REVIEW: Scandal on His Doorstep by Deborah Hale
A baby is left on Jack Warwick’s doorstep. And the notorious rake doesn’t know if the child is his. Jack shares a Mayfair town house with two friends, and a note left with the baby suggests one of the three bachelors is the father…but which one? And who will care for the child until they can locate her mother?
Jack can think of only one woman he would trust with such a delicate task. Annabelle Robb, the penniless widow of his cousin, has been too proud to accept his financial support. Enlisting her help with the baby is the perfect excuse to provide for the woman who was once his dearest friend.
Annabelle agrees, with great reluctance. She cannot turn her back on an abandoned child, for both she and Jack know the pain of being unwanted. Yet she fears rekindling her old feelings for him, which were once far more than friendly…until he broke her heart
Though Jack cannot be certain he is the baby’s father, his growing affection for the child makes him vow to reform his ways. Yet the more time he spends with Annabelle, the more he is torn between a sense of duty to find and marry the child’s mother …and his growing desire for Annabelle!
Dear Ms. Hale,
I will confess my secret and admit that the movie “Three Men and a Baby” is a guilty pleasure. The homage to that film was immediate when I read the blurb and hoping for a lighthearted Regency remake, I bought it. The start is the comedy I was looking for but unfortunately that didn’t last long.
Men trying to deal with an infant still provokes laughter and any small changes in their devotion to said infant once they get used to her still earns men too many bonus points then and now. Still, watching Annabelle guilt them into twisting in the wind of their past rakish behavior is fun. Seeing the three men begin to take responsibility for Sarah and start to realize the inequalities of shame heaped on women v men is emotionally satisfying even if it’s probably realistically far-fetched.
Then the conflict between Jack and Annabelle begins to take over the plot. Of course they believe wildly inaccurate things about each other and just as “of course” they refuse to reveal the truth so the misunderstandings can abound. Rinse and repeat along with lots of mental lusting for which they both heap coals of guilt on their own heads because it’s so often in the company of Sarah and one mustn’t lust in the presence of an infant, I guess. Plus Annabelle longs to hurl things at Jack far too often when she gets mad at him.
But I want to know Sarah’s parentage so I continue.
The by now well publicized scandal surrounding the three young men attempting to solve this mystery leads to a ton ball at which grave mistakes are made with aristocratic titles. Jane recently mentioned this in another review and I have to agree that this one at least, is easy to get correct so the continued reference to a Duke as Lord Whoosis grated. And suddenly two new plot threads are introduced out of nowhere. I guess they’ll figure in the upcoming sequels as they both fizzle out here.
After a lifetime of yearning for Jack yet steadfastly and nobly denying herself despite his recent proposals, wine finally loosens Annabelle’s garters. Right after being publicly insulted and sneered at during the ball. Sure, right. Just when these two finally get together for cataclysmic sex and confess all, the action zooms straight to It’s Final Conflict Time. In a dizzying change, they go from lovey dovey to daggers drawn and then it’s more disaster that follows.
Now this is when I lost some respect for Annabelle. A potential mamma appears and instead of being happy for Sarah to get her mother back or even nobly putting aside her desires, as she’s got so much practice doing already, Annabelle casts aspersions on the woman. Okay she was right about her but after heaping guilt trips on the men at the beginning for similar statements and feelings – well, I call that rich. Oh, the scandal if the heir to an Earldom weds this woman! What happened to her earlier defense of poor women pushed to desperate measures and left to face societal scorn? When it’s Annabelle’s happiness at stake, she’s willing to sing a different tune.
The rest of the novel plays out with Right and Truth and True Love eventually triumphing but I had a bad taste in my mouth. Despite the secret of Sarah’s parentage still being unsolved, I have my doubts that I’ll continue with this series. C-