With her reputation forever tarnished by a youthful indiscretion, lovely Emily Faringdon is resigned to a life of spinsterhood–until she embarks on an unusual correspondence and finds herself falling head over heels in love. Sensitive, intelligent, and high-minded, her noble pen pal seems to embody everything Emily has ever dreamed of in a man. But Simon Augustus Traherne, the mysterious Earl of Blade, is not at all what he seems.
Driven by dark, smoldering passions and a tragic secret buried deep within his soul, Blade has all of London cowering at his feet, but not Emily . . . never Emily. For even as she surrenders to his seductive charms, she knows the real reason for his amorous suit. And she knows that she must reach the heart of this golden-eyed dragon before the avenging demons of their entwined pasts destroy the only love she has ever known. (from B&N.com)
The other day, I did what I usually do when the book I'm chewing on doesn't agree with me - I went to my historical shelf and looked for something easier to handle. I read lots of books like this one (there's just so many millions of them floating about the universe (or so it seems) that it's only probable that I'll brush up against one from time to time) but I'm not quite sure that I have ever seen one like Scandal by Amanda Quick. The main female character, Emily, is so utterly annoying and ridiculous that I'm still in awe of her. Amanda Quick, aka Jayne Ann Krentz, is one of my favorite historical authors and I am gobsmacked that she of all people came up with an unparalleled nitwit such as Emily.
Emily is intelligent. She manages her family's finances; more specifically, she manages to keep her gambling addict of a father from the poorhouse by successfully playing the stockmarket and choosing successful ventures. However, when it comes to men, she is an idiot. Losing her reputation at nineteen to a prettyboy Byron wannabe, she settled into a life of quiet spinsterhood in a small village outside the direct influence of London. One day, she received a letter from a stranger, a man who claimed that he had heard through the literati grapevine that she was a fellow lover of poetry, and they became pen pals. Turns out that her pen pal is a man whose father was ruined in a card game by her father and she's living in his old home! Simon has waited a long time for revenge and he's decided to use Emily to get it.
Here's where it goes bad. Emily is a HUGE sucker for romantic literature. (Ironic, isn't it, how she didn't fancy Mr. Darcy when her book club read P&P?) Simon uses her awful poetry as a lure, reeling Emily in slowly. He then shows up in her neighborhood after he's sure she's an absolute fool in love over him and seduces her without going all the way (a late night tryst was a sure thing to check that she was, in fact, INTACT). They marry and he makes sure that they consummate the marriage on their wedding night. At this point, I was thinking, hmm. Looking into a man's eyes and thinking that they seem cold to you when he's talking about love and metaphysical attachments is probably not a good sign, sister. However, throughout all of this, Emily goes on and on about how Simon is good and honorable and not at all cruel and dangerous to him and everyone else who will listen. Here is a rather long example of their interactions that appear throughout Scandal, where Emily apologizes to Simon for speaking to her father and tries to understand why he's being cold to her. It is fairly consistent with the rest: (from pages 140-142)
"I understand and I am truly sorry," Emily said quickly. "You must know that. But it all happened a long time ago. It concerns our parents, not us. It was the work of an earlier generation. Now that you have St. Clair Hall back, you must let go of the past. It will only continue to torment you if you do not. Simon, you must look to the future."
"Really? And what, precisely, do you propose I contemplate when I gaze upon the future?" Simon asked dryly.
Emily took a deep breath. "Well, there is the matter of our relationship, my lord," she suggested tentatively. "As you pointed out last night, it has been considerably enhanced and deepened now by our physical union. We share something very special. Surely you will want to let go of the sadness of the past and concentrate instead on the joys of our greatly expanded methods of communication."
He looked down at her, brows arched in icy amusement. "Are you suggesting that I forgo the reminder of my vengeance against your family in favor of the joys of the marriage bed?"
Emily was increasingly uncertain of Simon's odd mood. A deep foreboding swept over her as she peered up at him through her spectacles. He looked very dangerous suddenly; a dragon had invaded the south garden, a dragon looking for prey.
"Last night," Emily said slowly, "you said that for us the pleasures of the marriage bed would be unique. You told me they would be connected to the pure and noble passions of the metaphysical realm. That our union took place on the transcendental plane as well as of the physical plane. Surely that sort of relationship is very special and should be nurtured and cherished, my lord?"
Anger crackled in Simon's golden eyes. "For God's sake, Emily, even you cannot be that naive. What took place between us last night had nothing whatsoever to do with any damn transcendental place. It was a matter of simple lust."
"Simon, you cannot mean that. You yourself explained about the connection between the physical and metaphysical realms." She blushed but did not lower her gaze. She knew she was fighting for something very important now. "Our passions are transcendent in nature. Remember how you described the way our lovemaking in the physical world was bound to enhance our communication in the metaphysical realm?"
She bit her lip. "So you lied to me about wanting to enhance our unique metaphysical communication?"
"Emily, I did what I had to do in order to calm you bridal fears. We got the business over and done in a reasonable fashion and there is now no chance of an annulment."
"That is all you cared about? Making certain there would be no grounds for an annulment this morning?" she asked softly. "You did not feel that last night we were both cast adrift on love's transcendent golden shore?"
"Bloody hell. For God's sake, woman, will you cease prattling on about romance and metaphysics? I have had enough of your romantical nonsense. This is a marriage, not a verse from an epic poem. It is time you faced reality. You are no longer a Faringdon. You are now my wife. We shall manage to deal comfortably with each other if you keep that fact uppermost in your mind at all times."
"I am hardly likely to forget it, Simon."
"See that you don't," he said, his golden eyes blazing. "Emily it is time you understood that I require one thing above all else from you."
"You require my love?" A spark of foolish hope still burned within her, Emily realized with chagrin.
"No, Emily," Simon said brutally. "What I require from you - what I will have from you at all costs - is your complete and unwavering loyalty. You are now the Countess of Blade. You are a Traherne. You are no longer a Faringdon. Is that entirely clear?"
The last, tiny flicker of hope died. "You make yourself very clear, my lord."
Emily's prattling about "love's transcendent golden shore" continues throughout the whole of Scandal and it drove me crazy, just as it did Simon. From a writer who creates such intelligent and shrewd women, I could just not understand by Quick/Krentz would go this direction with Emily. Perhaps this is her version of whimsy?
As for Simon, I'm not agreeing with his motives or methods but I found him less annoying, if not exactly likable. A man willing to trample over anybody and everybody for revenge isn't the type I'd want to spend my life with. The title of Earl of Blade is certainly apropos, is it not?
Scandal is definitely not Amanda Quick's best work. An annoying heroine and ruthless hero make this an irritating trip into regency England.