Scandal - Carolyn Jewel My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...

This is what happens when I start a book with high expectations and end it with disappointments. I was really looking forward to Scandal but I’ve had so much mixed feelings about many issues, which just killed the fun for me. I had many questions, I had issues with both H/h and yes, I had issues with the ending of the story. I’ll try to point them out as I go with my review.

Sophie, an heiress married Tommy, a fortune-hunter and a scoundrel when she was merely 17. She wasn’t yet ‘out’, didn’t know much of the world, though the details weren’t revealed, it seemed the ‘angelic’ faced Tommy wooed her very easily, married her, gained her fortune and then proceeded to ignore her leaving her in a country house while he went about his way in London, gaming and whoring hither and yon. Sophie was madly in love, young love as it was, with that piece of s*it and for the most part of the story, I have NO IDEA why she kept that thing coming again and again, even knowing 1st hand what sort of a disgusting thing her husband was; pathetic, ignorant, self-centered and insensitive to the core. But Sophie carried on, writing novels and selling them to keep up with her husband’s (Lord, I loathe to call him that) expenses. Ah chivalry! Her family sort of abandoned her, and kept out of contact until Tommy died. Tommy would come back to Rider Hall whenever he felt it was necessary and not a day earlier. It was one of those unfortunate nights about 3 yrs ago, with Tommy drunk as usual, is when Sophie met Gwilym, the earl of Banallt, drunk himself with his latest mistress accompanying him.

Banallt wasn’t just a rake; he was a Rake with capital R and a cheating SOB at that. I don’t know WHY he was this way because I knew he was married; maybe he was very young but married nonetheless, loved his wife (though I didn’t think he was ‘in love’ with her) and had a daughter. Nothing that I read about him endeared him to me; it wasn’t simply possible. As I said, I could make out no excuse to explain his manwhoring, cheating a$$ and when he very calmly told Sophie that fidelity is something not for him, I wanted him dead. I basically dislike rakes, unless there’s a compelling enough reason behind their behavior and the author reforms him in such a way that I’m forced to fall for him like a moth to a flame. Stating that, I have to mention, cheating SOB of a rake husband is my ultimate nightmare. So, marriage didn’t change his whoring ways. Oh, yes, in one of the scenes in Rider Hall (all the scenes took place in Rider Hall are from flashbacks) he tells Sophie he loves sex, would do anything to get it and if it gives him a bad reputation, he doesn’t care. While I was still coming to terms with this, just after this conversation he went out with Tommy, visited a bawdy house and then cried Sophie’s name when he climaxed, I wanted to throw the book out of the window. Lord, how I hate it when the hero screw other women fantasizing about the heroine, doesn’t matter here the case was slightly different. Anyway, Banallt knew what kind of a man Tommy was but since his new-found fortune gave him entry to Banallt’s circle, he didn’t mind ‘befriending’ Tommy. Tommy never spoke of his wife very nicely, made fun of her most of the times, so he wasn’t sure what to expect when he finally sees Mrs. Evans. And whatever he saw simply had him at ‘hello’. No, Mrs. Evans wasn’t a beauty in that sense but she had the most beautiful blue-green eyes he’d ever seen. She’s not at all the type he’s attracted to which, are tall, blonde bimbos. Sophie is petit to his 6 plus height and a very prim and proper wife (it seems), who disapproved of him from the beginning. Still Banallt, as his years of practice drove him to, makes an advance towards her. Sophie slaps him hard. This is the part I loved most in the whole book and was looking for a great love/hate theme. But alas, I was sorely disappointed in that regard.

Now, from the flashbacks I get that Banallt has been to Rider Hall many times ever since. I wish CJ would shed lights upon his visits more elaborately. Though there were a few chapters narrating a few of their encounters, those seemed very isolated (mostly Banallt being a jerk) and left me thinking til the end, how was it possible that they became such ‘bosom buddies’? I wasn’t convinced why would Sophie go and tell Banallt about her writing career which she hid from Tommy because she knew if it comes out, the money would be snatched away from her. She was very dependent on that after Tommy went through her fortune. So she trusted Banallt that much? Then WHY did she play hard to get with him when now that he’s reformed and keep telling her how much he loves her? It seemed like (I wasn’t sure due to vague narratives) that they shared a lot of things about their lives. So why was Banallt living this way, did he ever explain it to Sophie, except that this is how he likes to live? I got that he loved his daughter very much and when she died unexpectedly (again vague narrative), he turned to Sophie for comfort. I actually liked that scene, though it ended in utter disaster because of him. For the first time, Sophie pushed him away, up until now. I understood by then, in Sophie, Banallt found someone so opposite of him yet so similar, I knew he was supposed to be attracted and fall in love. Sophie’s passionate and she can love unconditionally, staying faithful to a s*tty husband who didn’t deserve any of it. I understood why Banallt fell for her, though not why he mistreated his first wife. And, when I talk of this first wife, there was nothing much about her at all. A few mentions and that’s all. It seemed like she never existed. I didn’t like it and it made me, again, question (though I felt for Banallt when Sophie kept on pushing him away) his love for Sophie. CJ should’ve talked more about his 1st marriage and what really happened. How did she die? When exactly was it? Did Banallt at all miss her, grieve for her? Did he talk about her to Sophie? How close (not physically) were he and Sophie when Banallt visited Rider Hall? So, the question remained- did he really reform? Could I believe in him? That’s why I couldn’t entirely blame Sophie for not trusting him for the better part of the book. It annoyed the hell outta me, this whole double edged situation. Please, keep in mind that these are questions I had for the most part of the book. Though I got some answers by the time it finished, for most I didn’t find any.

After the disastrous encounter in Rider Hall (after his daughter’s death), Banallt left for Paris. By now, his wife was deceased also, as far as I got it. Banallt is very intelligent and holds his position in the parliament very well. I don’t know why he left for Paris but guess it was to sort out his life after the tragedy. Tommy, meanwhile, came back and tried to make amends with Sophie (I’m not talking about it as it’s described in the book, Banallt and Sophie talked about all these after Banallt returns from Paris). They were good for a while and visited Tommy’s parents’ house. This is where Sophie catches Tommy with one of the married bimbos, a guest in the house, in act. They fought over it, Tommy got drunk and got himself killed in a riding accident. Afterwards, with her mother-in-law’s accusation hanging on her head, Sophie comes back to Rider Hall, only to find Tommy’s creditors pouring in. I sympathized with Sophie because her marriage was a girl’s worst nightmare. Her family wasn’t still in contact (her parents probably passed away since it’s been like 6/7 years after her marriage). Rider Hall goes out of her hands, leaving her without a penny, almost. Soon her elder brother John takes her in. Now I really really liked John and the way he cared for Sophie. John made up for her family’s clumsiness to her IMO.

When Banallt comes back from Paris, it was I guess about a year or more after Tommy’s death. Sophie was living in Havenwood, her family’s estate, with John, managed the household and so on. This is where the original story starts, Banallt’s visit to Havenwood and how his heart went fluttery to see her. Oh I love it when rakes fall like this, so was very interested at that point. FYI, Banallt’s own estate is close by Havenwood. Sophie’s always had this fascination about the Earls of Banallts, knows EVERYTHING about their history and had this childhood dream of becoming the bride of the current earl, until of course she met Tommy. Sophie and the residents of the Duke’s Head knew about the current earl’s dissolute way of living very well, though she never met him. So, their first meeting at Rider Hall was a shock for Sophie because of that as well. Reality is the wakeup call, always. Anyway back to the recent time in Havenwood, Banallt soon declares his affection for her and proposes marriage. Sophie declines. She didn’t trust him still, not after how they parted the last time. A few months pass by and Sophie goes to London with John because of his political career. The duke of Vedaelin hosts them in one of his houses. Sophie meets new people, including the Duke himself, Banallt’s cousin’s wife Mrs. Llewellyn and daughter Fidelia, for whom it’s rumored, Banallt would soon offer. She sees Banallt too because of his importance as a Lord, among other things. The duke is an older man, a widower, who’s seen life and very dependable no doubt. Vedaelin sees Banallt as a friend, which is a good sign. He’s also interested in Sophie. Anyway, Sophie tries to settle into London, with John and avoiding Banallt, who tried to see her but was intercepted by John and warned off as her suitor. There is also a certain Mr. Tallboys, a very nice gentleman, who’s vying for Sophie’s hand.

Now, Sophie didn’t want to marry Banallt but she had no problem meeting him as a friend. I thought she should’ve avoided him just to make it clear that his attentions won’t be returned. But, of couse, she can’t and that was pretty hypocritical. There were more things happened later on, for which I couldn’t help seeing her in that light. In between, it’s apparent John is in love with Fidelia. I wasn’t really feeling much for Banallt and Sophie’s relationship at this point since he was a total lovesick puppy while she was blowing hot and cold and it gets boring after sometimes. The man tells her more than once that he loves her. I understood she didn’t trust him but boy, I felt for Banallt. They keep seeing each-other as friends for sometimes, with John obviously disapproving of it. Banallt wasn’t angry because he knew what John did was very much expected, especially when the man is himself, a notorious libertine. Gotta like a man who takes things so easily, even though the truth is quite unsavory. Anyway, Sophie was hiding behind her façade of love for her late husband (as I felt it) and kept pushing Banallt away whenever he talked of a deeper relationship. But that didn’t stop her from fantasizing about him. And why not? Banallt, with all his flaws, is a very handsome man with raven dark hair, pale skin and tarnished silver eyes. In between, they talk about things that happened when Banallt was away, like how Tommy died when Sophie saw the said bimbo in a ball and felt hurt and humiliated seeing her. Then she hears rumors about Banallt as well, with the same bimbo and many others. She is angry about it, though she tells herself she shouldn’t care. See what I meant by hypocritical? But wait, there’s more. After ignoring Banallt’s attentions for sometimes, suddenly she found him so irresistible in one ball (his male beauty took her breath away, I don’t know how could she not recognize him at first?). They go to the library and talk, when Sophie decides to take a lover. Why not Banallt? WTF was that woman? You won’t return his affections but it’s perfectly ok to sleep with him, huh? I felt SO annoyed by her confusing load of crap. John and she goes to Banallt’s house, where they stay for the night and Sophie lets him make love to her. Oh, I don’t have any complaint about the love scenes because it was apparent that the man just wanna stay locked to her. *fans herself* I absolutely adored it. And, he was very vocal about his feelings. Now it was Sophie who was being distant, even though the sex was great. And then, he again proposes. Now that they’d make love, Banallt won’t be happy with anything else but Sophie? No, she’d stay as his lover but nothing else. Could you tell I was irritated?

Soon, tragedy strikes again when, to save an heiress on the run, John was killed. I was SO SO SO mad. Why kill him? The man was so in love with Fidelia, who returned it. WHY? This alone made me take away a star! I was so sad. Then ... holy lord, my brother just got killed and now I want sex! Don’t even ask. No doubt was another hot hot scene but I couldn’t quite understand how she could want sex at a crisis like this? Banallt not only gave in (oh, I had NO DOUBT the man was lovesick) but proved to be a rock for Sophie, managing everything for her in later days. In return, he got cold shoulders from her. She now needed to ‘think things over’. Banallt tells her that he’d write about the trial and asks her to let him know if she’s pregnant (from their encounter the night John died). Sophie lies to him, saying she’s sure there won’t be any baby. Then Banallt asks her to write to him if she needs ANYTHNG at all. Lord, what can I say! Soon, distant Mercer relatives take over Havenwood. Sophie can’t live like that since she didn’t like the couple. John never quite got around improving his will, so she was cut out of it and left penniless, again. Rumors of Banallt’s many affairs and an upcoming marriage to Fidelia reaches in Duke’s Head, which rattles her (yah right!) to no end. Sophie doesn’t answer Banallt’s letters and decides she’d revive her writing career once again to support herself. Come to think of it, I’m not sure when she stopped writing. Maybe after Tommy’s death, who knows. Anyway, Tallboys visits her and proposes, the guy was nice and very inerested in her. Sophie was almost considering it but then, declined. One day, while in church, she’s astounded like the residents of Duke’s Head, to find Banallt there. Yes, in the church, a place he’s never set foot in. Sophie feels trepidation; surely he was going read banns for his marriage to Fidelia. Why do you care Sophie? Didn’t you just short of drive the man out of your life? But nothing like that happens. Banallt takes her for a ride and proposes again. Oh the poor fool! This time Sophie said ‘yes’ and I had a distinct impression that she was doing it to save herself, to leave Havenwood somehow. Yes, of course she desired him, no doubt from the love scenes but she was determined not to let him in her heart. Yep, by now, I’ve lost my interest in the book. I mean how long can it go on? In real life, they can never be together, seeing how ‘trust’ is not a part of this relationship- from Sophie I mean. I know Banallt was appalling in the past but hell, I think he did a lot many things to prove that he has really changed. He did things for you because he cares Sophie, how could you not see that? If he was the same man, would he have married you, now that you’ve slept with him? This should’ve been the wakeup call but of course, it’s better to act ignorant. Poor guy, even knowing she didn’t love him, stuck around.

The Llewellyns come for a visit to Castle Darmead (Banallt’s estate). Sophie and Banallt got married the same afternoon he proposed. It seems rumor has it that Banallt has eloped with a married woman. Yes, he did tell Sophie that though he’s certainly earned his reputation, a lot of the rumors regarding his affairs were false. Anyway, Harry, his cousin set his eyes on him for Fidelia. For a longtime Banallt knew of Fidelia and John. Since he already was in love with Sophie, he also knew he’d never go through it. So Harry was incensed to hear such rumors. But, this was rectified soon as Banallt introduces Sophie as his countess. WOW, Sophie certainly likes to hear him call her ‘my countess’!*rolls eyes* That night, after everyone retires, they talk. Sophie was still confused, if to go through the wedding night or not. What I didn’t understand was how come she didn’t AT ALL react, in any way, when Banallt confessed he’d been celibate for many months as it’s only been Sophie and no one else? Then, she has something big to reveal to him. Oh, don’t get so excited about it because it was nothing- just that the day before Tommy died, while having sex she called out Banallt’s name. The pig aka Tommy was very mad. How dare his wife call out another man’s name? The pig thought she’d been unfaithful with Banallt and f*cked that bimbo on purpose, staged so that Sophie finds them together. Did I mention I wanted to cut off that pig’s balls? Nasty SOB! Oh, Sophie feels so guilty for this and yet, she can’t but confess that she’s been fantasizing about Banallt for a long time. No, she was not been a ‘good wife’ as Banallt thinks of her. Though I’m not sure what she meant by ‘sham marriage’ a couple of times in her thought, I could see she still didn’t trust Banallt and didn’t think she would let herself love him.

Then news of war with France reaches Duke’s Head. Banallt already said he might have to go away for this. When he comes in with the news that he’s off to London, immediately Sophie thinks back her marriage with Tommy and how he left her. God, I pity Banallt because he was still fighting the ‘ghost’ of her dead husband, as he himself termed it. And, it was true because that happened many times over. So, I really don’t understand WTF Sophie really wanted. Banallt tells Sophie he wants her to come with him, though he would understand if because of her mourning for John she’d wanna stay here. Yes, the man was still trying and being considerate. She accuses him of leaving her as Tommy did. I was more and more irritated by her thoughts, it was SO damned conflicting where Bannalt was concerned. Banallt was hurt and this put a strain in their relationship. Later on, King talks about some books Banallt brought back from London for her. Oh, he knows about her writing and encourages wholeheartedly. The man’s a fan to boot! They apparently discussed those books (when?) while in Rider Hall. This gave her new thoughts and Sophie finally saw what I’ve been seeing since the moment the man said ILU to her. It ends, just like that, without any epilogue with some important yet unanswered question hovering.

So yes, there were certain aspects of the book I definitely liked. I came to care for Banallt as well. Apart from the unanswered questions, I still would’ve loved him to talk about his 1st wife, even do something like going to her grave and say sorry for the way he treated her. It should’ve been a great thing because I believed he’s changed for good. Also, like many other reviews, why did Sophie never call him by his given name? It was really odd. Then, even understanding Sophie’s dilemma, I was left exasperated by her internal conflicts, her ‘trust’ issue. Those just went on over and over again, almost til the end and made it hard for me to believe in their HEA. I really wished I could give the book a 4+ star. It had such potentials! Sorry that I couldn’t. 3.75 for me.

More on Scandal and it’s characters can be found in Carolyn Jewel’s website.