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Scandalous Risks Mass Market Paperback – October 21, 1991

4.4 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews
Book 4 of 6 in the Starbridge Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Venetia Flaxton, an intelligent but desultory young woman, details her affair with the 61-year-old dean of Starbridge Cathedral in this fourth of Howatch's Church of England series. "A commanding novel of substance and heart," said PW. Howatch "treats romance, sex, love and religion with the seriousness and humor of the best 19th-century novelists."
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.


'Rich in human interest, sex, scandal, moral crises and a good deal of humour, it is a book to keep you hooked throughout' Sunday Times 'Howatch writes thrillers of the heart and mind ... everything in a Howatch novel cuts close to the bone and is of vital concern' New Woman 'A mesmerising storyteller' Daily Telegraph 'One of the most original novelists writing today' Cosmopolitan 'Susan Howatch may well become the Anthony Trollope of the 20th century. Howatch is more than just a novelist of ideas... She is a skilled storyteller who makes the reader wonder and care about her people.' Washington Post --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Fawcett (October 21, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0449219828
  • ISBN-13: 978-0449219829
  • Product Dimensions: 4.5 x 1 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #300,488 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
In the fourth of the Starbridge books Howatch does it again - she proves her amazing versatility as a writer of fiction by giving us a completely new character in a completely new voice and a completely new style. It never ceases to amaze me how Howatch, in each case, actually BECOMES the narrator! Whereas the elderly churchman Jon Darrow of Glamorous Powers (for instance) speaks in a rather conservative, upper class voice, Venetia is racy, witty, full of verve and charm, and it is easy to understand why poor Neville is completely besotted with her.
In this book we have the only female narrator in the entire series, and the only non-clergyman. Venetia is a rebellious society woman who discovers a completely new dimension to herself when she falls in love with her dear "Mr Dean" - Neville Ayesgarth, the married Dean of Starbridge Cathedral. He too is carried away and it is quite alarming how both of they live in a cloud of self-deception as to the nature of their relationship... and more than once while reading this book the Clinton-Lewinsky affair came to my mind - especially when the question arises as to whether or not they have technically committed adultery.
This story takes place in the 60's, and is the first in the second trilogy; the first trilogy was set in the 30's and 40's so now the three major protagonists of those books are a greta deal older. Mr Dean could be Venetia's father, and in fact his daughter is her best friend, which only adds to the delusion (mostly HIS) that the relationship is mainly spiritual in nature.
I feel that of all the Starbridge books, this one works as well as a stand-alone as part of a series, and for anyone who would like a taste of post-saga Howatch but is not quite decided whether or not to plunge into an entire six-book series, I would recommend this one. Another great book for our online discussion group!
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Though one need not be religious to enjoy Susan Howatch's work, a delight of her C of E series is that she is equal in gifts as novelist, theologian (with a Jungian flavour), and scholar. The integration of certain powerful themes is seamless with the "romance" plot, and thus painless for those without religious interests, yet, for those who have studied the spiritual life, the classic conflicts between faith and behaviour are placed into clear focus.
Neville Aysgarth is a classic study in self-deception - one of genuine faith, but blinded both by perceived personal needs and the desire to defend a Liberal Modernism credo. Susan Howatch brilliantly sets forth, in this character, how such conflict can not only justify behaviour one would insist was immoral with a clear vision, but glorify it by linking it to a supposed "higher ideal" which differs from the norm. The non-religious who thrive on characterisation will have ample food for thought in the depiction of Aysgarth's bizarre marriage.
Venetia, young, intelligent, and restless, provides the themes of the intense drives to find spiritual and sexual fulfillment. Though the reader is tempted to see from the beginning that Venetia's affair with Aysgarth is doomed to be a catastrophe, there is more to this than "love is blind" cliches. Aysgarth's intense personality, and brilliant (if flawed) integration of his self-deception with theological concepts, makes it both understandable and tragic that Venetia can both find the affair exciting and be led to believe that certain of its aspects are indicative of an extraordinary religious commitment and morality on Aysgarth's part.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Here I had just settled into the idea that the rest of Howatch's "Church" books were going to be just 4 star reads,when I read this one, her very best. Told from the point of view of Venetia, a 26 year old daughter of the aristocracy, we see her affair unfold with 60 year old Neville Aysgarth, the narrator of the last book, "Ultimate Prizes." This is a very different book from the other three. First, we have the feminine "I" telling the story whereas before it has always been a male minister or monk of the Anglican Church. Second, the time period shifts to the 1960s,when all bets on morality were temporarily off and were argued as such among Anglican theologians.

One real-life book becomes the focus for doing what you want as long as you do it with love, per a leadingAnglican bishop of the day...I was a basket case by the end of this book and that is the ultimate compliment. Had you given me the premise of the book as I've written above, I doubt I would have even read it, wondering why I'd want to read about a 26 year old and a 60year old. I'm so glad I'd made the commitment to read the whole series because this is one of the best novels I've ever read. Since this book packs an emotional wallop that far exceeds the first three books in the series, and since it is the only one involving a female narrator, I can't help but wonder if some or all of it happened to Howatch herself.

Visit my blog with link given on my profile page here or use this phonetically given URL (livingasseniors dot blogspot dot com). Friday's entry will always be weekend entertainment recs from my 5 star Amazon reviews in film, tv, books and music. These are very heavy on buried treasures and hidden gems. My blogspot is published on Monday, Wednesday & Friday.
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