REVIEW: Scandalous by Night by Barbara Pierce
Dear Ms. Pierce:
You are a new to me author and I have to say that this book has me conflicted. On the one hand it contains a lot of trite writing and plot elements: the merry band of friends, their loving wives who appeared in previous stories and are now great friends, and a revenge plot. On the other, some of the scenes really contained raw emotionalism that moved me.
Lord Townsend Elliot Lidsaw, Viscount Everod, has been estranged from his family for twelve years. His father banished him after Everod and his father’s young wife, Georgette, were caught dallying in the gardens. After almost being garroted by his father, Everod left but vowed revenge. When Maura, the niece of Georgette who was responsible for tattling on Everod and Georgette, arrives in London to have a Season before marrying Everod’s brother, Everod sees his opportunity. He’ll seduce Maura, strike a blow against his family, and ruin the plans of Georgette all in one fell swoop.
Everod is presented as an angry man, ruled by his emotions which makes a revenge plot difficult to carry out. He’s a hot head, prone to fisticuffs rather than restraint. I found him intriguing but inconsistent in his characterization. I found that when Everod was speaking, he was at his most genuine.
“The tales you’ve heard about me are the only ones that can be told in polite company. Trust me, I have done worse. I’m a scoundrel, a notorious ake, Maura, and you have whetted my base appetite. Run, little girl. I love a good chase.”
But often, when he is having internal monologues or when we see things from his point of view, the language is filled with overdone adjectives and overly florid prose:
“Loathing. Pain. Loneliness. Need.
A seething hurricane was swirling inside him, and at the center he saw Maura Keighly staring at him with her wary sea-gray eyes.”
Katiebabs is right when she says that Scandalous by Night is not a wallpaper historical. There is definitely a feel of authenticity to the period. It’s the writing that is so stilted at times for me as if the writing is being forced to fit some imaginary guideline of what a romance historical should sound like. There were what I felt were melodramatic turns of phrases such as
- “Your sadness tears at my heart.”
- “Maura could only pray that the gentleman’s thirst for revenge had waned over the twelve years of silence.”
- “He aligned himself with a treacherous whore. . .”
And frankly, Everod’s revenge seemed misplaced. He acknowledged that Georgiana had taken advantage of a 15-16 year old boy on the cusp of manhood teasing him until he was “mad”. Yet, he couldn’t understand how a 10 year old girl who saw the two of them together might choose to stand with the woman she saw as a mother figure? It’s a sort of injustice that never was addressed.
For many of the trite storylines, I found fresh takes. The band of merry men don’t always get along and Everod, the hero, doesn’t uniformly like everyone (including a friend’s child). I found that Everod’s force of personality was such that he dominated the page. Maura’s character wasn’t strong enough for Everod’s. It didn’t seem a match for me.
There are some very gritty emotional scenes in the book, both of a sexual nature and a non-sexual one. In the end, the genuine parts of the book were bogged down by the forced nature of the introspection and narrative. The abbreviated closure at the end also left me a little befuddled. I’m interested in trying another, different Pierce book but overall, this one was too uneven for me. C