The Bride & the Beast

Charming the Prince

A Kiss to Remember

Lady of Conquest

Nobody's Darling

 
One Night of Scandal
by Teresa Medeiros
(Avon, $7.50, PG-13) ISBN 0-06-056039-8
****
Fans of classic gothic novels like Jane Eyre and Rebecca will find One Night of Scandal a unique twist on the genre.

On the night of her debut into society, Carlotta "Lottie" Fairleigh vows she will make her guardian and brother-in-law Sterling proud. Readers may recognize Lottie as the rambunctious little sister in Medeiros' previous novel A Kiss to Remember. Now that she's all grown up, at least in age, Lottie is a fan and aspiring writer of gothic novels. So, despite her best intentions, she cannot pass up the chance to get a peak at the notorious Hayden St. Clair, the man the scandal sheets have dubbed The Murderous Marquess. Lottie climbs out of her bedroom window to peer through Hayden's window, tearing her gown in the process.

Hayden catches her and mistakes her for a loose woman.  He kisses her and, as expected, Lottie's family catches the two in the embrace and sees Lottie's torn gown. Hayden refuses to marry Lottie, claiming no compromise took place. Lottie is not in any hurry to marry Hayden either.  Still, in order to save Lottie's reputation, Sterling challenges Hayden to a duel.  Lottie decides that it would be better to marry Hayden than chance her brother-in-law’s life and she convinces Hayden to accept her.

The last thing Hayden wants is a wife. Having a wife was what earned him the reputation as The Murdering Marquess. Several years earlier, he caught his wife and his best friend in bed together. Hayden killed the friend in a duel and a few months later his wife died under mysterious circumstances. In fact the only reason he came to London was to find a governess for his wild daughter Allegra.

Their marriage goes along as most marriages of convenience do. They are attracted to one another but Hayden holds back due to his past. Lottie bonds with Allegra and eventually starts working her way into Hayden's heart.

Lottie begins the book as a very immature, spoiled and impulsive heroine. Her antics in the first few chapters are enough to drive the reader mad with annoyance. It's very tempting to just chalk her up as TSTL and stop reading. Be patient. Readers who put up with Lottie's irritating personality for a short while will be rewarded. Medeiros does a superb job of showing Lottie maturing and gaining more perspective as to how her actions affect others. For example, after spending a few weeks dealing with Allegra, Lottie realizes that maybe her teacher "Terrible Terwilliger" wouldn't have been so terrible had Lottie been less of a hellion. This is not to say that Lottie doesn't still have her annoying moments, but the knowledge that she is learning and changing makes them easier to bear.

Hayden is the hero that all brooding heroes should be. He's dark and tormented, but he still manages to be a human being.  Although he is holding himself apart from Lottie, he is never cruel about it as some heroes can be. Instead, the reader can really sympathize with why he fears intimacy. The fact that he's incredibly sexy helps too.

It's a pleasure to read about Hayden and Lottie's growing relationship. Skilled writing allows the characters to develop right before the reader's eyes and that makes it much more satisfying. Rather than rely on tired cliché's or over the top plot contrivances, Medeiros instead lets her characters move the story.

What really makes this book however is its clever plot. Medeiros employs an interesting story within a story technique. While Lottie writes her gothic romance, the reader gets to see her star in another.  The nods to such classic gothic tales as Wuthering Heights are many, but done in a wonderfully tongue in cheek manner. The style works so well because it never takes itself too seriously. 

While this book is definitely not one of Medeiros' best, her strong writing style will please fans and newcomers alike.

--Anne Bulin


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