Thursday, July 13, 2017

A Scot in the Dark

A Scot in the Dark (Scandal and Scoundrel #2) by Sarah MacLean (2016)

Tragedy has struck the Dukedom of Warnick. In fact, sixteen tragedies, leaving the title to the seventeenth in line, a Scot named Alec Stuart. He hates the English and wants nothing to do with the title, wealth, or anything else that comes with it. He was very clear with his solicitor on this matter. So clear, that Alec only learned five years later that he was left a ward, a young woman named Lilian Hargrove.

The circumstances upon which he learned of her existence were scandalous. Lily had posed nude for a portrait that she thought was to be kept private by the artist, with whom she thought herself in love. The artist, Derek Hawkins, had no such illusions about their relationship and now planned on a public showing of the painting, which he considered a masterpiece. Lily would be ruined. Not only would she not be married to Hawkins, but the shame of the nude portrait of her would end her chances of making another marriage. Alec has come to London to try and rectify the situation by finding someone for her to marry. He is generous with his vast fortune, which should help secure a husband. But they have only something like nine days before the painting will be publicly revealed so a husband must be found before then.

The problem now is that Lily and Alec are very attracted to each other, but each of them thinks they don't deserve the other. Lily, because of the nude portrait; Alec, because of a deep-seated feeling of unworthiness for anything other than cheap sex, which is more fully explained late in the novel. Obviously the two should be together, and we know they ultimately will, but the getting there is a bit more torturous than necessary.

Alec is stupid and kind of a jerk. He kept denying Lily her happiness because he thought he wasn't good enough, which, honestly....come on, romance novels. I've never encountered so many people who denied others' happiness out of a twisted ostensibly-selfless feeling that the other person would be better off without them, even though they are both absolutely dying to be together. To make matters worse, Alec and Lily have had some sexytimes, which in those days pretty much meant you needed to marry. And she's already had something similar happen, so when Alec kept insisting they couldn't be together and taking off, I was finally like, if you're going to be this way then no, you don't deserve her, you lout!

Despite Alec's stupidity, the story was ultimately quite satisfying, but that's because Lily was awesome. She was smart and strong, and managed to overcome her feelings of shame at what she had done. Honestly, Alec didn't do a damn thing. She acted to try and fix the situation for herself, and then she changed her mind and decided to fix it a different way and she did it all herself. Well, she had some help from her amazing and wonderful new female friends. I loved this aspect of the story: Lily had never really had friends, and now that she is about to be the subject of public humiliation, a group of scandalous sisters take her right into their fold and help her out however they can. It was both touching and empowering.

This is the second in the Scandal and Scoundrels series (after The Rogue Not Taken), which is based on TMZ-like headlines, but Regency style. This book extended that theme even farther with the nude portrait plot, so similar to current situations involving released sex videos or photos. The chapter titles are all gossipy scandal sheet titles, which I find rather delightful. I was spurred to read this by the release of the third in the series, Day of the Duchess, which has gotten great reviews and which I'm quite looking forward to reading!

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