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In Search of Scandal (London Explorers) Mass Market Paperback – December 1, 2015
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"[A] delightful debut... Passionate characters and personal adventures come alive in Lord's post-Regency series opener." - Booklist
"A wounded hero, a feisty, vivacious heroine, intense emotions and a vibrant voice mark Lord as a talent to watch. Readers seeking a powerful and poignant story that satisfies both their hearts and minds are sure to put this high on their TBR pile. The ending will bring tears to their eyes." - RT Book Reviews, 4.5 Stars
""[A] warm and complex Victorian romance...[the characters'] romantic and intellectual connection, as well as the strongly drawn supporting characters, make this novel worth the reader's while."
" - Publishers Weekly
"An emotionally compelling, heartrending debut." - Library Journal
"IN SEARCH OF SCANDAL took me on an emotional adventure, with moments ranging from sweet to sexy, funny to heart wrenching. I wholeheartedly recommend this debut Victorian historical romance, and I can't wait for more from Susanne Lord. Reviewers Top Pick!" - Night Owl Review
About the Author
Susanne Lord lives beside a beautiful pond surrounded by hawthorne trees and wildflowers. When it's quiet and no one is about, she can pretend she is taking her exercise on the grounds of an ancient, family estate. When it's not, she's reminded her family is not of the landed gentry, the pond is in the middle of Chicago, and the only adventure in her day comes in the form of emails marked 'urgent' at her advertising job. Originally from Okinawa, off-base and on, Susanne now makes her home in Illinois. When not working, writing, attending theater or reading, she travels to England, where she enjoys getting lost in the woods.
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Top Customer Reviews
And then ..... Will's self denial went on much longer than I could stomach. Even after they married, even after they made love to each other, he was still denying the obvious. What's more frustrating, he's still not communicating with Charlotte. He would unintentionally say something hurtful to Charlotte, then her feelings would be hurt, and then they would stew in their own misery of misunderstanding - without communicating what's truly going on, Repeat that for 10 or so chapters in the book, you get my point. By chapter 15 or so, I was exhausted! You see, as much as one loves a tortured hero, one can only stomach so much of this "I need you but I can't be with you" back & forth before the whole thing becomes exhausting, not to mention irritating. Whatever happened to simple communication between two adults to clear up confusion and further misunderstanding? Is that too much to ask for a romance novel anymore?
And so, I'm giving this book a 3-star instead. It's not a bad debut, better than most actually. But I think the author should tighten up the plot a bit more to avoid prolonged back & forth unnecessarily. Please, I'm begging you and other authors who love to use this plot to build that angst factor. Please learn to know when to stop and move on so you don't end up ruining a perfectly good story as a result. The author also failed to expand / develop Charlotte's feelings for Will. She fell in love with him before she even met him, simply from what she read about him. Throughout the novel, Will never communicated deeply with Charlotte, or shared any meaningful thoughts with her, and didn't reveal himself thoroughly until the very end. So I'm sure Charlotte loved him as an ideal man in her mind, but I don't know if she really knew him as a flesh and blood man.
Premise: Will, an explorer and botanist who's just returned to Victorian London from Tibet, where he collected plants and witnessed massacres, meets Charlotte, a common-born beauty who aims to cement her family's place in Society by marrying very well. Or at least she did, until she met middle-class but super hunky Will.
Prose: The prose is outstanding. Even with my frustrations with this book, the prose is so very good that I'll seek out the author's future works. I think she's very talented and perhaps needs a different editor to help her find the book that wants to come out.
Historical realness (ie I don't necessarily need exact historical accuracy - but I need it to feel plausible for the period): it's okay. I didn't have angry anachronism feelings in general, but there were a couple of things I found odd or implausible. One is Charlotte's family position in society. Charlotte and her family are "common-born": they seem to be middle class. Her older sister was married to an Earl, but after his death, she married a middle-class man who grows rare plants. Charlotte, who is the beauty of the family, now seems to want to use her beauty to marry very well, preferably a title, and so cement her family's place in high society. I don't understand why this backstory is necessary. It's so complex! It doesn't really make that much sense! Particularly because once Will shows up, Charlotte would very happily drop her scheme to marry well to marry him instead, so it seems to be quite flexible goal of hers. It also was pretty unclear to me what exactly Charlotte expected her family's position to be after she was married, given that her suitors seemed to essentially shun her sister, brother-in-law and brother for various reasons related to class and scandal. It was also unclear to me why men who were so miffed by the class issues and scandal drama presented by Charlotte's relatives would actually seek marriage with her. It also wasn't clear to me why Charlotte wanted to cement her family's place in Society. Nobody else in her family seemed very bothered or socially ambitious? It just felt like a plot device that existed for reasons that I didn't understand.
Another thing that I didn't love is the modern attitudes certain characters have about homosexuality. Even though I myself am very liberal about LGBTI issues, it tends to bother me when historical authors writing today reverse-engineer groovy loving attitudes toward what was a very taboo issue at the time: it tends to feel like they're more interested in making a statement than in letting a story unfold the way it might have in that particular era. It just seems like, given how scandalous (and illegal!) homosexuality was in Victorian England, if you're going to have it play a role in your novel, you need to commit to really exploring how strange and often awful attitudes of the day would be to our contemporary eyes. Just my opinion. I also wasn't sure that a couple of things that happen where Will references sexual issues (mildly, but still) to/in front of Charlotte would really have been a thing a gentleman would have discussed with a lady at that time. But I am nothing if not a grouchy stickler.
Characters: I really wanted to like the book, and for the first 10% I was feeling pretty optimistic. But I felt quite quickly that I didn't know much about the characters. Will is slightly tortured. Charlotte is - ? Pretty? Charlotte is very pretty. Charlotte is very attracted to Will. Will is attracted to Charlotte but refuses to let himself explore the attraction, because... I'm not completely sure. Because he has to go back to Tibet for plot reasons.
My main issue with this book is that I think the author didn't have enough story. By a quarter of a way into a book, I really want to see the central conflicts introduced and well underway. Here, by that point Will and Charlotte have met, and you've established the central conflicts: Charlotte may be about to marry a Viscount (but is also constantly mooning over Will's handsomeness); Will is resisting being attracted to Charlotte because/and he's trying, off-screen, to raise money for another expedition to Tibet. (It's very important that he return to Tibet, but he seems to make almost zero progress toward his goal, and in fact he seems to spend most of his time hanging out in Charlotte's brother-in-law's office?)
That's it. Those are the conflicts. It's featherweight. And that's fine: not all books need action to produce conflict. But if you don't use action to produce conflict, I think you probably do need to use character. Except... Will and Charlotte spend very little time together, even in company. They don't talk very much at all. By the time Will and Charlotte spend any time alone together, at 30% in, nothing else has shown up to produce plot: they aren't having their own complex character conflict to propel the story, etc. Really all that happens in the book is that Will comes to Charlotte's house for the first time, he broods, he meets Charlotte, Charlotte swoons over how cute he is. Then you get six-seven chapters of repetitive vagueness. Will comes to Charlotte's house! Again! Charlotte thinks about Will. Will comes to Charlotte's house! He has a short conversation with her brother. There is a plot moppet. Will meets a brassy older lady aristocrat. Will thinks about his feelings about Tibet. Charlotte thinks about Will being so cute and tortured. Will visits again and thinks about Charlotte. Charlotte thinks about Will! And so on and so forth.
The prose is really good. But it can't spackle over the fact that there's almost no structure to hang the story on. There's almost no action. I think I'm going to put this one aside at 30%, because Will and Charlotte are part of a party going to a fancy ball, and there is a line where Will thinks something like "he had seen Charlotte leaving the house in her ball finery countless times". Really? Countless times? How much time do you spend at her house, man? How many months have gone by, exactly? What is happening in this book? Is anything actually happening?
I think of this sort of book as having "Wanted to be a novella"-itis. It isn't bad - the prose is very good. I need more forward momentum, that's all. I'll definitely still check out other books by the author. If you like really good prose and are happy to read something with a very modest plot driver to get the great prose, definitely give this a try!
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