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Karlynp & The Doggone World

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Prelude to a Scandal - Delilah Marvelle

If you enjoyed this author’s School of Gallantry series then please IGNORE this review. When compared to her earlier series, Prelude to a Scandal is very much ‘more of the same’. If her writing style worked for you, it will likely work for you again. As for me, I DNF’d her debut Mistress of Pleasure halfway through, and for much of the same reasons that made me thoroughly frustrated with Prelude to a Scandal. I wanted to give this author a second try as I know she has a lot of fans, and I had hoped her new series with a new publisher may bring some changes that I'd enjoy. It didn't.

Prelude to a Scandal is a light, historical romance romp not meant to be taken seriously. Normally I have no problem suspending disbelief and allowing authors to stretch their version of history – just as long as they can make the story work.

PtaS pairs the sex-addict Radcliff, Duke of Bradford (aka The Rake Extraordinaire), with a feisty young Lady Justine Fedora Palmer, daughter of an African naturalist scientist in trouble with the King for publishing his observations of animal homosexual behavior in the wilds of Africa. Bradford has been the financial backer for the African expeditions for many years, so Justine turns to him for help. She agrees to marry him in exchange for arranging her father’s release from prison.

Justine quickly learns that something is not right with her fiancé, who is trying to avoid her until the wedding. We learn that Radcliff has a ‘problem’ of needing sex all the time. ALL THE TIME. But an incident 8-months earlier left him rethinking his life and so he hides himself in his home, and fires all the female servants who may temp him, and turns celibate. Marriage to Justine allows him to restore his sexual life.

The book primarily focuses on the trials and tribulations of these two finding common ground --and pleasure-- in their marriage. After the marriage, Justine learns more about Radcliff’s past so she holds out on him until he will divulge the secrets of his past, (which isn’t really much of a secret). In his high-dramatic flair, Radcliff refuses to enlighten her on the events of 8-months ago and thus begins his frustrated and troubled marriage.

The cast of characters also includes the diabolic evil brother Carlton, and his beautiful (but much abused) mistress Matilda. Prior to marrying Justine, we learn that Radcliff was once over-the-moon obsessed with Matilda, but she refused him. When Carlton found out, he was so angry that he bestowed a life-size portrait upon his brother of Matilda. (Huh? Yep, I don’t get it either.) Sex-addict Bradford hangs it in his bedchambers so he can enjoy it day and night, all while taking his own pleasures by hand.

To say that Justine and Radcliff had issues adjusting to married life is a big understatement. They could not get it right if it hit them on the head! Radcliff began as a likeable hero, but his mood swings and over dramatic scene exits every time Justine did not please him just got on my nerves. His obsession with sex comes and goes through out the book, while at times he seem to be able to hold out other times he has deep frustrations to deal with. He was crass, rude, and completely self focused. And he keeps the portrait of Matilda, now hanging in the hallway outside of his bedchamber -- even after he is married. To add to my frustration, we learn that much of his problems were because of his deceased mommy, who did not love him enough when he took on the great responsibility of being a Duke at such a young age. (Sorry, but I am soooo done with the plotline of ‘mommy ruined my life so I can never be a normal loving person.’)

Radcliff and Justine run hot and cold with each other through the entire book, over dramatizing every small misunderstanding and then demanding restitution in some form or another to prove their devotion to each other and the marriage (read this book, write this list, do this, do that…etc.) What a head game. One minute they don’t want to talk to the other, than a minute later one of them is insisting they have sex, then again a change of mind… and so on and so on it went until someone takes a dramatic scene exit. We spend weeks watching these two make no real progress in their communication or bedroom pleasures.

{spoiler warning}

There were a few scenes that I found utterly distasteful too, including a scene where he ‘used’ the portrait of Matilda to pleasure himself after he is married – and against a promise he had made with his wife only hours earlier. OMG, this is not a way to get a reader to find your hero endearing or worthy. I didn’t find it funny or sexy, just disturbing. What a cad.

There was another absurd scene where we are left to believe that all the men at a formal ball would be asked to line-up and strip down to near nothing to allow the host to search for a missing broach, while all the women are to leave un-chaperoned so as not to see the men in the buff. That was just too far of a stretch. And again, neither sexy or funny.

{end spoiler warning}

While it did start with an entertaining and amusing opening scene, it quickly turned into a bad version of a historical soap-opera with high-drama, cheesy dialog and predictable outcomes. The couple ran hot and cold with each other for the entire book, and in the end was neither funny nor sexy to read. Too often, the story felt unfocused and scatterbrained. Sadly, I hated the hero and only liked the heroine. And surprisingly, you would think when a book spends so much of the storyline focused on sex issues (sex-addiction, masturbation, animal homosexuality, virgin heroine…etc.) it would be a hot read. But it was only a warm read with a few graphic scenes that may tilt the scale for a few people toward hot.

I got this copy at Netgalley.com as a ARC.