One Night Scandal
If you don’t like martyr heroines, I can guarantee you won’t like One Night Scandal. As I don’t have any particular aversion to this character type, I largely enjoyed this book, even though there were still several aspects that annoyed me.
The heroine, Sophie Reynaud, is a matchmaker. She has a psychic ability to see a person’s true love, and uses this service for her friends and members of the ton; her friends are the protagonists of Kelley’s previous four novels. However, because of her awkward place in society (the secret and unrecognized illegitimate daughter of an earl’s affair with a courtesan), she finds the prospects of her own future marriage dismal. She goes on a trip to Venice, where she meets “Nico,” who saves her when she falls off a bridge into a canal. She thinks she sees him as her True Love, and so spends the night with him. However, when she discovers her Italian lover is actually Nicolas Tenbury, Marquess of Ancroft, the only member of her friends’ circle that she hasn’t met and, as the heir to a duke, way out of her league.
Nicolas disagrees, and when he returns to England he tries to find out who his mysterious lover is, and the clues point him straight toward Sophie. Thus ensues a long back-and-forth of him pursuing her, and her resisting.
Yes, Sophie is the ultimate martyr heroine, condemning herself to misery and isolation so she doesn’t “ruin Nicolas’s life” by marrying him. One of her early protestations — that he is in love with their mutual friend, Jennette — is an interesting and more realistic hurdle. It’s a bit amazing, really, that Nicolas persisted as long as he did. And yet, the emotions were very real and deeply felt: Nicolas’s frustration and desire, Sophie’s feelings of inadequacy and longing. I may have rolled my eyes, but I sympathized.
The writing of the novel was generally solid — nothing spectacular, but decent. I do have to wonder, though, about some of the author’s word choices that didn’t reflect the tone of the conversation or scene. For example, after a serious conversation, a character “skipped” out of the room; or, during an emotional exchange, someone “mumbles.” (Actually, a lot of people mumble in this book, when perhaps they are actually murmuring.) The word choices were jarring and pulled me out of the book on more than one occasion.
This is definitely a guilty pleasure romance. The plot has its ups and downs, and the heroine can be irritating at times, but in the end, I enjoyed reading it, and had a hard time putting it down.