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Willaful review: Scandalous Love by Brenda Joyce

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.

I give Scandalous Love 3 1/2 out of 5 stars. You can buy it from Amazon here. ($2.99 for Kindle, as of this writing. It’s also $2.99 at Barnes and Noble and All Romance Ebooks.)


  • Wendy
    May 16
    11:39 pm

    I almost went with a historical, because I cannot say no to seriously Old School westerns. It’s not healthy, I’m sure. You know the books with the mustachioed gunslinger hero (who is bare-chested and rocking a leather vest) and a heroine who somehow found blue eyeshadow in 19th century Colorado/Montana/California.

    I hear you on the eviiiiiilllll villain. I’m surprised he also didn’t sacrifice kittens and howl at the moon 🙂


  • You know, the whole title thing would have flown over my head–even though I’ve seen that page before, and it’s a great resource, I haven’t internalized all the nuances–so that wouldn’t have bother me at all.

    As for the spanking scene *cough* erm…where was I?



  • @Wendy: Next month is Westerns, right? So you have another shot. I tend to go more for the kindler, gentler Westerns. Have you read Promise of the Rose by Meagan MicKinney?


  • @AztecLady: I’m definitely no expert, but I knew enough to find it very weird that he kept calling her Lady Shelton. It didn’t really affect my feelings about the book all that much, I mainly mentioned it for those who are strongly bothered by such things.


  • @Willaful: Heh, not yet. But guess where it is? Yep, in the TBR 🙂


  • @SuperWendy: Excellent! You’re all set for next month. 😉


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