After the Scandal, by Elizabeth Essex

>> Sunday, November 09, 2014

TITLE: After the Scandal
AUTHOR: Elizabeth Essex

PAGES: 400
PUBLISHER: St. Martin's

SETTING: 19th century England
TYPE: Romance
SERIES: 4th in the Reckless Brides series


When Lady Claire Jellicoe agreed to a walk in the moonlight, she never imagined her titled companion might have brutal motives. Nor could she have dreamed up such a brave rescue by the most unexpected savior of all: an inscrutable nobleman with a daring plan of escape—and a deliciously tempting embrace…


Timothy Evans, the Duke of Fenmore, has palmed more treasures than he can count. Even for a man who grew up thieving in London’s stews, a stolen bride should be beyond the pale. But Fenmore won’t let scandal ruin the spirited beauty’s reputation. And now that she’s stolen his heart, how can he ever let her go...?

I've mentioned a few times that I'm on a bit of a quest to find a few new historical romance authors, as I've kind of been left only with a small number of authors I know I like. I've heard good things about Elizabeth Essex, so I thought I'd try one of hers. Unfortunately, this turned out to be exactly the sort of historical romance that I avoid: one full of characters behaving in preposterous ways and with no regard for history.

At first, I liked it well enough. As the book starts, Tanner notices Lady Claire Jellicoe being led out into the gardens by a man he knows is a rapist (it is not clear why he hasn't already had him kicked out of the party, which is at his grandmother's house, especially since the man came without an invitation). Tanner follows them out and stops the man in the nick of time. Claire is shaken, so instead of returning to the house just yet, Tanner suggests they go for a row on the river for a little while. Tanner has long been in love with Claire from afar, but has never dared approach her (in the part I read, it's not clear why he, a duke, would not have done so). He's trying to help, but he's also deviously thinking that she'll probably end up compromised, and they'll have to get married. Claire agrees to get on the rowboat. Okay, so far, so good. I buy everyone's reactions. Claire is taking a bit of a risk with her reputation by not immediately going back to her parents, but I understand completely why she'd do that. She's pretty upset. And Tanner's manipulation of the circumstances is not beyond the pale for me.

But almost straight away, things started getting iffy. As they're about to turn round to go back, the rowboat hits something. It's a dead body, and when Tanner hauls it up, Claire realises it's her lady's maid. She's been raped and murdered. Tanner is quite comfortable sharing this information with Claire, and she's unfazed.

Tanner suggests instead of going back to Richmond it would be better to go a bit further down the river into Chelsea, where he's got friends in a hospital and they can examine the body. He's determined to get justice for the young woman, he tells Claire, and he asks her if she'll help. She agrees, and they go on to the hospital. No problem at all, Claire blithely says, she'll send her parents a message saying she's gone back to London. She's 20 and unmarried, not an independent widow, or anything like that, but the narrative indicates that this should be fine and dandy.

Tanner has all sorts of low contacts from growing up on the streets before he discovered he was heir to the dukedom, so he feels well qualified to go make enquiries in the slums where the maid grew up (not clear why he'd want to start there rather than in Richmond, at the place where she was actually killed). Claire is insistent that she will come with him and help. She's a gently bred young lady with no experience of anything beyond balls and walks in the park. I think what the author is trying to convey here is that Tanner's good for Claire because he's someone who will help her do things, but Claire comes across as silly, rather than brave and resourceful.

And at this point, I was rolling my eyes so hard I almost passed out. The lapses in logic, the behaviour that no one seems to think is risky in any way, the poor motivations. Not for me.



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