REVIEW: Before the Scandal by Suzanne Enoch
Dear Ms. Enoch:
I really adored After the Kiss and I was hopeful, given the prominence that Bram was given in AtK that this would be his book. However, it is not. This is the story of Lieutenant Colonel Phineas Bromley who ran away from the world and joined the Royal Dragoons in his youth because of something horrible he had done. Ten years later, Phin was going home at the request of his sister, Elizabeth, who had suggested in her last missive that their brother, Viscount Quence, was on his deathbed.
When Phineas arrives at Quence Park in East Sussux, he finds William, Viscount Quence, looking pretty hale for a chair bound individual. William was paralyzed in a riding accident that occurred, coincidentally, 10 years ago. While Elizabeth’s summons are based on false reasons, what is real is a number of strange occurrences that are taking place at Quence Park, a string of really bad luck that is threatening the estate and the heritage of the Bromley family. Elizabeth begs for him to stay without giving him the reasons why and Phin decides that he has neglected his family for far too long.
Alyse Donnelly lives on the neighboring estate. Prior to Phin’s leaving for the Royal Dragoons, Alyse and Phin shared a heavy flirtation. After Phin left, Alyse became embroiled in a major scandal, her parents died, and her cousin became Viscount Donnelly leaving Alyse to be the poor hanger-on relation. Her life has been miserable for the past seven years. She’s been serving as the unpaid companion to her aunt, a woman who takes pleasure in being difficult. She’s been scrimping and saving to get enough money someday to leave the family and go live by herself, but it will be years before that comes to fruition. Alyse both welcomes and resents Phin’s re-entry in her life. She’s become resigned to her fate and Phin stirs up wants and desires and discontent.
Much of this story is told in a "hide the ball" fashion so that the readers are kept in suspense about why Elizabeth wanted Phin to come back; what William’s true feelings are toward Phin; what the scandal was about Alyse; and what happened to Phin all those 10 years ago. It’s fairly easy to guess most of the answers but the characters on the stage couldn’t get clued in fast enough for my taste. For example, Phin seems bewildered as to why he was called home by Elizabeth when the answer seems so patently obvious. I kind of wanted to shake Phin a bit and say, "see the forest. It’s full of trees, you dunderhead." His cluelessness didn’t seem to fit into the overall character picture that I thought was being provided.
My impatience at the slow development of the plot marred my enjoyment of the romance between Alyse and Phin. The subterfuge felt purposely drawn out to ratchet up faux suspense. While the characters of Phin, Alyse, Elizabeth and William were well done, the villians were much less so.
At first, the plot of the villians was really ingenuous which I appreciated because it seemed realistic, genuine, until the ending when the villiany was ratched up 10 levels to the point it became nearly a caricature. Sometimes I feel like only heroes and good guys can come up with decent villianous plots (like a hero’s revenge plot that is perfectly plotted to ruin everyone including the heroine’s family).
This story deserves two grades, in my opinion, the rekindled romance between Phin and Alyse is sweet, tender and believable and deserves a B. The plodding pacing and the overthe top villiany, a C. I guess the average is either a C+ or a B-. I’m going with the C+ because of the plot. Bring on Bram though. I can’t WAIT for his story.