Jonathan Pierce Thatcher, Viscount Remington, has returned home, free of all his family’s debts. Only to discover that by some miracle he has been chosen to vie for the hand of his beloved Victoria. To convince his only love to once again believe in the magic of love and the promise of desire will be his greatest challenge yet. And one he cannot fail!
Delilah Marvelle is making one heck of a splash into the world of historical romance with her Scandal series. They're not technically her first books but these are definitely getting more attention in the mainstream market. Once Upon a Scandal is the second in this series and I found it to be just as good as the first.
Victoria was less than a year away from her coming out season in London when Jonathan made a play for her heart. A complete romantic, Jonathan wooed her with sweet words and only one kiss. They were already friends but he wished to have a promise from her before he left for Venice that she would wait for him to return. It should have been seven to ten months, tops, but instead he was gone for five years. And he wouldn't tell her why he couldn't return. From Victoria's perspective, it felt like he dumped her as an afterthought. He stopped replying to the letters she wrote and forbade her cousin, his best friend, from telling her the truth about him. It broke Victoria's heart, a heart that was already fragile after losing her mother and twin brother years before, and so she never married. Fast forward five years. Victoria's father is dying from tertiary-phase syphilis and doesn't even remember her. She is informed that three men have agreed to vie for her hand in marriage and she must marry one before her father is too ill to stand at her wedding - her inheritance depends upon it. Guess who shows up that night to be one of the three? Jonathan. Victoria has to speak to each for an hour before making her decision and than marry them within a week. How does someone make a decision like this, especially with these circumstances? Where has Jonathan been the last five years? And does Victoria still love him?
Delilah Marvelle does not make life easy for her couples, does she? (See my review for Prelude to a Scandal.) I consistently find it appalling, the way that women were treated back then for I do not doubt that this scenario was likely forced upon some poor girl back then; possibly now too. Many men also didn't have it all that easy either, I suppose. Anyway, Once Upon a Scandal is a bittersweet love story. The sex theme is back, too, in a different incarnation, yet still applied to the man in the equation. Sexual abuse in literature or fiction is generally forced upon the woman and I appreciated that Marvelle is turning the tables on that. (Not that I like reading about sexual abuse in any fashion.) I also liked that Jonathan's version of romance didn't involve sexing up Victoria, exactly, as well as his devotion to her and their love. On the flip side, I felt that the villain, Marchese Casacalenda, was rather uneven. He does all these horrible things (i.e. rape, murder) because his influence and money has bought him impunity and then at the end, he voluntarily acquiesces and accepts bodily harm? That felt inconsistent and didn't make sense. On the whole though, I found Once Upon a Scandal to be a riveting story.
The Perfect Scandal, starring Marquis Moreland, one of Victoria's suitors, is the final book in this series. I will definitely be reviewing that one as well.
Once Upon a Scandal can be found in stores on January 18, 2011. The Perfect Scandal will be out on February 15, 2011.