July 8, 2011
Rack 'em Up
Meredith Duran is rapidly becoming one of my favorite authors. A Lady's Lesson in Scandal is a book you won't want to miss. Ms. Duran has created a well-written, character-driven story with two of the most complex people I've read in a very long time.
Let's talk about these two intriguing people, from completely different worlds.
Simon, our hero. What a guy! He inhabits an aristocratic world of wealth and has all the privileges that wealth brings. He is comfortable in that world; it's the only one he knows. He has the freedom that only great wealth can bring. However, there is a fly in the ointment...he has just inherited a title, an estate, tons of servants... but no money.
Then we have Nell, our heroine. She lives in a place far removed from Simon, in the slums of London. She grew up having to struggle for every bite of food on the table. She is a factory worker and not just any factory but one that makes cigars. She is not above standing knee deep in muck just to fish out the coins tossed from a passing nobleman's carriage.
Well, as luck would have it Nell is the missing daughter of the Earl of Rushdale, and also a distant relative of Simon. I'm not going to go into details about how these two people run into each other; they do and in a very short time they concoct a plan on how to get that money. They both have their reasons for needing tons of cash. Simon, so he can continue to live the life he is accustomed to, save the estate, save the servants and Nell, so she can buy the factory and help the downtrodden people of the world. This may sound simplistic, but let me warn you this amazing story is anything but.
I was engrossed with this love story from the beginning. The story itself seems to have two different tones. The first half was more of a Eliza Doolittle and Henry Higgins story - a little lighter, with some very humorous moments. There is an especially wonderful moment which involves dining etiquette and a questioning Nell. I was on Nell's side. And let me tell you there is one of the most incredibly sensual, hot billiard scenes that I've read in a long time...a humdinger!!! Some one hand me a fan!
And then they get married, and the nuance of the story changes to something very intense. Not that there hasn't been intensity before the marriage, it's just that this is more intense. More poignant. Warning: this is a nail biting story. It is in the second half Nell struggles with the bonds of Simon's world, a world that he is totally relaxed in. At times Simon came close to being a romance-jerk and I found some of his actions to be a little disturbing. He is controlling, arrogant and domineering, but in an oh so charming way. What saved Simon from being a total jerk was gradual viewing of his world through Nell's eyes. And even though Nell is a strong person, she is intimidated by him and fearful of losing him because she can't fit into his world. A world, by the way that should have been hers. These two characters have many facets, and their dynamics are a wonder to behold. They're stubborn, loyal, insecure, arrogant, controlling...they trigger all kinds of emotional responses in each other.
If I had any quibble with this story, it would be Nell's stubbornness and her overreaction to something she hears. I just wanted to smack her. But that was just a minor irritation. Overall this is a brilliantly intense satisfying nail-biting read (pass the Valium please) and it's one that you must read!
Time/Place: Edwardian England
Sensuality Rating: Hot! Yipes!