Too Scandalous to Wed
by Alexandra Benedict
(Avon, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-06-117043-7
****
My first impression of the heroine in the first two chapters was that she was a simpering, silly, immature society girl and that this would make for a long story. The hero was introduced to us as an older rogue who wanted nothing to do with this chit, who happened to be the sister to his new sister-in-law. In fact, he did everything he could to treat her like a sister, while the girl swooned adoringly at him every time they were together. Luckily for the reader, the story improved. Too Scandalous To Wed is worth suffering the little anxiety at the beginning for a nice pay off in the end.

Henrietta (Henry) Ashby fell in love with Sebastian, Viscount Ravenswood when she was 17 and he was attending her sister Penelope’s wedding as the best man to his brother Peter. She was looking down the stairs to see all the people when she tripped and fell down those stairs. Sebastian picked her up, as any gallant knight would and in Henry’s mind, their fates were sealed. For two years, she acted like a fool, trying to garner his attention and get him to realize they were meant to be together. We first meet Henry when she is acting like this. Sebastian is slightly embarrassed and he continually tries to steer her to a “brother-sister” relationship. When it becomes clear this tactic won’t work, Sebastian decides to take a six-month tour of the Continent hoping that Henry will find another beau during her Season.

Henry, on the other hand, decides she has to find a way to gain Sebastian’s love upon his return. She visits the famous courtesan, Madame Jaqueline, for advice. We are not treated to her discussions, but when next we see Henry, it is apparent that Madame Jacqueline has taught her about seduction, subtlety and of course, about making love by sharing a rather risqué book with pictures.

It is now the holidays and Henry is ready to start her campaign. Upon Sebastian’s return he laments the fact that Henry is not married or at least betrothed. But he is surprised when she acts as if she is immune to his charms while being graceful and charming. She wears clothes to accentuate her natural curves, without being obvious, and she expresses that she would be satisfied with friendship (while in her mind knowing that she wants to be friends AND lovers). Sebastian is snared without even realizing he is looking for the bait.

But the road to true love can’t be that simple. Sebastian has been a member of a secret club of men who were rather debauched in their sexual activities…holding orgies and using doxies who were dressed as nuns. His father had also taught him that a man was either good or bad and couldn’t ever reform. Sebastian has put himself on the bad side of the ledger and so doesn’t want to marry to pass on his evil (which wasn’t really all that evil). He has also made an enemy who is determined to ruin his happiness with Henry. And when Henry discovers the nature of the club and his membership, her view of Sebastian is changed forever. Now she isn’t sure she wants to marry him anymore. When circumstances force their betrothal, the game is on.

There were parts of this story (like the secret club) that weren’t well explained and may have been introduced in a previous book. There were parts that were a little weak, like why the enemy was so adamant about destroying Sebastian. The one scene that was shared didn’t seem like something that should generate this much hate. Sebastian’s view of his life is also hard to buy, but it is clear that he strongly believes it. Luckily, the strength of the romance between Henry and Sebastian rose above some of these distractions to generate the recommended rating.

Henrietta’s transformation was believable because while she acts differently, she never loses her fun loving, enthusiastic nature that makes her lovable. She also matures as a young girl should. Sebastian is at heart a good man, and his encounters with Henry really help him believe that he could be the good guy. His developing relationship with Peter also helps that. And there are some very humorous exploits that helped the reader see how rich these two lives could be if they would just admit they are in love.

Too Scandalous To Wed is ultimately an enjoyable story. Just give yourself time to discover the charm.

--Shirley Lyons


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