After the wedding of convenience, and after the reputations are saved and things are put in place to ensure the linage of whatever is in dire need of an heir, comes the marriage. This is a book about two people who did not think too much beyond the wedding breakfast.
Well, that’s not fair. They did. But they didn’t think about it together. The running theme of Season for Scandal is “HOW DO I RELATIONSHIP” with a side of “HOW DO I ADULT.”
Jane (the cousin of Xavier, the hero of Romain’s Season for Surrender, a November 2012 book club pick) is a little bit too smart for her own good, a little bit too unrefined, and a lot bit bored. Her cousin (who is, I think her guardian) thinks she’s irresponsible, and turned her trust fund into a dowry, so to pass the time and get money, she’s taken to gambling. This normally works well, because she’s a damn fine card counter, but then she loses ten thousand pounds to an asshole with five aces.
Edmund Ware, Baron Kirkpatrick, a baron from Cornwall, but also a close family friend, happens to rescue her, and as she needs access to her ten thousand pound dowry, and he needs an heir as soon as possible, they agree to marry. The negotiations are along the lines of “name what you want, and it’s yours” so Jane gets six new dresses, and a horse and a shitton of bonnets. They are both well pleased until the wedding night, when she accidently blurts out her big secret- she loves him (and has for quite a long time).
Edmund has a lot of problems and a lot of secrets. One of those secrets from his past has reared its ugly, ugly head, and he fully expects to be killed, and instead of dealing with that (and the resulting stomach problems), he thinks he deserves that fate, but wants an heir in order to make sure his family is protected. He didn’t think about what BEING married would be like. He thinks that if he just gives Jane what she asks for, everything will be perfect.
Jane, on the other hand, doesn’t have much experience with London society. She does her best by imitating people, but that can only get you so far. She doesn’t know how to dance or ride, and she wants Edmund to give her what he wants to give her, but she wants what he wants to be the same as what she wants AND ALSO to have this all happen organically with no communication.
(I mean, I can understand that- she’s young and there’s a romantic fallacy and also “I want you to do thing X, but I don’t want you to do it if you don’t want to, so if you don’t want X, then I don’t want X.” which is a thing it took me a long time to sort of unpack, that it’s okay to say “I want X.” and not have it be conditional. It’s as frustrating to be doing that to your partner as it is to have it done to you… but it stems (at least in my case) from the desire to not be a demanding asshole.) (Seriously, at this point “want” no longer looks like a word.)
As an example of how these two are terrible at communication, Jane wanted a horse of her own to ride- it was one of her conditions of the marriage. But she doesn’t know how to ride, and what she wants is Edmund to be the one to teach her, but she also wants him to notice and come to that conclusion on his own. Edmunds thinks the way to make Jane happy is to give her things and occasionally go to balls, and that will be enough. See what I mean about two people who have no idea how to relationship? It’s so sad, because these two are capable of a ridiculous amount of love and could have a really lovely, happy life together if they’d sit down and use their words.
There are plots about Irish rebellions and revenge and estranged families and what it really means to be scandal, and that’s all great, but the real meat of the book is HOW FRUSTRATED I was with the characters, and how sad I was that they couldn’t get their shit together. I don’t mean that in a bad way. They are meant to be frustrating, and they are meant to be people who you want to grab by the ears and go “OH MY GOD WILL YOU USE YOUR WORDS FOR ONCE YOU ARE MAKING ME UNHAPPY.” And the thing that makes this work is how the character growth slowly builds and builds. They do learn, and get better, and it’s not like this frustration is thrown in purely for the plot to work, like some other books we could all name. This is the point. This is the plot. It's not a Big Misunderstanding, it's a series of small ones that all happen because these two won't talk about all of their feels.
(I had a lot of feels reading this.)
As someone who also has difficulty relationshipping, I really, really liked this. There are a lot of well-drawn side characters, and an entertainingly evil bad guy, and (quelle surprise) actual learning. I wasn’t even 1/4 done before I was emailing Sarah going “WE NEED EVERYONE TO READ THIS” because I was getting super emotional over everybody and everything. Read the book! You'll be happy you did.