The Perfect Scandal
What does it take to make a seasoned romance reviewer say, “I’ve never seen that before?” I don’t know about you, but in my case a one-legged Polish heroine and a hero who cuts himself certainly did the trick. While I did wonder at times if this novel was too novel, I also really enjoyed the book.
Tristan Hargrove, Marquis of Moreland, is an outwardly proper man who has despaired of ever finding a woman who will understand him. He wrote a well-known book on how to avoid a scandal, but he also has some dark habits that few people know about. The most unusual is a compulsion to cut himself, but it doesn’t end there. He meets Countess Zosia Kwiatkowska in an unusual – and fairly public – way when he converses with her at her window, while she is in a state of semi-undress. She makes her interest in him clear, and he finds himself scandalized, intrigued, and aroused. He doesn’t commit to calling on her, but he does go home and get off thinking about her.
Zosia is in England for her own protection, but even she is not privy to all of the details of her past. It involves great scandal in two different countries, and the King (in whose protection she has been placed) is inclined to marry her off to a nobody and spirit her off to America, where she will presumably live quietly. But Zosia has no desire to do anything quietly. She is passionate about her homeland, and figures that marrying a prominent man like Moreland will give her the platform she needs to lobby for her country’s freedom.
So, to recap, we have a one-legged heroine with a political platform, a hero who cuts himself, and intrigue galore. I hesitate to give away more of the plot, which abounds with spoilers. Suffice it to say that I’ve never read anything like this, and I doubt you have either. It’s an interesting romance with fresh characters and a completely unique perspective. It’s also a sexy and different love story.
I liked Zosia, who has nerve and spirit to spare but is never “feisty” in that irritating way. She’s passionate about her cause, but also learns to be somewhat pragmatic and to think about how she can best aid her people. Moreland is similarly interesting, though some of his issues seem to be resolved a little too quickly. Part of his appeal is his way with words, both written and spoken. Each chapter begins with a quote from his manuscript on avoiding scandal, with crossed out (but still legible to the reader) sections. Some are pithy, and some are almost heartbreaking. But his ways of expressing his love to Zosia are uncommon, and eloquent without being sappy. They would win any woman over.
I also have to comment on Marvelle’s writing style, which is definitely a cut above the norm. I could tell within pages that she had the kind of talent that I just don’t see often, and I knew I was in for a treat. It’s intelligent; I’d liken it to Elisabeth Fairchild’s (I can’t be the only one who misses her) or Meredith Duran’s.
Why is this book not a DIK? Well, the last third is not quite as good as what precedes it. It almost seems shortened somehow, and the ending is a little abrupt. I got the feeling I was reading a 500 page story squeezed into 380 pages. Also, anyone with a passing knowledge of history would be aware that Zosia’s goals were not going to be achieved in her lifetime, or even for some time after that, which is a bit of a downer.
Most of the time, though, I was well aware that I was reading something different, well-written, and most of all, promising. Delilah Marvelle is an author I’ll be watching.