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REVIEW: Bath Scandal by Joan Smith

Dear Ms. Smith,

Several of your Regencies reside on my LOL keeper shelf. “Imprudent Lady,” “Aunt Sophie’s Diamonds,” and “Gather Ye Rosebuds” are fabulously funny. After I started and then stopped a number of other books that didn’t grab my attention by the third chapter, I scanned through my current Sony library and decided a comedy was what I was in the mood for. Alphabetically “Bath Scandal” came up first out of all your books to pick from and so it got selected.

As I began reading, my first thoughts were “this is an odd duck heroine.” Actually Deborah Swann is more like a bitch and after a quick trip to The Good Ton website, I was delighted to learn that I didn’t have to try and cheer for that condescending snoot to have a HEA. Instead it’s her fiance Rawl who gets his HEA after he finally manages to slip free of her grasping claws and wins the heart of the woman he admired many years ago when he attended Beatrice’s wedding to his own cousin. Wait – that’s too complicated. Let me just steal the blurb at Regency Reads.

“Beatrice Searle, a beautiful and charming widow, agreed to smarten up tomboy Gillie Southam, because she believed Gillie’s half-brother, Lord Southam, would accompany her to Bath. But it was Southam’s straight-laced fiancée who actually inspired the move, and Lord Southam only came when rumors had Gillie involved with a disreputable fellow. Unfortunately, his lordship mistook Bea for a merry widow.”

The book takes a little while to get going and reach it’s stride. Gillie is horse mad and not entirely happy to have been force marched to Bath by her brother. Beatrice feels slighted when it quickly dawns on her that she’s been conned into “knocking the edges off” Gillie in order for the poor girl to be married off. But once Beatrice realizes the truth of the situation – that Gillie quickly caught onto Deborah’s machinations to capture Southam in marriage and that Deborah and Gillie would murder each other if they had to live under the same roof – Beatrice and the young woman cry friends and settle into a comfortable relationship. Beatrice even introduced Gillie to a HEA in the form of the slightly gauche young Duke of Cleremont who’s as horse mad as Gillie.

And thus Southam appears on the scene to save his half-sister from the rackety young man he’s heard unfair rumors about and the cat is set among the pigeons. From this point on, the plot thickens to include a trip to Bournemouth, flirting and the maneuvering of Cleremont and Southam, hurdle races, bad bets, a misunderstanding involving reputation and the bad bet, shopping,

“One bonnet is not a binge. Even two do not constitute a binge. It requires three bonnets to make a binge.”

mens’ honor,


“Yes, when they start prating of honor, you know they are about to do something ridiculous and indefensible so far as common sense goes.”

a curricle accident, a spurious duel, an undelivered apology, a fiancee’s unexpected arrival in Bath, a sulky trip back from Bournemouth, more misunderstandings, a connivance, a conge and finally HEA. I think I got that order correct.

“Bath Scandal” is not as hysterically funny to me as some of your other books. The humor is a more quiet, subtle form that makes me smile instead of busting a gut but once I realized that this is what the book would have, I settled down and enjoyed it for what it has instead of what I thought it would have. At times, I thought the plotting threatened to swirl into out of control complexity yet in the end, you reeled it back and everything falls smartly into line. Oh, and after a book length of Deborah’s evil influence, I adored that Beatrice actually tells Deborah off. That I did LOL at. B



Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.


  1. Dabney
    Jul 24, 2012 @ 09:52:51

    What’s the level of steam in this book? It sounds quite decorous in a good way.

  2. Jayne
    Jul 24, 2012 @ 09:58:49

    @Dabney: It’s an old style trad Regency so the steam level is basically nil.

  3. becca
    Jul 24, 2012 @ 11:47:37

    sometimes a low steam level is a relief – I just finished a series of 4 books that had so much steamy sex that I began to get tired of it – the books might have been 2/3 to 1/2 as long without it, and not all of it contributed to furthering either plot or relationship – and these books weren’t erotica, so I wasn’t expecting quite so much of it. They were fun books, but… yeah, I skipped a lot of pages.

  4. Sandra
    Jul 24, 2012 @ 12:50:34

    I love Joan Smith. She was an auto-buy for me back in my Trad Regency heyday. I don’t remember this one, though. I’ll have to check my keeper shelf when I get home.

  5. Jayne
    Jul 24, 2012 @ 14:57:05

    @becca: I like some steamy sex too but the amounts I’ve been seeing in a lot of books lately that, as you say, aren’t listed as erotica can get to be mind numbing. It’s one reason I’m going back to some trad Regencies and trying more Inspies.

  6. Elizabeth56
    Jul 24, 2012 @ 18:52:52

    I am definitely in the mood for a decorous, humorous regency. Thanks for mentioning the others you have enjoyed from her; I have not read any of hers yet.

  7. Jenny Schwartz
    Jul 24, 2012 @ 20:19:59

    I love Joan Smith’s books. Mentioning “Aunt Sophie’s Diamonds” made me smile. I have an old, treasured copy.

    Just curious. Is it the same Joan Smith who wrote a handful of rom suspense, Capriccio (I’m trying to remember the titles…they’re stashed away somewhere … it had a violin) and one where the heroine was a writer — and so was the hero (there’s a spoiler tucked in there that I don’t want to mention!)

  8. Susanna Ives
    Jul 24, 2012 @ 20:38:20

    @Jenny — I adore “Aunt Sophie’s Diamonds,” too! I have a tattered copy of Joan Smith’s “Escapade” that I keep on my desk. That book introduced me to the Regency era. I’ve tried to collect all her works, but I’ve found that I like her early books the best. She has such a gift for witty, intelligent dialogue and farce.

  9. Jenny Schwartz
    Jul 24, 2012 @ 21:17:24

    @Susanna Farce! that’s the perfect word. The light touch of sheer ridiculousness.

  10. Jayne
    Jul 25, 2012 @ 03:32:38

    @Elizabeth56: I’ve heard “Sweet and Twenty” is another excellent one. Check out the list at under “Tomes of the Ton” for more suggestions.

  11. Jayne
    Jul 25, 2012 @ 03:46:16

    @Jenny Schwartz: Yes, she’s done a couple of romantic suspense novels one of which I reviewed here. I thought it was okay but not as good as her straight Regencies.

  12. Susanna Ives
    Jul 25, 2012 @ 08:40:10

    Aside from the wonderful books mentioned in the great review, my favorites by Joan Smith are: Valerie, Reluctant Bride, Lace for Milady, and Talk of the Town. To me, Smith is the PG Wodehouse of Regency romance.

  13. Susan
    Jul 26, 2012 @ 13:55:07

    I have a lot of these traditional Regencies in PB (mostly used books). I’ve been excited to see that so many of Joan Smith’s (and many other authors’) books are being released as ebooks. They are go-to reads whenever I need a quick break.

  14. In the Middle: What I Read on Summer Vacation | Something More
    Jul 28, 2012 @ 21:00:27

    […] when I was too tired or distracted for more dense and difficult reading. I grabbed this because in a review of a different Smith title, Dear Author‘s Jayne and several others mentioned it as a favorite, and I liked […]

  15. Suzanne Allain
    Aug 19, 2012 @ 08:43:41

    Smith is the PG Wodehouse of Regency romance.

    What an awesome compliment. I would be thrilled if someone said that about me. P.G. Wodehouse was a comic genius.

    One of Smith’s novels that wasn’t necessarily my favorite, but made me laugh more than any other was “The Waltzing Widow.” It has a wonderful Wodehousian scene in it involving the hero, a bishop, and a brawl. It’s truly hilarious.

  16. Susanna Ives
    Aug 19, 2012 @ 09:38:34

    I know what scene you are talking about! Such a Wodehouse setup. The bishop is great.

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