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REVIEW:  A Taste of Scandal by Erin Knightley

REVIEW: A Taste of Scandal by Erin Knightley

Dear Ms. Knightley:

This book is the romance between the Earl of Raleigh, Richard Moore, and Jane Bunting, baker and proprietress of a confectionaire’s shop.  Jane has good reason to despise the aristocracy and first meetings with Richard only serve to cement her opinion that they run London with little thought to the lower classes.  While the clash of classes is a conflict ripe with possibilities, it must also address how one moves within another’s world and I felt that this book did not address it enough to my satisfaction.

A Taste of Scandal by Erin KnightleyRichard Moore, Earl of Raleigh, is presented as a bit of a feckless diletantte. He parties hard and avoids his responsibilities. His parents wish for him to settle down but he is not done plowing his fields. He promises, however, to “marry the best damn paragon of English womanhood the ton had ever produced” when it is the right time. Of course the next person we meet is Jane Bunting, a poor baker, and the opposite of perfect English womanhood.

Jane Bunting’s rough hewn cousin returns after months at sea. Richard hears her cries of delight and mistakes them for fear. Believing he is saving a maiden in distress, Richard rushes to save her and engages in a fisticuffs with her cousin, destroying property within the bake shop. After trading barbs, Richard is somewhat shamed into providing funds to Jane to repair her shop by getting Jane to agree to teach him to bake as she is too full of pride to take his money even though she should take it because he decimated her china, glass cases, and baked goods.  Jane is kind of a bad business woman.

Jane provides for herself and her brother as an amazing baker. Her shop is successful but does not allow for extra fripperies and her lease is always in jeopardy because of a prudish and jealous shopkeeper across the street. Why Jane has no suitors isn’t addressed. She has only her brother and her cousin. No friends. No other family. No lovers. Making her isolated is a common artifice in romance but it lacks believability and I am chafing more and more at this.

What Jane does have is a packet of letters left to her by her mother.  These letters, at times, guide and justify Jane’s emotional interaction with Richard. I found them more corny than cute and a bit of an obvious plot device which served to only highlight Jane’s isolation.  Jane starts thinking if Richard as a suitor and love upon the first appearance of these letters which was odd given that she purportedly had no affection for titled men and Richard has only been a thorn in her side.

Richard does grow to appreciate the hard work that Jane puts in as a baker and those are the rare moments that I find him tolerable in the book.  He’s a fairly shallow person and I wonder why Jane would fall for him unless it really is just his pretty face and plump pocket.  In the beginning, his boorish behavior of put downs and snide remarks is passed off as the actions of an adorable rapscallion but thankfully he changes about half way through the book, but he still comes off as a selfish lout, using another debutante whom he has no intention of courting as cover against his mother’s matchmaking schemes.

One scene I really hated was when Richard and Jane were waltzing in Hyde Park.  Because a shopkeeper doesn’t need to be concerned about propriety, right?  After all we were told that she was only holding onto her business because her landlord believed her brother would be taken over soon and she isn’t being targeted by her prudish shopkeeper neighbor, right?  Jane just did not seem like the type of person to place herself and her brother in that kind of jeopardy. I was disgusted at Richard for treating Jane with less care because she wasn’t worthy of marrying.  Even his father calls him out:

 “Damn it, Richard, what is wrong with you? I certainly do hope you love her, because pulling a stunt like that could ruin a lady and land your neck squarely in the parson’s noose.”

“You can’t think I would have done such a thing with a lady of the ton, can you? Really Father, I know well enough to avoid that sort of trap like the plague.”

As I mention, Richard does reform but it happens too easily, without any internal struggle.  The class issue is resolved too easily and the rubble that Richard leaves in his wake isn’t really addressed.  There’s a bit of a fairy tale quality to the ending.   There are moments of humor and Jane is admirable. I was not much of a fan of Richard.  C

Best Regards,

Jane

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Reading/Watching/Baking List by Jayne for March and early April

Reading/Watching/Baking List by Jayne for March and early April

My goodness, it’s been a long time since I wrote my last “what I’ve been reading/watching” post. I know I’ve been bad, bad, bad about this. So with no more excuses, here goes.

Reading

Lessons in Laughing Out Loud by Rowan Coleman

I’m not sure what the author was aiming for here. I started this thinking it would be a Chick Lit book with a heroine who is plus sized. The heroine is overweight but it’s because she eats too much, not because she’s large boned. I was getting the feeling that by the end of the book, she would slim down. I have no problems with that but this seemed like it would be the weight version of those books with an unattractive woman who merely needs to get contacts, let her hair loose and get a clothes makeover in order to dazzle. Also, by the 100 page mark the hero (yes, I skipped to the end and peeked) had appeared only once. I debated continuing – the heroine’s boss was a delightful bitch who stole every scene she was in – but it was just too depressing at this point what with the heroine whinging on about her weight and her problems and getting dumped on by everyone. DNF

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The Midwife of Venice by Roberta Rich

This is a book which Jane sent me unsolicited so I had no expectations going into it. For me historical fiction is usually either spectacular or a clunking bomb. This one turned out to be a winner. The period details seemed correct, interesting and dropped into the narrative with a delicate touch. The characters are intriguing and I quickly came to care about them and their fates. This is a book I didn’t want to end. Full review posted this morning.

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The Return of Jonah Gray by Heather Cochran

Jonah Gray doesn’t actually go anywhere in this book. His “return” is his tax return as investigated by IRS agent Sasha Gardner. There’s a lot more to the book besides tax codes and deductions as Sasha has a lot going on in her life besides waiting to audit Jonah. Some is funny, some is bittersweet but I found myself riveted to the book and the bold chances Cochran takes with the plot. Full review to follow.

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Sacre Bleu by Christopher Moore

I’m only one chapter into this one and already I can tell it’s going to be very different from the usual Moore offering. Before I go any further, I think I need to brush up on my late 19th century artists especially Vincent Van Gogh and Henri Toulouse-Lautrec so that I can catch more of the subtle jokes that Moore has supposedly included.

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Master and God by Lindsey Davis

Davis is a long time favorite author of mine who’s written the wonderful Falco historical mysteries set during the Flavian dynasty in ancient Rome. With this book, she’s doing something slightly different from those and – I believe – more like her book “Course of Honour.” The story follows the lives of two people during the reigns of Titus and then Domitian – the second and third Emperors of a dynasty of only three. Gaius is a Praetorian Guard while Lucilla is a hairdresser to the powerful at court. Between them, they manage to be in on most of the important happenings going on and perhaps might find a romance at the end of it all. I’m only a third of the way in but so far it’s fascinating.

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Watching

Gavin and Stacey – a UK comedy about a young Englishman who corresponds with a young Welsh woman for 6 months before they finally meet and begin a romance in person. They hit it off so well, that by the end of the first season they’re already married. I watched this first season while it was still streamable from Netflix and now need to move the next seasons up in the queue. A surprise delight is Alison Steadman in the role of Gavin’s mum. New to me are Ruth Jones as Nessa and James Corden as Smithy – Gavin’s and Stacey’s BFFs who say they hate each other yet end up hot smexing each other every time they’re in the same city.

Burke and Hare – It has Simon Pegg plus Andie Serkis and is directed by John Landis. How could it go wrong? That’s what I’m asking. How on earth could this have been as bad as it was during the 30 minutes I suffered through? Not only was it not funny, it was unfunny meaning for me it tried and painfully failed.

Nurse Jackie – a dramedy about a NYC nurse played by Edie Falco. Jackie is a wisecracking old battle axe of a nurse who’s seen it all and isn’t impressed by hotshot young doctors. She’s a great mentor to new nurse Zoey, a loving mother to her two daughters, a true friend to Dr. O’Hara of the Jimmy Choos, a loving wife to her husband Kevin and has been sleeping with Eddie the ER pharmacist while popping pills on the side. Jackie’s got issues. Season three just became available at Netflix and I can’t wait to see how the intervention goes.

Chariots of Fire – I can’t believe I’d never watched this one either but honestly I hadn’t. And after finally seeing it, all I can say is that tastes certainly differ. This won an Oscar? Really? Because it about put me to sleep. File it under “would probably have enjoyed it more if I’d seen it back in the day.”

Baking

What else have I been up to? Making biscuits, that’s what. I’m a Southerner born and bred yet I blush to admit that I’d never once attempted making biscuits from scratch. That’s what older female relatives, church homecomings and Biscuitville are for. Nevertheless, after our post on Australianisms I decided to give it a go. Armed with a bag of White Lily all purpose flour and Alton Brown’s recipe I finally made my first batch of biscuits. They might not be the prettiest biscuits ever baked but mah Gawd they are good.