Slightly Scandalous, by Mary Balogh (Bedwyns #3)

>> Monday, May 02, 2005

Slightly Scandalous (excerpt) is third in the six-book Bedwyn series, by Mary Balogh. The series comes right after One Night For Love and A Summer To Remember, and this one in particular is especially related to the latter, as the heroine, Freyja, is the woman the hero of ASTR avoided getting engaged to by arriving with Lauren when he went home.

Growing up with four powerful brothers has made Lady Freyja Bedwyn far bolder than most society ladies. From feisty manner to long, tumbling hair, Freyja is pure fire, a woman who seeks both adventure and freedom.

Adventure soon finds her on the way to Bath, when a handsome stranger bursts into her inn room in the middle of the night and entreats her to hide him. He is Joshua Moore, Marquess of Hallmere, a man with a hell-raising reputation of his own.

They meet again in Bath, where sparks fly as two strong wills clash and each tries to best the other. But when Joshua needs sudden rescue from the matchmaking schemes of his aunt, it is Freyja to whom he turns because he knows that only she is reckless enough to engage in a fake betrothal with him for the sheer fun of it.

And fun it is until the Duke of Bewcastle, Freyja's eldest brother, learns of the betrothal. And until passion blindsides them both. And until a danger more deadly than marriage threatens Joshua. While he tries desperately to preserve his freedom--in more ways than one--Freyja tries just as determinedly not to lose her heart--again.

But there is no doubt about the fact that it admirably suits both Freyja and Joshua to be caught up together in something very slightly scandalous...
I meant to read the entire series in order, but the first couple of books are taking a little too long to get here, so I just grabbed the first among the ones I do have here, and I don't feel like I enjoyed it any less for not having read the previous two. Slightly Scandalous stands alone perfectly well and was a wonderful introduction to the series. It only lacked a teeny little extra zing to make it an A book. I'd grade it a B+.

As many other readers, I didn't particularly like Freyja in A Summer to Remember. She wasn't at her most attractive in those circumstances (as she herself acknowledges in Slightly Scandalous), and I liked the idea of the demure, ladylike heroine beating the spirited hoyden for a change.

But I had no difficulty liking her here. Seeing things from her POV, I even started disliking Lauren and Kit for a while! Yet she's still very much the same person she was in her introduction: unconventional, arrogant, very aware of her position as a duke's siter, often rude and intolerant of idiots.

The back cover calls her "feisty", but to me, that word implies a certain stupidity, and if there's something Freyja's not it's stupid. She can be impulsive, but she's usually aware of the consequences when she decides to ignore society's rules and she's perfectly capable of bearing those consequences. It's true she got in a bit over her head when getting into a fake engagement with Josh, but when it comes to possible consequences, that's hardly on a par with stuff like stowing away on a pirate ship or starting your own smuggling ring while dressing up as a man!

Josh was lovely, the perfect guy for someone like Freyja, with his refusal to take her seriously and the way he rejoiced in the very things others perceived as faults. And I really liked that he was very attracted to her even when others perceived her as ugly. Josh's levity reminded me a bit of Kit, from ASTR, but while there was definite depth hiding under that facade, I wouldn't characterize Josh as a tortured character.

Slightly Scandalous was very much straight romance, with only the merest external suspense-ish subplot coming up in the second half. The "villainess" of the piece is great, because she was much, much more believable than those eeeeevil, moustache-twirling insane villains, the ones whose only motivation is that they're nuts. She's just scarily manipulative and domineering. Still, the focus is squarely on the romance, and the pacing of the book doesn't suffer for it.

Oh, and there is a lot of focus on the the whole Bedwyn family, too. Maybe a bit too much, actually, at least when it came to some of its members. I could have done with less rehashing of the first two books, but I liked what I saw of Morgan and Alleyne. And it's embarrassing, but I have to confess it: loved Wulfric.

I feel like a chump for allowing myself to be taken in by this whole Wulf craze. I mean, every one of his appearances is so obviously sequel baiting, designed to make the reader intrigued by the man, wanting to read his book. But in this case, forewarened was not forearmed, and I fell like a ton of bricks anyway. In fact, I have an ebook version of Slightly Dangerous already, but I'm going to buy a print copy, too (a used copy, but still!), and instead of having it sent via M-Bag, I'm going to pay for the shipping directly here. Yes, I want to read it that much!

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