REVIEW: Book of Scandal by Julia London
Dear Ms. London:
I can’t remember the last time I read a Julia London book. I thought that your books were more, well, flighty or frivolous. Maybe I got your name confused in my head with another author which happens not infrequently for me. In any event, I liked the plot of this story even though I thought the execution was wobbly in places.
Nathan Grey, Earl of Lindsey, and his wife, Evelyn, separated three years ago. He stayed at the Abbey, the Lindsey family estate for over 400 years, and Evelyn went to London. If you read the dedication, the reader gets a clue to why that is. Nathan and Evelyn lost their son and their marriage, already on shaky ground due to Evelyn’s youthfulness and Nathan’s desire that his pre marriage life not change, fell apart. Nathan turned the Abbey into a house of ill repute full of gaming and whoring. Evelyn became the Lady of the Bedchamber to Princess Mary and has lived a fairly virtuous life during the three year separation.
It is brought to Nathan’s attention that his wife has been implicated by Princess Caroline as having some scandalous knowledge about Prince Williams and will be named in Princess Caroline’s upcoming “Book of Scandal”. Nathan goes to London to fetch Evelyn home, make it look like they have reconciled and protect the Lindsey name.
I really enjoy the reunited lovers’ theme and the best part of the book was when it focused on their past shared pain and how they are overcoming it now. However, this book has such a superficial feel at times for the seriousness of the emotional conflict.
First, I thought that the historical aspect, while intriguing, was painted with broad, weak strokes with lots of whitespace showing through. We were told that Evelyn was a Lady of the Bedchamber but wasn’t aware of the intrigue that was swirling around the prime political figures of the day. She wasn’t aware that there was gossip about her in any fashion, nor was she aware that her status as Lady of the Bedchamber could be impaired by the gossip. Nathan had to inform of her of the perilousness of her position and the impact it might have on the Lindsey name. There was little information given as to how Evelyn achieved Lady of the Bedchamber, the political machinations and so forth. It seemed that Evelyn was placed in the position, not because she was in any way politically savvy but because it was convenient and necessary for the plot.
Second, while the emotional parts relating to the death of the couple’s child, the collapse of their marriage and ultimate reuniting was moving, it lacked consistency in the progression. Issues relating to the collapse were brought up and made to be important issues by the amount of ink spent toward the discussion of them, but these issues were never resolved in favor of the whole idea that the “I love you” can wipe away all types of past conflicts. Maybe in other stories this would work, but the whole premise of this particular story was that the hero and heroine could not maintain a marriage built just upon romantic feelings.
Third, is a bit of a spoiler
Fourth, I didn’t really understand the characters actions toward each other. Evelyn was supposedly falling in love or in love with another man when Nathan drags her back to the Abbey yet this ‘love’ doesn’t prevent Evelyn from having strong physical feelings toward Nathan to the point that she is acting as if she is going to seduce Nathan. Nathan acknowledges that his wife has changed quite a bit in 3 years and within a few days of having her back in the Abbey is determined to win her over. I couldn’t really figure out why. Was it because he loved the new her that he came to discovery within a few hours spent in her company? or because he loved the old her? For both of them, I felt like their reunion and reconciliation was mostly a physical reaction.
Still, despite these issues, this is a superficially good read. The hero recognizes nearly instantly that he is in love with the heroine. He’s fearless in her defense. I can see that this would be a very enjoyable read but my overall enjoyment was significantly marred by the questions I kept having as to dangling issues, inconsistent character motivations and the superficial quality of the historical aspect. C
This book can be purchased in mass market from Amazon or Powells or ebook format.
I kind of got where she was going, but Evelyn’s character outside the grief didn’t gel with the incapacitation she was alleged to have suffered. Only at the very end of the novel did I really get any sense of it. Up til that point she seemed to be far too well adjusted for the scenario to have worked.
A few things touched me– the wooden horse thing snaggaed at my heart strings. But for the most part the premise of this great divide created by grief seemed flimsy. It was almost like somebody trying to write an emotion they didn’t truly understand, though that’s just a personal impression and probably means nothing. There was just a sense of… second hand retelling rather than the raw emotion I’d expected.