Friday, February 5, 2021

Suzanne Enoch - A Matter of Scandal

Miss Emma Grenville, who is no silly debutante, has had her fill of thick-headed noblemen who believe
women exist solely to satisfy men. And her arrogant new landlord, the Duke of Wycliffe, is the worst of the lot! The too attractive cad wants to triple the rent on Emma's finishing school for young ladies to help get his uncle's estate out of debt. Well, Greydon Brakenridge clearly needs educating—about women. And Emma's just the one to enlighten him!
The sinfully handsome duke has never met a woman he couldn't outwit and seduce. And now that he's tricked Emma into a wager, he has the stubborn headmistress right where her wants her—and hopefully, soon in his bed. But the confirmed bachelor underestimates the intelligent and surprisingly sensual Miss Grenville. For she may be leading Greydon to a place neither dreamed they'd ever go—to the altar. 

Comment: I was given this book for Christmas. I had never read anything by the author and although her name wasn't strange for me I also never felt the inclination to go and investigate. I saw this isn't the author's most likable book but it isn't on of the most disliked either and I suppose I can count myself as part of the group in the middle, for it was an average read for me.

In this book we meet a duke who wants to fix his uncle's estate affairs while he stays away from London and the headmistress of the school which is located in the estate's propriety. Greyson, the duke, is bored and wants to have control again, after a near disaster with a woman bent on trapping him into marriage, and aa way to do so is to help his uncle. His first idea is to increase the rent of all tenants including the girls' finishing school where miss Emma Grenville is the headmistress. However, the two don't start their acquaintance in the best terms and soon are agreeing on a wager to see who will best the other but of course either would count on enjoying the banter so much that the fun is precisely to spend time together, at least until rumors start to ruin the whole thing...

After several years reading historical romances published by Avon during the 90s and 00s, the style and tone of this book were no surprise. It's true I had never read books by the author but I think I got a pretty good idea of what kind of stories to expect from now on if I ever decided to read another. I saw this is actually the third book in a trilogy and the couples from the first books show up in the end but in no way  felt like I was missing something because I didn't read the other novels. 

The plot is filled with unlikely scenarios for an historical, or at least they are presented in a way meant to be funny and quirky so that we quickly realize how the main characters have so much in common and how wonderful it is for them to reach the conclusion they should be together. From a certain point on, even the secondary characters start making it obvious they would be a good match, even though, socially speaking, they are not of the same sphere. Of course in romance this doesn't matter but the whole schemes concocted by them to gain the advantage over the other felt rather childish, so I couldn't really see how these people could actually get along in the same social environments, unless they lived in countryside all the time.

I mean, putting realistic notions on life at the time aside, the romance is rather cute but I still felt very indifferent to what was happening because it seemed to me the characters never went beyond the basics and the surface of what is expected of them, nor did the author give them more depth than what one usually finds in the average historical romance. 

I could see that Grey knew what duty and responsibility was but he surely put aside his common sense and his notion of "honor" when he went chasing miss Emma, someone out of his station (socially speaking) and innocent. Emma, on her hand, put her life's work and reputation in jeopardy because she couldn't resist the duke. Now, I can understand the goal here but how much brilliant it could have been to make them attracted, yes, but fighting that and betting on sexual tension and awareness of one another? Their personalities and intelligence (as attempted to be demonstrated by how ingenious they could be wile trying to win the wager) should have been better used instead of letting them languish in silly games and unfair sexual liaisons.

I feel I never got convinced of how special these protagonist were. They could have been any character out there, so what was important about these people? I just know Grey did find his chivalry and romantic side and that Emma was in the middle of a mess but people who liked her, helped her solve things and there's an HEA in the end. But why, what spark of singularity about them was so special that I could never forget their journey into love? I can still remember several books where the couple had such a story or such chemistry, their stories remain with me until today even if the details don't. But I don't think I'd ever add this couple to those lists.

I mean, this was an OK book to read, there's even a "villain" of sorts, some hints about secondary characters (that really lead nowhere, though), also surprising actions from certain characters, there's a lot more which could have given the book a stronger vibe but I think it never went further than what the author planned for. As if that was what was supposed to be in the book and that's it. Overall, this wasn't so bad, the plot reached the end, the main characters finally realized they were in love but I didn't feel there was "magic", in the sense that this story was vibrant with emotion and detail.

All in all, a satisfying read but I wouldn't say it offers more than just that. I might read another book one day, to compare, but I should say I'm in no rush.

Grade: 6/10

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