Scoundrel of My Heart
Scoundrel of My Heart is the story of a headstrong young woman determined to marry to secure her inheritance, and the completely unsuitable man she falls in love with, despite both of their best intentions.
Lady Kathryn Lambert is twenty-four and still unwed. The only child of an earl, Kathryn must marry well, both to secure her future, and her inheritance. Kathryn’s grandmother left her a cottage by the ocean, under the condition that she marry a titled gentleman by her twenty-fifth birthday. This proviso was inspired by her grandmother’s general disdain for second sons and spares, whom she believed to be dissolute and useless.
Lord Griffith Stanwick is just such a second son, and spends his nights at the gambling tables trying to make his fortune. Any profit he manages to make he squirrels away for investment, for his dream business: a club where second sons and wallflowers can mingle. Despite being entirely overlooked by his father, Griff wants to make something of himself.
Kathryn and Griff have traded barbs for years. Kathryn has decided that her best hope to marry before her birthday is the Duke of Kingsland. He has offered the unmarried ladies of the ton a challenge: they must write him a letter enumerating their virtues, and he will choose the best of the letters and make the writer his wife. Kathryn asks Griff for help writing her letter, and both begin to unearth the deeper feelings they have been keeping buried.
But (alas!) there can be nothing between them; Kathryn must marry someone titled, and Griff knows he doesn’t fit the bill. When the Duke begins to court Kathryn, it seems like a done deal. And then, Griff’s father, a duke himself, is accused of (and later executed for) treason. Griff and his brother are thrown in the Tower of London and stripped of their property, and even when they’re finally set free, they are estranged from all they have previously known. Griff and Kathryn do not see each other again until he is finally able to open his establishment. Kathryn is furious with Griff, as he made a small fortune off a wager regarding the duke’s selection of her as his intended. Not yet formally engaged to Kingsland, Kathryn goes to give Griffith a piece of her mind, trying to deny that he is in possession of her heart.
The relationship between Griff and Kathryn develops beautifully, and the obstacle between them is understandable. Aside from the potential loss of a meaningful inheritance, Kathryn has social status to lose in a future with Griff. Griff is also very understanding of that, and I really loved how respectful and thoughtful he was of Kathryn. They’re both clever and they have great rapport, but the mutual respect that they develop really sells them as a couple. I found the romance to be very compelling, they have great chemistry.
My biggest issue with this book is the plot. A good, old-fashioned conditional inheritance is a great plot device, but this book has a lot of plot devices. One: Kathryn’s inheritance. Two: the letter campaign duchess hunt. Three: a fall from grace due to treasonous activity by Griff’s father. There’s also some business about Griff’s older brother getting himself into danger which feels completely unnecessary, and in short, the book is overstuffed with plot.
Another issue with the story is the pacing, which starts out fairly even and then gets rickety pretty fast. The first few chapters are very well-paced, with events flowing quite naturally. Then it’s completely all over the place, with the passage of time an afterthought to the contrived plot point at hand. Another issue lies in character development: after the abrupt change of Griff’s circumstances, he naturally evolves a lot, we don’t really see any change in perspective from Kathryn. Her circumstances are also greatly changed, but her development remains stagnant until she and Griff cross paths again. The character of the Duke of Kingsland is a plot device and not a person for a great deal of the book; perhaps seeing more of him could have really sold the tension. There is a great ending, which is followed by an entirely unnecessary epilogue.
Scoundrel of My Heart has a fun couple at its center, but the rest of it’s a mess. The love story is pretty good, and I did root for the couple, but the plot was convoluted and bloated. To put it plainly, it was just too much.