A Perfect Scoundrel, by Heather Cullman

>> Tuesday, August 19, 2003

The first time I read A Perfect Scoundrel, by Heather Cullman (sequel to For All Eternity), I was in bed sick, feeling like crap, and this book made me completely forget the fact that my entire body hurt. I loved it!

Lord Quentin Somerville has made a living out of debauchery until the fateful day he lays eyes on the Season's reigning beauty Clarissa Edwardes. He is instantly smitten and decides to pursue her. Tired of competing with Clarissa's other titled and more wealthy suitors, Quentin concocts a plan to trap her into marriage by compromising her at a masked ball. Quentin's plan goes without a hitch until he's found (as planned) by members of the ton. To his surprise and utter dismay the passionate woman in his arms was not Clarissa at all but her plain, boring stepsister Jane.

Jane has been in love with Quentin for ages, so she isn't exactly sorry when they are forced to marry. She is rudely awakened from her dreams of HEA, though, when Quentin all but rapes her on their wedding night and immediately banishes her to his run-down country estate. But when Quentin is forced by his father to spend a few months with Jane in the country, he finally starts seeing her with new eyes.
I did like it a bit better that first time, but A Perfect Scoundrel was absolutely wonderful. An A-.

God, Quentin really was a son of a bitch asshole those first few chapters. I knew he was going to repent and grovel and grovel, but I still hated him. I even hated Jane for being a fool and letting herself be trampled into the ground by the rat bastard.

Why did I like a book with a hero who started out by behaving that way, when I usually can't stand those alpha idiots in old bodice-rippers? Well, the first difference is that Cullman, in her portrayal of the bad things Quentin does to Jane, obviously believes that what he's doing is pretty unforgivable. With the authors of bodice rippers, I get the impression is that there's a "he's just behaving like a manly man" feeling behind it.

Also, Quentin repents. Boy, does he repent! He really tortures himself thinking about the way he behaved towards Jane and works hard at winning her trust again. I know, I know, I'm sick, but I loved seeing him suffer, mostly because he really deserved it after what he'd done.

As much as I loved this part of the book, I thought Jane was a bit too quick to trust him again. I think she would have forgiven and forgotten right when Quentin started to change, if he'd made any overture. He works really hard to win her back, but only because he knows that he was horrid to her and can't believe she would forgive him, so he woos her practically without hope of being able to get into her bed again. He treats her like a queen only because he thinks she deserves it and wants to make her happy, not because he wants anything from her. *Sigh* It was so romantic!

The setting was absolutely wonderful, too. It was excellently rendered, with fascinating details about life in the country at the time... all those fairs and festivals... it felt magical.

The problem, and the reason this was not an A+, was that all the sweetness that is lovely during most of the book becomes cloying during the last few chapters. Once Quentin and Jane have confessed their love to each other, they get to be almost too much for me. "I love you", "I adore you".... enough already! The whole part about Jane and her problems with childbirth I could definitely have done without. I'd much rather had done without, actually, since it was very boring.

Still, the rest of the book more than made up for it and made it a keeper for me.

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