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Diane Gaston

Dear Author

REVIEW: Scandalizing the Ton by Diane Gaston

Dear Ms. Gaston,

book review Several years ago, I read your American debut, The Mysterious Miss M, and enjoyed it quite a bit. Unfortunately, its follow-up, The Wagering Widow, did not work quite as well for me, and I’ve not had the opportunity to read any of your other books until this one.

Scandalizing the Ton starts off a bit abruptly, as our hero, Adrian Pomroy, the Viscount Cavanley, encounters a man and woman embroiled in what he at first takes for a lovers’ quarrel in the middle of a London street.

This is in fact no lovers’ quarrel: our heroine, Lydia, otherwise known as the notorious Lady Wexin, is fending off the latest reporter trying to importune her for information. Her late husband, apparently the villain of a previous book, has left Lydia destitute and at the mercy of the scandal sheets, whose reporters camp outside her house around the clock hoping to get a scoop.

Adrian sends the reporter on his way, but Lydia has already sprained her ankle in an attempt to flee. Which necessitates Adrian escorting her back to her conveniently empty house, in fact, to her very bedroom, where the two succumb to their minutes-old lust.

Now, I am often a fan of early sex in romances; I find it creates interesting complications and gets the silly "will they or won’t they" faux-tension out of the way. But in this case, I didn’t buy it. Lydia is one of those heroines who feel instant, overwhelming desire whenever she is around the hero as a way of signaling to the reader that this is True Love. As I’m not a fan of excessive mental lusting, I found this irritating.

This book is obviously connected to at least one previous book, and while I was able to follow along okay, it included more information than I really cared to read about characters from previous books.

My chief problem, though, was with the triteness that infused the plot, characters and prose. There was nothing new or particularly interesting here, and none of it felt real to me. There were very few moments that I did not feel I had read in several historical romances before.

An example: at one point, Adrian visits a gaming hell, the proprietress of which goes by the name Madame Bisou, though she was "born Penny Jones" and the closest she’s gotten to France is drinking champagne.

A minor point, but material like this just makes me sigh. How many fake-French female entrepreneurs have I read of in romances? Too many too count. They are usually modistes; at least this one was slightly different. Still, why? The character is never mentioned again. All the one mention did was remind me of how many times I’ve read of such a character, which in turn reminded me that this book offered nothing original.

The unoriginality of the characters and their circumstances made it hard to care about them. The heroine should have been sympathetic, but she wasn’t given enough depth to allow me to feel for what she had suffered. As a result, her extremely self-pitying and martyrish behavior was just aggravating. She constantly pushed the hero away and insulted him, while thinking that he couldn’t possibly want her. The hero actually showed a lot of forbearance in putting up with her lashing out. In the course of the story, whenever the heroine encounters someone who doesn’t mistreat her because of her reputation, she acts gobsmacked, simply not understanding how these people don’t hate and revile her. It got old, fast.

The secondary characters are all one-note: either unfailingly supportive of the hero and heroine, or cartoonishly evil. The only remotely ambiguous response comes from the hero’s father, who tries to be supportive of his son’s relationship but is concerned about the heroine’s reputation. His character was made less appealing, how, by a rather bizarre and prurient preoccupation with his son’s sex life.

There is a secondary romance, between the heroine’s maid and one of the newspaper reporters who are hounding the heroine, but I found that one even more irksome than the main one. The maid has the annoying habit of referring to the heroine as “my lady” even in conversations with others, and the reporter really behaves abominably: seducing the maid for information while seemingly aware of what a cad he is being. His epiphany at the end that, geez, maybe he is doing something wrong was unconvincing, since it had already been established that he knew he was doing something wrong and did it anyway.

About the reporters: they act much, much more like modern paparazzi than anything that I would expect from the 19th century. Maybe it’s an accurate portrayal (reporters hanging around the heroine’s house day and night, shouting questions to her when she enters or exits the house), but it struck a false note with me.

I really regret having to give Scandalizing the Ton such a low grade. I thought for a while I would at least be able to give it a technically passing C-, but the weight of the cliches and paint-by-numbers, paper-thin characterizations force me to give it a D+.


This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or Powells or ebook format.

REVIEW:  The Vanishing Viscountess by Diane Gaston

REVIEW: The Vanishing Viscountess by Diane Gaston

Dear Ms Gaston,

037329479401mzzzzzzz.jpgA few years ago I read the first book you had published, “The Mysterious Miss M,” and was delighted that you turned a few Regency standards on their heads. I then tried another of your stories and have to be honest and say that it seemed more of what everyone else was churning out. “The Vanishing Viscountess” marks my return to your writing and while it doesn’t quite capture the novelty of “MMM,” it does offer something different from a staid London Season or a spy nobleman plot.

Adam Vickery, Marquess of Tannerton, known as Tanner to his friends, strikes the right note as a bored nobleman. He’s not a rake nor is he a spy for England, though he did help the English forces during the nightmare that followed Waterloo. He’s not too proud of what little he’s done in life nor of some latest episode that took him to Ireland. When he sees a woman prisoner aboard the ship taking him back to England, he studies her trying to figure her out. When she maintains her composure even as those around them panic as the storm hits, he’s intrigued. When the Bow Street Runner abandons her to drown as the ship goes down, he can’t stand by and watch.

Marlena Parronley knows that Tanner wouldn’t recognize her as a young debutante from years ago who mooned over him in London. She made a bad marriage then got framed for her husband’s murder by his best friend who is also her cousin. Though she avoided the law for years, it’s finally caught up to her and without the testimony of the young maid who also witnessed the murder, she knows she stands little chance of acquittal. After she and Tanner manage to save themselves and outwit the wreckers, she wonders how she can get away from him and try to flee to Scotland. He seems nice enough but she knows he knew her husband and she can’t be sure which way his loyalties would lie were her real identity to be uncovered.

Tanner has his doubts about the story Marlena spins him but senses she isn’t some hardened criminal. He wants to help her and sees in it an opportunity to finally use his position and influence to do some good. If only she’d trust him with her real identity and the facts about her case. Marlena knows that if she’s caught by the Runner following them, or anyone else for that matter, Tanner’s aid could cause him to share her fate at the end of a hangman’s noose. But neither can stop from falling in love as they duck and dodge their way across NW England and Scotland.

I like the road trip escape Marlena and Tanner decide on. There’s a real reason for the way they traveled and it gives you a nice chance to show the lives of some working class people of the time. The lessons to Tanner in how to play the simple man vs his usual status of a Marquess were fun along with the Shakespearean names they chose and them both trying to remember the name of the day.

I like Tanner’s sense of honor and that he’s mad Marlena didn’t trust him to believe her and to be able to help her. I also like that she’s experienced and that she likes the physical aspect of marriage. True she hadn’t loved her dead husband for long after their marriage but she misses contact and closeness and yes, sex. It’s a nice change that hero wasn’t the one to "awaken’ her to wonderful sex. Another aspect I enjoyed is how Marlena is proactive about helping to save herself when the chips are down. I wasn’t as crazy about her martyrish tendencies though it does show her loyalty to those she loves and feels a responsibility to. Usually I’m not wild about characters keeping important information to themselves but Marlena’s reasoning behind not telling Tanner of her identity and accused crime does make sense. It was a small world and he was bound to know Corland and her cousin.

Thank you for writing a villain who isn’t total essobee. He comes close but he does genuinely love his wife and given the norms of the time, his reasons for what he did are believable. Even the Bow Street runner isn’t totally awful in that he was just doing his job to track Marlena and also thinking of his wife and children when he takes her place in lifeboat. Not that what he did then was honorable but it wasn’t totally selfish.

I am grading down a bit because I felt the story got too over the top at the end. It began to feel like an old early 20th century silent film melodrama with a train headed down the tracks towards the tied up heroine. And I could see baby aspect of the epilogue coming from a mile off but at least you had first hubby take Marlena to a doctor before deciding she was barren. The rest of epilogue wasn’t great but I’ve read a ton worse. B-


This book can be purchased in mass market or ebook format.