My Lord Scandal
Usually in every book, you can find one line that sums everything up for you. This occurs here on page 276, when our Regency Romeo reflects on his star-crossed great-aunt and he and his star-crossed Juliet, and thinks, “The star-crossed theme is getting tiresome.” Hey, you said it buster.
The Romeo and Juliet in question are the rakish Alexander St. James and the virginal Amelia Patton. Their families hate each other due to a past scandal when Amelia’s married grandfather had an affair with Alex’s unmarried great-aunt, resulting in both their deaths and several decades of antipathy. Now Alex has been ordered by his grandmother to recover a key belonging to the St. James family. What the key opens neither the reader nor Alex knows, but hey, he’s filial and the book has to progress, so I went along with it.
Anyway, since this mysterious key is in Amelia’s father’s possession, Alex the ersatz burglar steals into the Patton house and ends up on Juliet’s balcony – sorry, Amelia’s balcony, where he steals a kiss from the innocent young woman. There follows a ball, where they see each other across a crowded room, find out the other is the progeny of their parent’s hated enemy, and both promptly escape to the garden where they share another soul-stealing kiss. Awwww.
Or not. The mush factor is stratospheric, and it made me want to gag. Normally, authors save the googly eyes for the epilogue, but My Lord Scandal anticipates the ending by about three hundred pages. To be fair, Ms. Wildes does not clutter the relationship with ridiculous misunderstandings or uncharacteristic developments. She makes Alex a respectful, slightly misunderstood beta rake and the sheltered, untried Amelia an asthmatic 19-year-old bluestocking. But neither goes beyond those short summaries. Individually they’re uninteresting; together they blissfully bulldoze through societal and familial objections, achieve nirvana-like states of orgasm, and are rewarded with a happy ending suitable to a Hallmark commercial.
I’m not criticizing the book for trying to be romantic or character-driven. But overkill destroyed the romance, and I have to debate whether the term character-driven even applies, because Alex and the pure Amelia remain stagnant. And it can’t have escaped your notice that Amelia is an innocent, untried, pure young virgin, if indeed that is synonymous with “a girl who has never had sex and doesn’t even know how it works despite having lived in the country all her life, but takes to it like a duck to water.” Double the affirmations of her hymeneal state with Alex’s insistence that he doesn’t get involved with debutantes, multiply by the book’s length, and you have an idea how tedious it was.
I asked for Emma Wildes because I’d heard she writes good, solid Regency-set romances. I can see the appeal, especially for readers with strong preferences for happy, untroubled Romeo and Juliet stories. And just for the record, this book is not bad. But it’s definitely not my cuppa.