Sunday, 23 June 2019

#CBR11 Book 31: "Love in the Time of Scandal" by Caroline Linden

Page count: 384 pages
Rating: 3 stars

From Goodreads:
Penelope Weston does not like Benedict Lennox, Lord Atherton. He may be the suave and charming heir to an earl, as well as the most handsome man on earth, but she can't forget how he abandoned a friend in need—nor how he once courted her sister, Abigail. He's the last man she would ever marry. If only she didn't feel so attracted to the arrogant scoundrel...

Once upon a time, Benedict thought he and Penelope got along rather well. Though he needs a wealthy bride to escape his cruel father's control, spirited Penelope just doesn't suit his plans for a model marriage—until a good deed goes awry, and scandalous rumors link his name to Penelope's. She might not be the quiet, sensible wife he thought he wanted, but she is beautiful . . . beguiling . . . and far more passionate than he ever imagined. Can a marriage begun in scandal become a love match, too?

I'm going to be honest with you, people. I read the synopsis for this book and had a hard time remembering even reading the book. I literally had to glance at two or three reviews already on Goodreads to remind myself of the finer details of the plot, because my mind was a complete and utter blank. Now, it's been a bit over two months since I finished the book, but I shouldn't need to question whether I in fact read the book in the first place. It really doesn't speak too well for the plot that it's quite so forgettable.

When I had refreshed my memory, I also remembered one of my biggest problem with this romance. Benedict, the hero, has an absolute monster of a father. His entire family was held hostage to the man's cruel treatment, and while Benedict's sisters and mother weren't necessarily physically abused (Benedict was not so lucky), they were deeply emotionally scarred. Penelope keeps being hurt because her husband doesn't want to introduce her to his parents, and even after she meets his father and can tell that there's something really rather wrong with him, she still doesn't really believe Benedict's warning and out of weird politeness puts herself into a situation where not only she, but her husband, nearly ends up dead.

I get that it can be difficult to understand a dysfunctional family situation if you've grown up in a loving, supportive home, but Penelope seems to think that Benedict is overreacting or exaggerating when he is reluctant to admit the true awfulness of his former home life, and she seems bemused even after one of Benedict's sisters (now happily married and away from her father's evil presence) confirms just how bad things were. Like, why would someone make something like that up?

That's the thought that now remains with me - it's genuinely like someone took an eraser and smudged out the actual romance part of this story. Benedict starts the novel courting someone else, but because Penelope believes him to be untrustworthy, she warns the young woman away. Trying to help a family friend in a tense situation, she is then put in a deeply uncomfortable, near sexual assault situation that Benedict conveniently rescues her from. Penelope's dress is torn (I think) and some gossip or other walks in on them, cue scandal and pretty much having to marry to save Penelope's reputation. She claims she doesn't like him because he was once her sister's suitor (who in an earlier book in the series ended up with someone else), but it's clear that deep down, she was jealous of her sister and liked Benedict a bit too much.

I honestly don't know if it's because I've had a LOT to do and my mind has been busy with other things that makes it so impossible for me to remember the plot, or if the book is in fact completely forgettable. I didn't like the domestic abuse subplot with Benedict's family, not sure it's the strongest recommendation that that's the bit that sticks most in my mind.

Judging a book by its cover: Oh mercy, how I hate these romance covers with the people on the cover so awkwardly positioned that you just twist your brain trying to figure out the anatomy. How is the majority of the skirt spread out like a sail when he also has it bunched up so much you can pretty much see all of her legs? Why is her upper body facing one way and her legs the other? It's not great, guys.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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