After spending the day reading the newest release by Sarah MacLean, which happens to be the first book in her Scandal and Scoundrel series, I can honestly say I am an emotional mess. You know that heavy, achy feeling you get in your chest when you get to ‘that’ scene in every romance book? That terribly emotional scene where a truth comes out, or a huge misunderstanding tears the H/h apart until they can find their way back together or even
when a character does something awful and you just hurt and hurt and hurt for the recipient of their awfulness? Yeah, that was me for most of this book. I was so emotionally invested that I could not put it down even when I wanted to.
Let me back up and explain.
The heroine of this story is Sophie Talbot, one of the infamous Talbot sisters, also known as the Soiled S’s or The Dangerous Daughters. The ton with all their hoity-toity, blue-blooded members have quite the time insulting the Talbots simply because they are new to their title and place within their ranks. There are whispers behind Sophie’s family’s backs and backhanded compliments meant to malign and offend. But most of all there is gossip. The rest of the Talbot sisters don’t seem to mind, and, in fact, revel in their infamy. Sophie does not. She doesn’t want any of it and seems to be the only one of her family aware of how awful it all is. So one evening at a ball, when she catches her eldest sister’s husband in a sexual embrace with a woman not her sister she gets mad. So mad that she pushes him into a fish pond and calls him a whore in front of all of his peers. When the party-goers give her the cold shoulder she realizes she must escape, which leads her to discover The Marquess of Eversley slipping away from the window of his latest conquest. Although she asks for his help and, in fact, threatens to withhold an article of his clothing, his answer is no. Since no isn’t acceptable to Sophie she bribes his footman and catches a ride in his place. Which begins an adventure that will change her life.
And this is when most of my anxiety began, with the introduction of the Marquess of Eversly. King, as he likes to be called, isn’t pleased to find one of The Dangerous Daughters hiding away in his coach, especially not the least interesting, least attractive, most “unfun” of the bunch. And he tells her this over and over.
“If I win, you must say something nice about me.”
His brows snapped together. “What does that mean?”
“Only that you have spent the last week telling me all the ways that I fail. My lack of intelligence, my lack of excitement, my lack of a proper figure, my lack of beauty and now, my inability to land a husband.”
You might say King is not a nice man, at least to Sophie. He hurts her feelings repeatedly and makes her feel less so often that I just ached for her. I couldn’t help it. Even as he has internal thoughts about starting to feel something for her, I just knew his actions and words would not reflect what he was thinking. Sophie’s pain was so real that I could feel every bit of it every time he was rude and condescending. Through it all she remained bold and brave and kind. You can see that being a better man is inside him and I wanted him to let that guy out, but just when I thought he’d change, he reverts back. Even HE knew he was being an ass. By the 60% mark, I was convinced there would be absolutely no way in hell that Ms. MacLean could possibly redeem him.
Then magically she does or at least does in part. I was so surprised when I started to feel something other than frustration toward King that I bookmarked the page. This is the point when he starts to become something other than an ass. I actually kind of started to understand him. I still needed him to beg and grovel for forgiveness for all the horrible things he did and said, but at least I could firmly put him in the “redeemable” column. Then she does something stupid, which leads him to be (once again) an asshole and I actually had the thought that this man could not possibly grovel and beg enough to satisfy me. But to my surprise he kind of did and it was kind of wonderful.
So now I’m sitting here wondering how exactly I feel about this book. I don’t think I’ve been this emotionally engaged in a romance in a while. When I say I was a mess the entire time, I mean exactly that. I felt a connection with Sophie from the first page. She’s smart, witty and kind. I loved that she was such a book-lover and her dream was to own a bookstore. I loved that she felt stifled by the ton and only needed the simple things in life to be happy. I think because I loved her so much it made all King’s harsh words that much more infuriating. There were times I kind of wished she had told him to fuck off. And maybe kicked him in the nads.
Of course, that doesn’t happen, and of course, as with any Sarah MacLean book, there is a satisfying HEA. The journey was hard, though. So hard I still don’t know exactly how to rate this book. There were parts I absolutely loved and parts where I wanted to cry. Despite all the harsh words and pained feelings Sophie and King had tremendous chemistry. Yes, I absolutely wanted them to be together, if for no other reason than he could beg her forgiveness every day for the rest of their lives. But I’m still torn, so I’ll just leave this review here and say that I am looking forward to the next book in the series.
Vaugely, it occurred to her that other people found love to be a pleasurable experience, filled with roses and doves and sweets and whatever else. Those people were obviously cabbageheads. Beause she loved the Marquess of Eversley quite desperately, and there wsn’t anything remotely pleasurable about it.