One Touch of Scandal
I’m not a huge fan of historical romance with paranormal elements, but I found Liz Carlyle’s One Touch of Scandal, the first in her new series, to be a ray of light in that particular romance niche.
To describe Grace Gauthier as a woman down on her luck would be an understatement. The gruesome murder of her employer, who was also her unannounced intended, leaves Grace with little money, few connections, and unwelcome in places of refuge. However, it’s the cloud of suspicion that hangs over her that truly leaves her terrified and desperate. She turns to an old family friend for help, but instead finds Adrian Forsythe, Lord Ruthveyn, a man of unique talents.
Lord Ruthveyn is a man haunted by his psychic abilities. He can look into the eyes of someone and know their true nature as well as how they die, a burden that drives him away from practically all people other than those with similar gifts. However, for some reason he can’t read Grace and he is intrigued. Because of their mutual friend, he feels obligated to protect her, as well as discover who is trying to frame her for murder.
Carlyle is a storyteller who makes you believe the unbelievable and transports you into the story she tells. Though Grace behaves in ways that aren’t characteristic of the period, I like the early Victorian feel of the novel, as well as the subtle psychic tone. And, though I often have a hard time with historical romance combined with paranormal, that’s not the case here. Though Ruthveyn’s ability and his social club of others with unusual gifts is near front and center of the novel, I didn’t find it overwhelming or detrimental to the romance plot.
Furthermore, the characters are both individually interesting. Grace is the daughter of a Frenchman and a noble Englishwoman and reared in the desert of Algiers among the French Foreign Legion, leaving her with few options in a society in which she doesn’t quite fit. Like Grace, Ruthveyn is also of mixed heritage, though in his case it’s English and Indian. Unlike her, he has family who depend on him and help give the story depth. He also battles some dark and interesting internal demons. He is constantly on edge because of his gifts and the only way to calm himself is to stay distant or through sedation of some form or another. Though he is beyond attracted to Grace, he fears letting his feelings grow deeper because of what he may “see.”
Although, the story is interesting, there are points where it lags. I began to wonder if the hero and heroine would ever get together and became frustrated with Ruthveyn and his difficulties. Plus, the attempt to frame Grace is so transparent that the characters even acknowledge it and I began to question why it was a plot point. Also, as I read I couldn’t help but to feel that the author was trying to emphasize how “different” the story is by making everything just a little different from other books out there.
I enjoyed One Touch of Scandal and I’m interested to see where else she takes this series. Good storytelling and interesting characters dominate the weaker characteristics and made it a worthwhile experience for this reader.