Ten Kisses to Scandal
Bird poop, clumsiness and terrible matchmaking are all a part of the rather silly Ten Kisses to Scandal, Vivienne Lorret’s latest addition to her Misadventures in Matchmaking series. Let’s just say all of the poop sets a precedent for rest of the book.
Briar Bourne – of the Bourne Matrimonial Agency – is buzzing with excitement. She seeks to go from forgotten little sister to prominent matchmaker – the best, she hopes, in all the world! With her womanizing Uncle Earnest and sisters – skeptical Jacinda and picky Ainsley – as her closest competition in the family company, she thinks she has a decent shot at it.
Briar meets Nicholas Blacklowe, the Earl of Edgemont, in the most inopportune way possible. When trying to board her hackney to an important London meeting, she instead finds a man making out with his mistress inside. He replies to her plea by disembarking and tossing the driver a coin to send his mistress home. Briar immediately has a public shouting match with him, during which he is icy and smarmy. He also grabs her and she feels ‘something’ in her ‘core.’ You know where this is leading, don’tcha?
Roughly six months later, Briar’s first attempt at matching up a couple results in her setting up a mother with her son, a humiliation that results in the papers having a field day at her expense, so things are a mite bit dire for her. In fact, the entire matchmaking business is looking dire in general, with Jacinda recovering from temporary amnesia and Ainsley hovering anxiously over her and both being too distracted to take care of their clients. Nicholas, meanwhile, has spent the winter in the country with his cousin Daniel, who’s plunged into a deep state of melancholy ever since his fiancée dumped him for another man – a betrothal Nicholas encouraged since he was the one who debauched the woman in the first place. Temperance, a friend of Briar’s (who is also Nicholas’ cousin and Daniel’s sister) suggests Nicholas hire Briar as a matchmaker for Daniel. (Obviously, this friend hasn’t read the papers!) Nicholas takes it upon himself to arrange a match for Temperance as well. Nicholas and Briar make a business arrangement to get both cousins married – and meanwhile Nicholas tries to tutor Briar in the ways of matchmaking to ensure no further embarrassments befall her or his cousins. Along the way… I don’t really need to tell you what happens, do I?
This, dear readers, is the very definition of a Wallpaper Historical. With very few changes it could be a modern story about modern matchmakers, from the worship of Austen’s Emma to the matchmaking service, to the hero stealing the heroine’s cab. For some folks the modern feeling of the story won’t matter. But what will matter is how annoying our leads are and ooh, are they annoying!
Nicholas is just plain scummy from the start. He’s the type of man who assumes Briar is adept at using her feminine wiles to attract men because she *GASP!* is wearing rouge and lipstick to a meeting! He immediately notices she’s out of her depth, but lets her roam free instead of escorting her home because what would the fun in that be? He just plain manipulated Briar much too often for my taste – and of course his control issues are explained away by his having had a youthful, lousy marriage.
Briar acts like an immature child when she’s not in horny seductress mode; she’s that special sub-breed of heroine, the clumsy type who thinks she’s got great dignity, only to literally step in a horse patty two seconds after exiting her carriage with her nose in the air. She also clings to lucky talisman objects which are, invariably, proven to be unlucky when she humiliates herself yet again.
Briar and Nicholas interact like children and in ways that are much less charming than the author believes; much of Nicholas’ attentions to Briar are just plain oily and come off less as strong and charming than slimy and creepy. It takes a while for Briar to break him down to earth once more but the power in the relationship rarely swings in her favor. Naturally, he’s yet another over-experienced rake who has never been kissed nor sucked so well than by our virginal miss. She’s forever tripping or spilling things onto herself, and Nicholas is forever catching her before she can dash her poor pea-brains against the ground. Ohoh, what rich humor this provides! Not. It doesn’t help that our caddish hero is in his forties and our heroine is somewhere in her twenties, which is an extreme experience imbalance that feels uncomfortable; there are several times when he even speaks to her like a rapist (“You’ll like it, I promise”). When their first major semi-seduction scene happens in the back of a carriage, one despairs about him ever changing.
On the plus side, I loved Briar’s gossipy relationship with her Uncle Ernest. I could appreciate Nicholas’ devotion to poor soggy Daniel and the more earnest Tempest. It’s easy to pity at least one aspect of Briar’s life – her proliferate father’s sleeping around and leaving her to deal with the unexpected appearances of various siblings. That subplot is a thousand times more affecting than the romance, which is just one of the many reasons I’m not recommending Ten Kisses to Scandal.