Posted in: willaful, willaful reviews
Tags:Brenda Joyce, Historical romance, TBR Challenge
Sensuality rating: steamy
The theme for this month’s TBR challenge is “Old School.” The definition is a book published before 2000, but I say if you’re going to kick it old school, you might as well go for the real thing. But I can’t deal with hardcore bodice-rippers like Kathleen Woodiwiss or Bertrice Small, so my go to gal is Brenda Joyce. I picked Scandalous Love, which I believe finishes up the Bragg Saga for me, except for the hard to find/expensive Dark Fires.
As it turned out, Scandalous Love is fairly mild, as befitting a book with the single most boring cover in romance history. (I suppose it could have been worse.) It does start with a classic misunderstanding: Big, sexy Hadrian, the Duke of Clayborough, meets big, sexy Lady Nicole Bragg Shelton at a masquerade ball, and assumes she’s someone’s promiscuous and available wife. (Which could not actually have happened, because her correct title would have clued him in immediately that she was single. This is not even the most ludicrous example of disregarding accuracy for the sake of plot in the book.)
But Hadrian finds out the truth fairly soon and thereafter tries to behave in an honorable way towards Nicole. (He’s been engaged to a sweet young girl practically from the womb.) His complete inability to do so is the crux of the story; despite all the obstacles against them and his own wishes, she brings out the alpha caveman in him. Nicole, similarly, can’t stay away from him — though unfortunately he brings out the feisty, tempestuous, pain-in-the-butt heroine in her.
Nonetheless I liked both of the characters. When she’s not hysterical, Nicole is a likeably insecure, sensible person, and I enjoyed seeing a large, athletic woman as a heroine. Hadrian has his moments — okay, I admit it, there’s a spanking scene — but I can’t resist a hero who’s swept away by passion. Joyce’s language is extravagant, as always, but I didn’t find it as repetitive in this book as it became in later ones.
The worst part of the story for me — and really, the most old school element — was the cliched villain; beating his wife and child aren’t bad enough, he has to demonstrate his villainy by becoming a “sodomite.” That’s one old school trend I’m not in the least sorry has been left behind.