I read this book for the Unapologetic Romance Readers' New Years 2017 Reading Challenge. For more info about what this is, click here.
LORD OF SCOUNDRELS has been on my to-read list for five years, so I was delighted when it was selected as the book of the month for the Unapologetic Romance Readers monthly read. One of my favorite romance pairings is the no-nonsense shrew with the duke of slut. I was expecting something along the lines of Anne Stuart's RUTHLESS or Elizabeth Hoyt's DUKE OF SIN. Until about 30% of the book, I got exactly what I bargained for. Jess is a spinster considered by many to be a bluestocking who is firmly on the shelf. Sebastian, Marquess of Dain, is a half-Italian man of unconventional appearance who has been shamed since childhood on account of his large nose and flighty mother who ditched him as a young boy to go live with another man.
Dain is used to purchasing the affections of women with coin, and sees many of them as opportunistic whores (and says as much, projecting many of his mother issues onto the females in his acquaintance). He is also used to controlling others through fear, intimidation, and - of course - money, and has made a name for himself with these horribly improper behaviors. Which is why it's so funny, then, when he finds himself completely blindsided by Jess, who bamboozles him with her sharp tongue and irrefutable logic, as well as her beauty and her inherent goodness.
Then around 34%, she shoots him...to save face, I think, and allow the two of them to wed. I forget why. It was very strange. But anyway, to the shock of the ton, the two of them are married and that's when things fall apart because there's no longer any will they/won't they, no, it becomes a question of when. Within the context of their marriage, the witty banter of the first segment gives way to petty arguments, sulking, and slut-shaming, which is unfortunate because it's made clear from the very beginning that Jess is a force to be reckoned with and I didn't see the need for her to drag other women down. Dain, by contrast, becomes a sulky child who pouts and throws fits when he doesn't get his way. This is a far cry from the imposing, dangerous figure he's presented as from the beginning, and while I appreciated the author's attempts to make him vulnerable, it didn't really pan out. I think she could have conveyed his fragile emotional state without making him such a shit. Some of the things he said about his own son were just totally repulsive.
Also, the sex scenes were not noteworthy. There's the typical jack-in-the-box peen action, where the peen springs out of trousers like a wind-up toy, and talk of feminine curves and sleek curls, but there's also a few retroly bizarro lines like this: He trailed his tongue over one sleek eyebrow (67%). Which is very strange, although not quite as strange as the "arousing" eyelid-licking scene in FOREVER AND THE NIGHT. It's worth noting that both of these books also have a very odd scene about desperately having to go to the bathroom and also desperately needing to talk about it, as at one point, Dain tells Jess that sex will have to wait because he needs to drain the main vein: "I can't wait around to pick you up. My bladder is about to explode" (65%). Thanks for sharing.
I'm very disappointed not to have liked this more, because many of my friends raved about LORD OF SCOUNDRELS and it's on all the romance lists of note and I'd been lusting after this book (and that cover) for years, desperately hoping that it would live up to all the hype. Sadly, it did not. It's yet another 90s romance novel making the awkward transition from bodice ripper to modern historical romance, and it falls into one of those awkward trenches of fail where it has the worst attributes of both. Perhaps you will enjoy this more than me - especially if you love Beauty and the Beast, and find the plot of an intelligent woman being saddled with a sulky, miserable man appealing.
2 out of 5 stars