Once Upon a Scandal

Once Upon a ScandalBy Delilah Marvelle

Publisher: HQN
Publication Date: January 25, 2011
Genre: Historical Romance
Source: Netgalley

Lady Victoria Jane Emerson left behind her girlish notions of romance when Jonathan deserted her without a backward glance. Now the time has come when she must finally choose a husband, and she has vowed to marry someone who will never break her heart.
Jonathan Pierce Thatcher, Viscount Remington, has returned home, free of all his family’s debts. Only to discover that by some miracle he has been chosen to vie for the hand of his beloved Victoria. To convince his only love to once again believe in the magic of love and the promise of desire will be his greatest challenge yet. And one he cannot fail.

Goodreads Summary

While not necessarily a sequel, Once Upon a Scandal loosely follows in the trail of Prelude to a Scandal, Marvelle’s first book of a planned trio (The Perfect Scandal is set for release in March 2011).  “How to Avoid a Scandal,” a fictional etiquette book, features prominently in each book, offering some fitting advice at the beginning of each chapter.

Five years earlier, Jonathan Remington had won a promise from Victoria Emerson that she would wait for him to return from a short trip he was taking to Venice to see his step-sister and her family before letting her father accept any suitors for her at her official coming out.  They’d shared a passionate kiss, he’d pledged his love and even given her his mother’s ring.  The two wrote letters over the course of a few months but Jonathan suddenly and inexplicably broke things off, begging Victoria not to try to contact him anymore.

Her father now dying and her suitors long gone, Victoria is being forced to marry a man of his choosing in order to keep her inheritance.  She’s unaware that he’s been in contact with Jonathan for over a year and that the two had an agreement that when he was able to return, he’d be allowed to vie for her hand.  When she felt forced to accept his proposal, Jonathan decided to confess why he’d been gone so long: he’d been kept as a sexual pet of sorts for the wife of an Italian mobster-type and to protect Victoria, had kept it all secret from her and his family.  Of course she didn’t know all this and has had a little change of heart when it comes to Jonathan and their future.  She’s more than a little reluctant (and bitter) when it comes time to marry him.

I enjoyed Prelude to a Scandal, but I have to say, I enjoyed this so much more.  Prelude was a different type of romance (for anyone who hasn’t read it, the theme revolved around whether or not it was possible a man who’d been considered a “rake” could really be a sex addict) and while it did it in humorous ways, was more about a couple defining their relationship and learning to deal with some serious sexual issues.  This is very romantic and despite some sad issues like Jonathan’s service with the Italian wife that kept him away from Victoria, it was remarkably sweet and the humor was much lighter and flirtier.  Marvelle’s forward said that she wanted to take the Cinderella character and twist it to make a male version of it, to make a hero that dreamed of a happy ever after, that his princess was out there; I think she succeeded, although I’d argue that Jonathan is both Cinderella and Prince Charming all wrapped up together in one package.

Although I wondered at times how far she’d push Jonathan, I liked Victoria as well.  She could have come off as pretty shrewish and there were times when she was so stubborn I wanted to give her a shake, but there was no question Jonathan had wronged her and she was entitled to make him sleep on the proverbial couch.  By the time Jonathan gets his woo back on with her in Venice, she’s toast (or putty in his hands, since I’m pulling out my Cuisinart of metaphors), and they were fun to read.  Their no-sex sex scenes were as breathless as many consummated ones because of the groundwork laid earlier in the book with these two characters.

I’m choosing to overlook the sort unnecessarily dramatic bit near the end that didn’t really have anything to do with anything else (I know it forced a plot point, it just seemed a bit..much), just because it marred an otherwise perfect story.  If for no other reason than that Jonathan was one of the most doggedly romantic historical heroes I’ve read this year, I loved this.

My Rating: A-

Barbara

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