Thursday, September 01, 2011

"One Night of Scandal," by Teresa Medeiros

The Chick: Carlotta Anne Fairleigh - a.k.a. "Lottie." A spoiled and mischievous debutante who just wants to read, write Gothic novels, and collect cats. Oh - and violate people's privacy in order to spice up her novel.
The Rub: Her love for Gothic novels wanes when she winds up compromised with an infamous Marquess would could very well be the hero of one. Or the villain. Dream Casting: Brittany Snow.

The Dude: Hayden St. Clair - a.k.a. the "Murderous Marquess," whom society believes killed his friend and his wife when he found them in bed together. The Rub: After the way his first marriage turned out, he's not pleased to be roped into a second with a girl he barely knows. Ah well, it's only 'til death. Dream Casting: Aidan Turner.

The Plot:
Lottie's Relatives: Time to be an adult, darling!

Lottie: *escaping out window* Five more minutes!

Lottie and Hayden: *compromised!*

Lottie's Relatives: Time to marry and save our darling Lottie's reputation! *mean glares*

Hayden: Five more minutes?

Hayden and Lottie: *married*

Hayden: Time to meet and tame your new Token Rebellious Stepchild!

Lottie: Snooze button, please.

Lottie and Token Rebellious Stepchild: *Token Rebellious Parenting*

Lottie: Okay, it's time for you to grow up and stop being such a stupid self-hating SadFace!

Hayden: Just a few more minutes?

Lottie: *leaves*

Hayden: *follows* Okay I'm done.

Lottie: HOORAY!
Romance Convention Checklist

1 Would-Be Writer

1 Stupid Ugly Friend

1 Crazy Wife (Deceased)

1 Token Rebellious Stepchild

Far Too Many Kittens

1 Highly Successful Novel

1 Confrontation with Duelling Pistols

I Stormswept Cliff

The Word: Just off of reading To Ruin the Duke, a story that tries to be Serious and Dramatic but is really just Unbalanced and Crazy, I found One Night of Scandal, a delightful meringue of a novel that doesn't just toe the line between Madcap and, well, Just Plain Mad, it tapdances.

One Night of Scandal is a particularly frothy example of a good Crazy Romance. It takes a certain amount of skill to take the archetypes, Animal Sidekicks, and Nosy Heroines of a Julia Quinn novel and mix it with the Deep, Dark Angst of a Bronte novel.

My previous flirtation with Teresa Medeiros started beautifully, had a fantastic twist, only to crash and burn at the very end, so I was a little tentative about this novel. Everything we initially know about Lottie Fairleigh, this novel's heroine, screamed Very Fucking Annoying. She 's into Gothic novels. She's cosseted by her family. She drove her finishing school teachers insane with mischievous pranks and is both the bane and the apple of her weary guardian's eye. I was all set to hate this Ritalin-deprived little monster.

And yet I didn't. I suppose one's person's Hyacinth Bridgerton (*shudder*) is another person's Anne Shirley. Okay, so Lottie's no Anne (I don't think any character could ever match that), but she's so lighthearted and charming and effervescent. She's a bubblehead, but with a touch of self-awareness.

The book opens on the night of her debut, as Lottie's sneaking out a window for one last immature hurrah before settling into demur adulthood forever. It seems the man living next door is Hayden St. Clair, the infamous Murderous Marquess, reputedly responsible for the deaths of both his wife and his close friend. Lottie, whose dream is to write Gothic novels, thinks this could be the perfect chance to spy through his windows and get some good hands-on research for the villain for her latest work-in-progress.

However, girls in slightly torn, violently-flounced ball gowns are not the most discreet of spies, and she's soon caught by this same Marquess, who mistakes her for a tart one of his old friends had threatened to send over to cheer him up. He doesn't go much further than a smooch before realizing his mistake, but since neither character was thinking clearly enough to close the drapes, they are witnessed together by half the guests of Lottie's debut. A hasty marriage is swiftly arranged.

The ensuing dramatics in the first half of the novel are quite entertaining - Medeiros pokes a great deal of fun at Gothic novel conventions (such as a mysterious locked trunk that does not contain anything remotely mysterious) and introduces a Token Rebellious Stepchild who is taken in hand by Lottie in a hilarious and original fashion. Also, for a man with such Deep, Dark, Angst - Hayden's sly and exasperated deadpan humour makes for witty and endearing dialogue when paired against Lottie's scatterbrained energy.

The novel slows, however, after the midway point when it stops poking fun at Deep, Dark Angst and starts, well, focusing on the actual Deep, Dark Angst of Hayden's first marriage. Frankly, the novel starts to drag here. Because there is also a thin line between a Sexy, Brooding Hero and a Lame-Ass SadFace Hero, and this is one line that the novel walks less gracefully. The pacing drags as he starts digging in his SadHeels because oh He's a Monster and He Doesn't Deserve Happiness and He's the Worst Father In the World, etc. etc. It's irritating and less compelling because he's passive rather than active in his brooding. When the Black Moment occurs to separate the hero and heroine, it's a surprisingly lax, anticlimactic scene where he politely asks Lottie to leave and Lottie leaves crying and despairing as if even she would prefer to pretend he'd done something more interesting.

All in all, however, everything I expected to not like turned out to be wonderful - specifically, Lottie. You go on with your Batshit Crazy Sunshine-Child self. I liked her immensely. Lord SadFace was a little less interesting, and I'll start caring about Token Rebellious Stepchildren the moment authors stop using Token Rebellious Stepchildren as Plot Coupons to Mature Our Heroine or your money back.

But all in all? One Night of Scandal is a solidly enjoyable romance with lovely dialogue, (mostly) spot-on humour, and nice tension.

1 comment:

  1. This is the only book by Madeiros I truly love. I keep trying her other stuff and it just never lives up to this one.