Review – The Scoundrel Takes a Bride by Stefanie Sloane

Happy New Year, everybody!  I wish you all the best this coming year.  I don’t much hold for resolutions — I tend to view them as promises we make to ourselves that we have no intention of keeping — but I hope to be a bit more active in the coming year and to write about more of the books that I read.  Lately it’s seemed that the better the book is, the less likely I am to write about it.  I hereby challenge myself to stop being such a pansy.  Cheers!

Cover image, The Scoundrel Takes a Bride by Stefanie Sloane

The publisher’s blurb, courtesy of NetGalley:

In Stefanie Sloane’s irresistible Regency romance series of spy games and seductive passion, a rogue discovers that his desire for the wrong woman is so very right.

A notorious scoundrel, the right Honorable Nicholas Bourne has spent years in the East Indies amassing a fortune through questionable means. Still, his loyalty to his older brother, Langdon, and his childhood friends remains true and trusted. But when Lady Sophia Southwell, the woman promised to Nicholas’s brother, seeks his help on a dangerous mission, he is troubled—and torn. Unable to dissuade her from her quest to find a killer, he vows to keep her safe. This makes his mission the hardest test of his wits, honor, and skill. For Sophia is the secret love of his life.

For years, Sophia has planned her daring act of revenge against her mother’s killer. She has painstakingly prepared herself by studying the criminal mind. Now she knows that the moment is right and that Nicholas is the man to help her. But she doesn’t count on the reckless temptation of his rugged sensuality or the captivating intensity in his deep eyes. When desire and emotion intoxicate her as they venture together into the darkest corners of London’s underbelly, Sophia must contend with a yearning even more powerful than the quest for vengeance: the call of love.

I feel a bit ambivalent about this book.  On the one hand, I wanted to like it because its heroine is a smart, driven woman who meets her fate head on, pursues interests beyond the typical historical romance female purview–needlepoint, shopping, and talking about men–and, furthermore, excels in her pursuits and earns the respect of the male characters.  That is heady stuff.  On the other hand, I had a lot of issues with pretty much everything else about the book, including its pacing,  character/story development, and the romance between Sophia and Nicholas, and however much I wanted to, I didn’t like it at all.

In the early chapters, my main issue with the book is that it assumed that I knew who the hell the characters were, and I didn’t.  I am honestly inclined to give the book the benefit of the doubt and assume that my inability to keep any of the characters but Sophia and Nicholas straight was just evidence of my being a diddlehead, but I’ve read War and Peace, and I didn’t have nearly as many difficulties keeping everyone straight with that book.  The problem seems to derive from this book being the fifth in a series.  Characters from the prior novels are mentioned but not introduced.  When I scanned through the reviews of the previous novels, I encountered similar observations.  This problem is not new to the fifth book, it would seem.  Who/what are the Young Corinthians?  Who is Lord Carmichael? I don’t know!  Apparently you have to read books 1-4 in order to form a clear idea.

Let’s talk Harry Potter.  I still find the first few chapters of books 2-5 a bit annoying because of all the reiteration of previous plot points that serves to catch the reader up to speed.  In my irritating way, I assume that every reader approaches a Harry Potter book having just read the previous books.  (Honestly, who would pick up book 6 on a whim and expect to understand what was going on unless she had read the previous five books?)  These assumptions might seem to conflict with my barely restrained irritation at these romance series books that do not work as stand-alone novels.  The difference is that the Harry Potter books are all part of one continuous, overarching story about one set of characters, focused on one character, Harry.  Romance series novels feature a new set of characters and a new story for each novel (a new HEA to be obtained), so it doesn’t make sense to me when they don’t work as stand-alone books.

My other problems with this book mostly stem from the implausible romance between Sophia and Nicholas.  Sophia goes from stoically accepting a life without passion as Langdon’s wife to getting naked with Nicholas way too fast.  She’s like, “Wow, you mean you’ve always loved me? Dude, me too! lol! Ima take my dress off now. kthxbye.”  And it was bewildering rather than romantic, because it seemed so grossly out of character.  It even seemed a bit out of character for Nicholas, who spent his life pining after Sophia and convincing himself that she was better off without a loser alcoholic like him…  Their getting together worked for the formula of the novel (and now for the moment about halfway through the story in which our characters have sex… tada!) but did not fit the characters or pacing of this specific story.

As for the rest of the book, including the mystery (who is the Bishop? Who killed Sophia’s mother?), it was somewhat overshadowed by the jumpy pacing and unresolved ending.  The overall story of the series does not progress at all with this novel — the Young Corinthians, whoever they are, end up precisely where they started.  Even though I don’t really care about the progress of the story, it was still a tad discouraging that the story did not advance at all.

In the midst of all of this, though, there were some things that I liked.  Nicholas’ household, particularly Singh and Mouse, were delightful secondary characters.  I really did enjoy Sophia’s competence at Bow Street, and there’s nothing that I like better than a pining hero, but these things just weren’t enough to make me like the book overall.

The Scoundrel Takes a Bride was released on January 1, 2013 as a mass-market paperback and e-book by Ballantine Books.  If you are interested in learning more about this book, please click on the cover image above to visit the book’s page on Goodreads.  To learn more about Stefanie Sloane, please visit her website.

*FTC Disclosure – I received an e-galley of this book from Ballantine Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

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4 thoughts on “Review – The Scoundrel Takes a Bride by Stefanie Sloane

  1. When you’re reading a romance novel and the romance doesn’t work… that’s a major problem, imo. But I do think the well-done synopsis from previous books is a lost art. 🙂 I remember when that was de rigueur in novels.

    • I suspect that a lot of readers would not be the lest distressed by the things that bothered me about the romance in this novel, but to me it was just too disjointed, and it moved too quickly to be reasonable.

      I’ve read a lot of romance series novels, and I don’t always read them in order… sometimes I stumble upon a book with an interesting-sounding synopsis, and until my recent misadventures, I never had a problem comprehending the characters and stories. I wonder if this issue is due to a shift in reading culture, to the many YA novels that contain a huge story that is meted out in several books. Perhaps we as readers no longer have the expectation that a book will contain a story that will follow a traditional arc, with its beginning, middle, and end. Perhaps now we just expect to purchase multiple books in order to obtain that single story. If that’s the case, it’s a bit sad, don’t you think?

      • Well, I have that expectation, but obviously I’m pretty weird. :p I think a successful series has to have room for people to jump in at any book, even with a overarching story line. You could pick up any Harry Potter book and not be lost, for instance. If the series doesn’t allow for that, it’s essentially cutting out future readers. If I want to be confused and annoyed, I can just watch Revenge.

      • That’s how I felt about Lost. I’ve never heard of Revenge. 🙂

        Sometimes I wonder if other readers of romance actually enjoy the romance itself – the journey towards what might be called an understanding between the two main characters – or just enjoy the gratification of that understanding. When I read reviews of books that I disliked because they did not, to my mind, appropriately cultivate the romance, I am sure to find a large number of readers who were perfectly happy with how the story progressed and only a few readers who wanted something more. What I want to know is why those readers easily pleased by gratification read romances. Is it the guarantee of happily ever after? (In other words, just how superior may I allow myself to feel? I know: not at all.)

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