Her Scandalous Intentions
by Sari Robins
(Avon, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-060-50353-X
***
Charlotte Hastings is at a country house party where the Duke of Girard is also in attendance. On a morning walk Charlotte sees a man fleeing on a horse closely pursued by another rider. She recognizes the second rider as the duke. Shortly afterwards James Morgan, Duke of Girard, joins her and rips her drawing of the pursuit out of her sketch pad.

Girard is engaged in work for the War Office. He believes his cousin, Mortimer, has stolen money from the War Office and is about to transport it across the English Channel in order to facilitate Napoleon’s escape from Elba. On the feeblest of evidence - her witnessing the horsemen and the fact that Mortimer is a neighbor of her family’s estate - Girard decides Charlotte must be a cohort of Mortimer’s. He hides a key and map in her room one night unaware that she is awake and observing him.

A burly man comes to her room on a succeeding night to retrieve the hidden items. He nearly kills Charlotte. Girard rushes to her rescue and is himself losing a fight with the intruder until Charlotte lends assistance. When other houseguests find them together, Girard announces that they are engaged to be married. Still not believing that she could be an innocent bystander, he abducts Charlotte against her will and immediately takes her off to London with him.

In London Charlotte manages to escape and makes her way to General Cumesby at the veterans’ hospital where she has been a much-adored volunteer. Girard arrives soon after. Confronted by Charlotte’s obviously faultless actions, her noticeable injuries, the support of the respected general and other veterans, Girard finally recognizes his misinterpretation. In discussion with the general, he promises to treat Charlotte with respect so that her reputation will not be damaged. In secret, he intends to use her as bait to draw out Mortimer then set her up somewhere afterwards because he still believes she is somehow involved with his cousin.

Recognizing that she needs protection, Girard takes her home with him where his inflexible mother is upset by his engagement. Soon he will begin to appreciate her value. Charlotte, however, cannot trust her feelings. She knows that her diamond mines make her a very wealthy commodity in the marriage mart. Girard seems to be wealthy, but she wonders if he is only like an earlier suitor who wanted her only for her fortune.

Charlotte refuses to be left at home which Girard tracks down the traitor. Her life is at risk so she insists that she be involved in the investigation. Soon they will be thrust into each other’s company.

Her Scandalous Intentions seems an odd title for this debut work by author Sari Robins since Charlotte has few intentions and any scandal is one Girard has forced on her against her wishes. Its uneven writing and sometimes annoying main characters weaken the overall impact. Some passages of animated dialogue display creative talent, but the strong beginning soon deteriorates into a slow-paced narrative with a multitude of characters drifting in and out who do little to advance the plot.

There is a major historical error in Her Scandalous Intentions, and it is not an insignificant matter since it figures so much into the heroine’s motivation. Charlotte is convinced to the point of obsession that any man interested in her must secretly be after her diamond mines in South Africa. For the flimsiest of reasons - a statement from the villain Mortimer whom she detests -she concludes the hero wants her diamonds and behaves in accordance with this belief thereafter. The story is set in Regency England while Napoleon is still on Elba (1814-1815). Diamonds were not discovered in South Africa until 1867. No wonder the hero isn’t after the heroine for her diamonds: he, like the rest of the world, doesn’t know they exist!

It’s hard not to wonder if Charlotte’s and Girard’s romance has much of a future. Here are two of the least trusting characters ever to make it into fiction. It’s not enough that Girard suspects her of treason, he thinks she’s involved with his slimy cousin then with a family friend. This is a man who jumps to the worst possible conclusion at every opportunity even though it is manifestly evident to anyone that Charlotte is a paragon beyond belief. Charlotte shares his flaw. In her thoughts, whatever Girard is doing must be due to dishonorable motives. How likely is it that these two will suddenly become the most trusting, guileless of couples? Happy ever after means that difficulties are past. With Charlotte and Girard this doesn’t seem very likely.

It is not possible to recommend Her Scandalous Intentions because of its faults, but there are some enjoyable moments that keep it in the acceptable range.

--Lesley Dunlap


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