Friday, September 21, 2012

Review: Scandal of the Year by Laura Lee Guhrke (4.5 stars, historical)

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Thoughts After Reading:
I loved the romance in Laura Lee Guhrke's Scandal of the Year, set in the Victorian era. I'm not usually one much for "the one who got away" type of storylines, but the circumstances and characters - particularly the hero - made this one work for me. The storyline steadily held my attention as it unfolded the characters' current feelings and interactions, interspersed with flashbacks of their past. There was some occasional humor as well, and the ending was quite satisfactory. It was a novel that was both fun and meaningful.

The characters have been in love since the day they first saw each other, whether they realize it or not. They first met around twelve years before the book opens, when the hero was about seventeen. The hero has always had an unhealthy attraction to the heroine since the day they met, despite the fact that they are polar opposites. The hero is a rather reserved person, having been prepared for the responsibilities of a dukedom, and nothing is more important to him than his honor. The heroine, meanwhile,  has always been a rebellious, joie de vivre type of "bad girl". She was recently engaged at the time, an arranged marriage that she agreed to as a sort of penance for some of her actions. Over the years, the hero and heroine stay distant friends. The hero grows into his responsibilities, while the heroine tries to survive her marriage to a cruel and rather perverted husband. Things come to a head six months before the book begins. The heroine, in a desperate attempt to force a divorce from her husband, tries to seduce the hero. It works - the husband shows up, and after the matter is dragged through the ecclesial courts the divorce becomes legal. The book opens with the first meeting of the two characters since the divorce. The hero is inner turmoil for a variety of reasons. He's on the search for wife, now that he's reaching the age of thirty, but he finds the task to be difficult when his eyes and mind unfailingly drift to the heroine whenever she walks into a room. He doesn't really understand the circumstances of why she divorced, and is very much ashamed at the belief that he had an affair with a married woman. He also thinks her free-spirited attitude would never mesh with his personality, exemplified by her smoking and many affairs that she's supposedly had. What the hero doesn't start out knowing is that the heroine has had reasons for the many things she's done. She started smoking in the hope of convincing her fiance to call off the wedding, and the supposed affairs were all fabricated in an attempt to get a divorce. The only person she's ever considered as a lover is the hero. As the storyline develops, the characters gradually gain an understanding of the other... as well as an understanding of their own feelings.  I found the hero particularly admirable for not trying to sleep with the heroine until he "gets her out of his system," something I've read in far too many romance books of this theme. He wants to do this, at one point, but knows that he's too much of a gentleman  to actually go through with it. The final conflict and resolution were very satisfying, and I thought both fit well with the true personalities of the characters. The conflict is resolved at an almost unrealistically fast pace - in the course of about an hour. In retrospect, however, I enjoyed that the book allowed for a little angst but not enough for me to get frustrated with the book.

If you're looking for a lighthearted romp, Laura Lee Guhrke's Scandal of the Year is probably not want to want. If you want an angsty and dark romance, Scandal of the Year probably isn't your cup of tea either. But if you want something in between those two extremes - an enjoyable read with a poignant relationship and a triumphant HEA  - then Scandal of the Year is just what you're looking for.

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