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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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07/25/2005 Archived Entry: "Book review: Marriage Most Scandalous"

Marriage Most Scandalous
By Johanna Lindsey
Published by Pocket Books, 2005

Review By Ida Vega-Landow

I've been addicted to Regency Romance novels since I was twelve. Growing up poor on the Lower East Side of New York City, where you traditionally got new clothes only three times a year, at Christmas, Easter, and on your birthday (if at least one of your parents was working, that is!), it was a delightful piece of escapism for me to read about beautiful young noble ladies making their coming out in tailored gowns of exquisite materials like silk, satin, and organdy, trimmed with lace or shiny buttons of gold, or silver, or jet. Not to mention the pretty hats they wore, trimmed with ribbons, feathers and fake fruit. And all the accessories like gloves, scarves, shoes, fans, muffs and so on, all lovingly described in great detail by imaginative authors like Georgette Heyer, the foremost among Regency Romance writers, in my opinion.

I've read a great many romances in the intervening years, but none has ever made as great an impression on me as the ones written by Ms. Heyer. Until this one, that is. Johanna Lindsey has succeeded in writing a romantic whodunit in the spirit of my beloved Ms. Heyer, as well as the late, great Agatha Christie, that gives us not romance, scandal, and mystery, but a convoluted plot with a surprise twist near the end that leaves you breathless!

I never saw it coming; one moment, I'm enjoying the sexy, steamy love scenes between the practical but pretty heroine, Lady Margaret Landor, and the hero, her old childhood friend, Lord Sebastian Townsend -- now known as The Raven, a mercenary who has lived on the continent since being exiled from his ancestral home after killing his best friend, Giles Wemyss, in a duel -- the next minute I'm going "Wha-a-at?" as I discover that the real mystery isn't "Who's trying to kill the Earl of Edgewood?" (Sebastian's father and Margaret's guardian), but "Who is this woman, Juliette Poussin, who Sebastian's brother Denton married after Sebastian shot her husband in a duel over her dubious honor?" It seems the lovely Frenchwoman, Lady Juliette, is no lady at all (as proved by her seduction of Sebastian the night she met him in London, before he learned she was his best friend's new bride), but a professional gold digger with a new angle. It involves false identification and blackmail, sending her own brother to prison in France to keep him from spilling the beans, and trying to nag her husband into killing his brother so that Denton will be the sole heir to the Earl's title. But is she trying to kill the Earl as well?

I'm not going to write any more spoilers. For the answers to these and other questions, which put Marriage Most Scandalous a cut above your average Regency Romance, please buy this book by Johanna Lindsey and immerse yourself in it as thoroughly as I did. You'll find it hard to put down; best to read it stretched out on the sofa or in your most comfortable easy chair, or even in a bubble bath, like the one depicted on the lavish cover, with a box of bon-bons by your side. That's what reading romances is like for me; like eating a box of chocolate bon-bons slowly, relishing every bite, enjoying the fruity taste of sumptuous fashions lovingly described, savoring the sweet liquor of brave, impetuous gentlemen and spirited heroines who refuse to tamely submit to what is expected of a well-born young lady of the Regency period, crunching on an occasional nut as a plot complication turns up, and a happy ending that you can swallow whole without choking on the improbability. I know that too many bon-bons aren't good for you, but damn it! Even the most liberated woman needs a little romantic escapism now and then. So buy this book and enjoy it; let it be your guilty pleasure, like eating that box of bon-bons without sharing it with anybody or spending more than you intended on that pair of designer shoes you know you're never going to wear more than once. Life is too short to be practical all the time!

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