Dear Ms. Enoch:
The Scandalous Bride series as this is called has been a challenge for me. I really appreciate the thoughtful presentation of women and their powerlessness in the Regency period. Through the Tantalus Club, set up in Book 1 of the series, women of all backgrounds have found a safe haven. As Diane, Lady Haybury notes, the club was to provide for her own future. It was “not a home for lost women or a refuge for the scandalous and ruined.” Yet it had become one. Within its walls, a woman could earn a living, have a warm and safe place to sleep, and aspire to some level of independence. Sophia White, the unacknowledged by-blow of the Duke of Hennessy, had been there two years when the Duke came with a threat. Marry a vicar in Cornwall or he would see the entire club brought down.
Sophie accepts an invitation to the Duke of Greaves holiday party, a sort of last hurrah (my words) before Sophie goes to Cornwall to marry this unknown vicar. The bridge is washed out right as she arrives and therefore is his only guest for two weeks. Adam Baswich may tell himself he invited Sophie for the fun of it, because she is friends with Keating Blackwood and Keating’s new wife, but it soon appears that Adam invited her because he would like to sleep with her.
He lightly extends an offer of protection, at least clothes and some fripperies, to take the place of all she had lost in the bridge collapse. Sophie denies these things but eventually gives in to an affair. She’s not a virgin but she’s also a woman of independence. She does not need his money and does not want the term mistress hung about her neck. She would like to meet his as a friend or an equal of sorts.
The first half of the book, the two enjoy a good romp but I found it a bit dull. The story turns the corner, however, when the bridge is repaired and the other guests arrive. Adam must marry by the age of thirty and he invited a number of young misses to evaluate. He’ll marry one of them before February or many of his properties and a great portion of his wealth will go to his sister whom he hates.
The second half of the story brings everyone’s demons to the surface. Adam’s father was notorious for his mistresses, often parading them in the family home in front of his children, humiliating his wife. When he died, his mother and his sister, Eustace, turn their hatred toward toward Adam. Eustace is constantly reminding Adam how he is no better than their terrible father and how she wishes Adam were dead.
Sophie cares little about what society thinks. They’ve shunned her since she was born for simply existing. She’s managed to keep a good attitude about it – recognizing the flaws are in those that look upon her and not in herself. She’s remarkable in her good sense and self acceptance. This is not to say she is immune to the slights of those around her.
Adam actually cares quite a bit about what people think even though he tries to live like he doesn’t. He chooses the coward’s way more than one despite his lofty position.
I thought that there were enough warnings about the life he would lead marrying Sophia. Keating Blackwood and his wife, a daughter of a Marquess but both mired in scandal, haven’t received one invitation to a society event until Adam’s invitation. The perils of marrying Sophia are not shied away from and I appreciated that. But Adam and Sophia are both creatures of London, both enjoying the company of others. I would have liked to have seen an epilogue or something that showed them content in the decisions that they had made. B-