keep her laudanum addiction going. Then there was Ben’s vain mistress; they weren’t intimate, but shared a special bond because he saved her from a life of drudgery years before. And what about Catherine’s best friend, who became a courtesan after leaving her husband?
Catherine is one of those “good” heroines who tries to help everyone, all the time. She constantly enters dens of iniquity to keep a secret safe for her step-mother – and Ben is always there to help her out. And though Catherine cannot marry him, she allows him to seduce her. At first Ben thinks it is perfectly alright to to do so; he believes her to be Withers’ mistress and that she would welcome him with open arms.
Speaking of seduction, the love scenes are stale, likely because there is no connection between Catherine and Benjamin. As readers we are told why the two feel so unloved, but by then the story is so out of control with more and more mysteries popping up that are never fully explained.
Had the author kept up the fast past storyline as presented in the first few chapters of the book, I’m convinced I would have liked Lord of Scandal. Instead, unfortunately, she wrote too many clichés and stereotypes that I ended the story not caring whether or not the lead characters found happiness with one another.