REVIEW: Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Duke’s Heart by Sarah MacLean
Dear Ms. MacLean:
I read this book back in February of 2011. I remember the date clearly because I started reading it the night I got to the Tools of Change convention. Angela James, Jenny Bullough (of Harlequin) and Sarah Wendell and I went shoe shopping the following day at what is seems to have become an annual event. The problem is I didn’t really want to go shoe shopping. I wanted to finish my book. So I kept reading. While they tried to talk to me in the taxi. While they walked me down Lexington Avenue. While they gathered shoe boxes about 6 feet high. I really wanted to finish the book. Yes, finishing this book was more important to me than buying shoes. There’s your endorsement.
Despite the frothiness of the title, this book has quite a bit of meat to it. Miss Juliana Fiori is the half sister of the twin brothers who are featured in the first two books of the series. The hero is Simon, the Duke of Leighton. It is a classic tale of opposites. Juliana lives a life of scandal, thumbing her nose at societal conventions in every way she can without actually stepping over the line to be ruined. Simon is vying for the most virtuous man in society, in part out of duty and in part out of desire.
Juliana was born a scandal. Her mother was the former Marchioness of Ralston who ran out on her family with Juliana’s father, an Italian merchant. Her mother then abandons said Italian merchant and Juliana. When Juliana’s father dies, her guardianship is given over to her half brother and she is shipped to England where society views her as a lesser because of her mother, her birth, and her family. Juliana struggles with both wanting to be liked and fit in and disdaining the rigid morality. In order to prevent herself from being hurt by those who look down on her Juliana decides that the societal mores are for the dull and uninspired. If she cares about being a scandal, then she’s doomed to live in misery because society already hates and despises her. Over the course of the book, we see that Juliana is both right and wrong. She is right that she is viewed as a scandal but she is wrong to think she couldn’t have overcome some of the opinions of those who occupy the ton but in flaunting the rules, she is pushed farther and farther to the margin. As Simon notes:
Scandal was not her choice.
It was her burden.
Her bold words and her brave face were not borne out of pleasure but out of self-preservation.
When acts occur that make Juliana truly beyond the pale, she learns what true scandal is like and it is this sort of scene that impresses upon the reader what Simon is trying to avoid for those that he loves. The women of the ton turn from talking about her behind their fans to actually publicly attacking her to her face and Juliana begins to see the painful price of being considered a scandal.
Even his mother says to him:
” The duchess leaned forward and steeled her tone. “She is so far beneath you, she’s barely good enough to take to mistress.”
Juliana’s pain is so poignant. Her longing to be loved and accepted was palpable. Her heart was the opposite of the grinch. It was too sizes too big. And I loved where she decides that she is a person of worth and that she is deserving of someone who can love her without reservation, even if that someone is not Simon.
Simon has very good reasons to want to marry well and live a life of propriety. If anyone has read Ten Ways, the second in the series, they’ll know why but essentially he fears what Juliana suffers at one point in the book. Where the people of society, his peers, turn on him and generally make him and his family outcasts.
[spoiler]Simon’s unwed sister is having a baby out of wedlock.[/spoiler]
As Simon spends more time with Juliana, he realizes how passion can overcome the best intentions. He begins to act in ways that are anathema to him and to his beliefs. His passion for Juliana leads him to act as a rogue and rake and he despises his own weakness. Simon is also good friends with Juliana’s brothers. His actions toward them and then his actions toward their sister make him realize what a hypocrite he is. Simon’s downfall, however, is necessary for him to realize that a life without passion would be empty and just as painful as life being cast out of society.
The great thing about this book is that within the course of romance, Simon and Juliana grow as characters to the extent that their character arcs cross each other and kind of flip as Simon races toward more scandal and Juliana tries to embrace more propriety. The rigidity of both their positions is highlighted and you see the flaws in both their positions. Juliana learns that one can’t be ruled by passion at all times and Simon learns that rigidity of moral position is no comfort at night.
There was such respect in this book for the reader. I felt like this is one of those books carefully layered where each scene, each word has meaning and I could re-read it a dozen times and still discover new things in the story. It’s an A book for me.
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I’m sure I’d have been more interested in reading it than shoe shopping as well, except I’d already read it. It’s an A book from me as well, and I’m not a huge historical reader. But she did an excellent job with this book. I’d also add, to those who read her previous books in this series, that I liked the first book but couldn’t finish the second. But I loved this one.
I love this review, and the way you describe this heroine I know I’m going to cry over this book…*S*
Oh..and I hate shoes…I love the way great shoes look, but those babies would be wrecked in a week considering where I live..*S*
pommawolf @ hotmail dot com
Ah, I loved the firs two books in this series. Looks like I’ll have to reread them before this one comes out, because it’s been awhile. I’d been waffling on whether or not to buy this book, since though I liked MacLean’s other books, I didn’t LOVE them, and the price point on this one had me wondering whether I really wanted it or not, but you’ve sold it to me. This sounds a lot less lighthearted and fluffy than her other books, and though I love some fluff on occasion, I also love a story with some good weight to it.
I thought the emotional impact of this one was a lot greater than the other two. I also don’t think you have to read the other two at all in order to read this one (though I am a big proponent of reading in order!)
I’m intrigued but I haven’t read the earlier two books yet. Would you say this one stands on its own?
@Angela James: I cross-posted with you but see that you answered my question. Thanks!
This book sounds wonderful, as long as you can see past the very unappealing cover and title. I don’t normally judge a book by its cover but in this case it takes a bit of a leap of faith to buy it. Had it not been for the wonderful reviews and because I loved the first two on the series (and those two were also lacking on the cover/title department), I might have missed it instead of adding it to my wish list.
I’m currently wallowing in this one. I’ve never read Sarah MacLean, and while it’s clear there are books that precede this one, I’m in no way lost or wondering what the heck is going on. You’re right Jane, there’s tons and tons of subtext in this book and it’s really a reader’s delight. Barring something horrible happening (I’m 70% done), it will end up being an A read for me as well.
Oh, I have no idea if the books stands on its own or not (though apparently it does!. I’m just an oddball in that if a book contains characters we’ve seen previously, and I’ve forgotten a bit about the previous books, I like to read back to at least re-situate myself in the world.
I have the first of the series – 9 Ways to somethingorother – on my Kindle. I should start reading it here soon.
I loved the first book in this series, but I thought the second lacked the charm — and the heroine really got on my nerves.
I’m looking forward to reading Eleven Scandals!
Nice review. I really liked Juliana in the first two books and am looking forward to reading this one. The duke was so rigid in the second book that it will be interesting to see how he changes in this one. (Correction: It was “too” sizes too big – “two”)
OK, now I’m intrigued. Off to Nook it.
Oh oh oh. This sounds so good. I was sad after several DNF’s in a row and thought it was just me. Then I read a Julie James (b/c of this site) and loved it. Then I snarfed down a Madeline Hunter (Sinful in Satin) over Easter and loved it. I’m ready to love some more. Adding this to my list. Did anyone love the first two? I’d rather read in order, but I’ll stick to the A’s if there’s a consensus. Thanks.
I tried to like this book, but I couldn’t get past Simon’s hypocrisy. I really ended up hating him and I had to put the book down. Too bad really, I loved Juliana.
@Gretchen Galway I don’t think that you have to read the first two. The story isn’t about a big surprise or spoilers or anything so you learn about why Simon wants to live a life of uber propriety right away. The story is really about how Simon and Juliana can find a middle ground emotionally and psychologically to make their love for each other work.
Oh, I’m so excited that this book is good! I just learned about this third one today when I was doing a review for Ten Ways to be Adored When Landing a Lord at Goodreads. I was pretty disappointed in that one, but I LOVED 9 Ways/Rake so I was hoping against hope the third one was great. I am already kind of crushed on Leighton from the last book–I love the anti-heroes who really need to redeem themselves. Yippee! Going to pick this up tomorrow.
I have been searching for another author to live up to my Laura Kinsale/Jo Bev/Judith McNaught favorites, and so far MacLean is in the lead.
And yes, @Gretchen, Madeline Hunter is another recent fave of mine! LOVED Sinful in Satin.
I loved the first book in the series (haven’t read the second yet), and wanted to love this book. It is certainly well written but I just couldn’t get into it. Don’t know if it was the mood I was in,or something else. I got about 100 pages in and then stopped. I have nothing to complain about – the story just didn’t grab my attention. I will leave it for a while and then try to reread. Sometimes it is just me and I enjoy the book at the next reading.
@Annabel re: Madeline Hunter. I wouldn’t have picked up the book if it weren’t for a megasale at a closing Border’s… Now I’ve got that palm-rubbing delight that she’s got a big backlist and I’ve just discovered her. (Though I did read one of her others, this one cemented the relationship, so to speak.)
I’m not sure I like the sound of this hero, but I like flaws and men named Simon, so…bookmarking.
I’m enjoying an eARC of Eleven Scandals that I got from Netgalley. I’m about halfway through, and while I’m not loving Leighton, there’s enough chemistry between him and Juliana that I’ll happily keep reading.
Oh! I can’t wait to read this one. I’ve been waiting and waiting. I’m so glad that you liked it. I sense a sleepless night ahead!
Oooh, I loved Sarah’s previous books. Thanks for the reminder this one’s now available, Jane!
I just finished reading reading ‘Ten ways…’ and cannot wait to download this book!
Thanks for the great review!
I love this series (I just finished “10 ways…”)! Thanks for the great review!
After reading and falling in love with Julie Ann Long’s writing with “I Kissed an Earl” after having avoided it for months, I told myself that I would no long judge a book by it’s title. But “Eleven Sandals to Start to win a Duke’s Heart”? Not to mention the titles of the previous two books? Ugh. It’s going to be a while before I can bring myself to read anything in this series.
Publishers, I beg you…stop with the cutesy titles that rhyme or allude to some movie or song.
@Las: Oh, so glad you enjoyed I Kissed an Earl, I thought it was wonderful. I agree with you about the title of that book, and in general about other song-inspired titles for historicals. It almost always jars me because it’s such a modern reference.
But I actually like Sarah Maclean’s rhyming titles. I find myself saying them in my head just because I like the sound of them so much!
I have some books with dreadful titles on my shelves but really this is one of the worst I’ve seen. Eleven scandals is too many for one book. And it suggests a tedious plot structure. And then the title is so long and unwieldy and has that twee rhyme in it. I’m afraid it makes me assume that this will be the worst kind of Hollywood-teen-romance-in-period-costume book. Especially with that cover.
The review kind of makes me want to give it a go, but everything about the book itself makes me cringe.
I just finished this one yesterday (did not read the first two) and I totally agree with the A rating – wonderful book. LOVED Simon and Juliana.
I loved this book and agree with Jane that it’s so layered and beautifully written that it really gets under your skin. ELEVEN SCANDALS is my favorite of Sarah Maclean’s books so far. I loved the first one, the second one I enjoyed (but felt meh at the end), but this third one blows them all away.
I reacted just as you did, and could not put this book down! I devoured it in less than 24 hours.
The second book in the series was a bit silly, but this book had true obstacles for the hero and heroine to overcome, both external and internal.
I would also give it an A.
@Moviemavengal: So glad you enjoyed it!
@Cynthia Justlin: It did seem such a tighter story.
So funny. I just this second got back from Target with a copy of this (25% off list!) in my bag.
I love the feeling that there’s a great book I haven’t read yet and it’s in my hot little hands.
I’m only about thirty pages into Eleven Scandals and I’m enjoying it, but I have to disagree with this comment. So far the characters keep referencing and thinking about things that happened in earlier books and not having read those earlier books, I feel like I’m missing part of the picture.
OK, I just finished it. I have to agree also that the characters from the previous books do have a large role here. It reminds me of Jo Beverly’s books; they’re siblings and very interrelated. Not just a single cameo. Great if you love a saga.
@Gretchen Galway: How did you like the book?
I loved the characters, and the chemistry was great. The style wasn’t quite my cup of tea (I’m looking for more English-feeling Regencies at the moment, and this one had more of a contemp American feel), but I can see why it was a hit.
I’m only about half way through this book and I’m not enjoying it as much as I liked the first two books. I feel like there isn’t a passage in the book that doesn’t mention the heroine and scandal and I feel like there is so much emphasis put on it. I get it, her circumstances are less then ideal and everyone one except her family and close friends think the worst. I’m finding it difficult to really like the characters, as I feel like there isn’t as much development as there was in the first two books. I’m hoping that the book will get better! I do like Sarah Maclean and will buy future books by her.