Thoughts After Reading:
The reviews for Tamara Lejeune's Simply Scandalous were highly divided: readers seemed to either hate or love the novel. I fall decidedly into the latter category. The book had its imperfections, but it also contained a lighthearted and wonderfully endearing enemies-to-lovers storyline. Excellent writing, witty repartee, and original characters all added to my enjoyment of a historical tale far removed from the conventional. Comedic hijinks and misunderstandings abounded throughout the novel, and - even if there wasn't an abundance of character development - I walked away feeling that the characters truly cared about each other.
One of the major complaints voiced by the reviewers appears to be the fact that the hero is no Adonis. In fact, the author goes out of her way to emphasize the red-haired man's less-than-desirable attributes: his hotheaded nature, his messy attire that persists for much of the novel, and his splotchy complexion that shows up when he's angry. He is the male version of a "plain Jane" heroine, emphasized by the fact the heroine chooses him over her cousin (a far more handsome and condescending counterpart). Beneath his blustery exterior, however, lies a good man with his own sense of honor. The heroine is a bit more conventional in looks, a classically handsome brunette who has more than one admirer vying for her hand. She come across both as a kind-hearted person and a woman unafraid of acting in "hoydenish" ways. The novel opens with the heroine's brother having his arm broken by footpads. Evidence points to the hero being the culprit in order to win a race, so the heroine disguises herself as her brother, wins the race, and disgraces the hero thoroughly in front of the ton. Unfortunately for her, her actions put her in a scandalous spotlight as well, and she is forced to retire towards the country. The hero decides to follow her, make her fall in love with him, and then break her heart in revenge... an idea laughable to just about everyone. This "plan" does not work in the slightest, of course, but it serves as a catalyst to get the couple interacting and bickering with each other. The characters' development of feelings for each other seems a little sudden, but it is also inserted subtly: the couple outwardly continue to show signs of antagonistism while it's obvious to the reader they are having some warmer feelings. Despite their fighting, the romance feels authentic and rather sweet. The hero's attraction is a long time coming, and I thought it was a nice touch when the heroine indicated that the hero might not be polished enough for another woman, but he was "quite elegant enough for herself." She seemed to enjoy his slightly less refined personality, even when he he took pains to become more refined for his ladylove. There's more than a little awkwardness and a great deal of hilarity as mild, silly misunderstandings keep the couple away from each other towards the last part of the novel. For example, the couple temporarily go back to arguing a bit when the heroine mistaken believes the hero is courting a different woman. Eventually everything is tied up in a quick and cute resolution.
I was a little tentative upon beginning Tamara Lejeune's Simply Scandalous, and I am happy to find it was one of those books that ended up working very well for me. I loved the writing, the characters, the humor... the fact that the storyline was lighthearted without being too silly. I recommend the novel to anyone looking for an unconventional, hilarious, and upbeat historical romance. I can't wait to try the other books in the series.