Joan Bennet is tired of being a wallflower. Thanks to some deliciously scandalous—and infamous—stories, she has a pretty good idea of what she's missing as a spinster. Is even a short flirtation too much to ask for?
Tristan, Lord Burke, recognizes Joan at once for what she is: trouble. Not only is she his best friend's sister, she always seems to catch him at a disadvantage. The only way he can win an argument is by kissing her senseless. He'd give anything to get her out of her unflattering gowns. But either one of those could cost him his bachelor status, which would be dreadful—wouldn't it?
And here is JW's review:
Love and Other Scandals begins with an eight-year-old Joan Bennet receiving a red rose from Tristan Burke and thinking, “A flower was lovely, but if he’d really wanted to thank her, he might have brought a teacake at least.”
So I hope you will understand when I say that I have a massive crush on Joan.
I mean, in the beginning of the book, she charges into her brother’s flat on an errand, meets (un)cute again with Tristan and this happens:
“Are you trying to wake the dead?”
She considered it. “Perhaps. But if he is dead, I have to kick his body personally to be sure. My mother will insist.”
But while Joan is witty and fearless, when the novel starts, she’s also a spinster who’s been through multiple demoralizing Seasons and is penned in by her overbearing mother.
In a lot of the Regencies I’ve read recently, often the novel will focus more on the hero getting over his emotional hangups/Dark Past, so I was really pleased that the majority of Scandals is actually about Joan’s growth as a character and, even though Tristan had an unhappy childhood, he does absolutely zero brooding or dithering around. (Although, is it some law of the romance novel that the hero must have a sad past? They’re like Disney princesses sometimes.)
There are also some excellent female friendships in this book. Joan has two close female friends and later finds a mentor and role model in her unconventional aunt—who is sent to chaperone her when her mother is struck by a Mysterious Illness and leaves for Cornwall.
Speaking of Lady Bennet though, my own mother is quite domineering (on a scale of 1 to Amy Chua, she is like a 6.7), but she means well, so I really identified with Joan’s relationship with her own mother. Especially at one point when Tristan accuses her of being afraid of her mother and she says:
“…I don’t fear my mother.” She paused. She didn’t, truly she didn’t… she was just a little nervous about telling her mother certain things.
I was also impressed by how Linden portrayed the relationship without being heavy handed and making Lady Bennet villainous. Instead, she’s depicted as not necessarily being wrong, but just not having the right answers for Joan. And, in turn, Joan’s rebellions do end up having their own consequences too.
Joan’s other problem is that the fashions of the day really don’t suit her body type and she spends part of the book discovering flattering clothing. (Although the fashion geek inside me kept rooting for her to discover anti-fit and begin showing up to balls dressed in oversize linen overalls.)
But while there’s a lot of talk about gowns, I liked that Joan’s fashion problems don’t completely consume her character. It is just that, partly because her clothes don’t suit her, she begins the book not feeling attractive or desirable but wishing she could be.
Which is where our eligible bachelor comes in.
The romance is your classic girl meets boy, they argue and swear to have nothing more to do with each other but then each can’t stop thinking about making out with the other kind of thing.
In fact, it actually reminded me a little of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Partly because Joan and Tristan are extremely witty and scathing to each other, but mostly because they both begin with negative impressions of each other that are largely incorrect until they slowly come to understand one another. In this case, he sees her as a “Fury” (i.e. a meddlesome, demanding woman) and, in turn, she thinks he is a dissolute rake.
I’m generally pretty skeptical of “reformed rake” plots, but while Tristan is not entirely well behaved, it’s pointed out several times that Joan’s brother leads about the same sort of dissipated lifestyle and his status as a rake has a lot more to do with society’s perception of him. Tristan is also the era’s equivalent of a tech enthusiast and at one point is more interested in an updated gas burner than the woman who has literally thrown her panties at him.
Although there is still the requisite “But he’s the biggest rake in London” conversation. (Sometimes I wonder about all these “biggest rakes” wandering the landscape of romance novel Regency England. Maybe they should form a society or something.)
When I was taking notes while rereading this book in preparation for writing this review, I wrote the word “subtle” in all caps and underlined it twice. And I think that’s what really elevates this book for me. (Although the fact that the heroine and her friends also spend a lot of time and energy trying to procure and read an erotic serial is a close second.) In Love and Other Scandals, Linden hits the Goldilocks zone on basically everything, along with writing a truly great heroine.
This book is available from Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Kobo | https://www.omnilit.com/product-loveandotherscandals-1244205-237.html?referrer=sbtb” target=”_blank”>All Romance eBooks