I read Laura Lee Guhrke’s Scandal of the Year (pub date January 25, 2011)* over the weekend which I ended up liking quite a bit. It is set in late Victorian London and wild child Julia Yardley is just getting a divorce from her husband, Baron Yardley. The Baron sued Julia for divorce when he found her in bed with Aidan Carr, the Duke of Trathen. The story follows Julia, post divorce and Aidan as Aidan struggles to find the right wife despite being tainted by the scandal of being named a correspondent in the divorce and as Julia, debt ridden, tries to make a new life for herself.
Over the course of the story we learn that Julia and Aidan’s ties run deep and harken back to a time almost thirteen years earlier when Aidan and Julia first meet, right before Julia’s marriage to Yardley. Julia has always represented the forbidden fruit to Aidan, not only because she was taken but because she represented everything that he was eschewing. She smoked, cussed, and basically acted without limits. Some of the story is told in flashbacks and for some reason that was about the only part of the story that didn’t work for me.
Yet, I can’t say that flashbacks can’t ever work. I liked Sherry Thomas’ book Delicious (it might be my favorite from her) and it was rife with flashbacks, some confusing even.
It’s hard for me to articulate why I don’t like flashbacks. I think, although it doesn’t feel like a complete answer, that flashbacks take me out of the flow of the story. I wrote a note to myself in Scandal of the Year that the 17 year old Aidan and the young Julia seemed forced to me. Maybe flashbacks seem too unnatural, as if the authorial manipulation is too obvious. I’m not sure.
What do you think about flashbacks? Why do they work for you and why not?
*Olivia Drake also has a book called Scandal of the Year coming out in March of 2011.