Almost A Scandal
by Elizabeth Essex
(St. Martinís Press, $7.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-1-250-00379-9
***
Sally Kent is a brave, wonderfully determined woman who has grown up weaned on family tales of naval successes and adventures as generations of her family has served in the British Royal Navy. Her elder brothers have proven themselves to be able and honorable navy men, and now itís her younger brother Richardís turn. While their father has ordered Richard to obey, Richard has no problem disobeying his edict and slipping away to focus on his studies, which are his priority. Sally canít believe that her brother wonít fulfill his duty, that he isnít exhilarated by the thought of going to sea and learning all of the ins and outs of the navy as she is.

Sally makes a momentous decision and decides to take Richardís place on the ship Audacious. She can pass for a boy, she thinks, and sheís more than ready after observing and working with her brothers and father to go to sea and have her own adventures. Sheíll make sure that the Kent family duty is completed, even though sheíll have to be very careful.

Sally really isnít expecting that the person to chauffeur her onto the Audacious is none other than David St. Vincent Colyear, the man she hasnít seen in six years. Col, as her brothers called him, is a good friend of her elder brother Matthew, who brought Col home for the summer to the family stead. Sally foolishly though herself enamored with the older Col, but sheís mostly pushed him out of her mind in the meantime.

Now, faced with Col, who is all grown up and gorgeous, at home on Audacious, Sally tried to keep herself focused on the grueling work of learning how to be a midshipman. She canít help but notice Col when heís around, and it seems like Col is noticing her too. She can only hope that her disguise holds out for as long as she needs it to, but Col quickly sees through her charade. Heís incensed at her deception, increasingly attracted to her strong, capable ways and he decides to try to keep her on and protect her from being found out by others. This isnít easy at the best of times, but there is a battle looming, and Col doesnít know how to keep her safe without revealing her true identity to the crew, which will surely ruin her reputation and her future.

Almost a Scandal has a good premise and a wonderful beginning, but it fizzled by the middle and never regained its momentum for me.

Elizabeth Essex is a master storyteller in the way that her backgrounds are beautifully set. As a person that knows very little about the British Navy, Essex managed to paint the most wonderfully real, evocative scenes in her novel of what it would be like to live on a ship. I really appreciated the power of her descriptive passages that set the scenes.

Unfortunately, this natural explosion of attentive storytelling seems to falter once it applies to our characters. While I absolutely loved the idea of the story that was laid out in the first half of the book, it really did stumble. In the beginning, there was a delicious set of what if questions to ponder Ė what if and when will Sally be found out? What will Col do? What will her family do? What will happen next? All of these seemed to crash down when the passion painted between Col and Sally was realized by very faint and unemotional interactions. It was like the build up to their relationship and interaction was way better than the real thing, and I felt let down by that.

Col also came across as a pale shadow of what he was advertised to be. I was pretty disappointed by him as well.

A nice pick up near the end of the story is where we get to meet Sallyís new sister in law Grace, who was thoroughly charming.

All in all Almost A Scandal was a well-conceived idea of a tale that did have wonderful parts, but generally just didnít deliver on them for me.

--Amy Wroblewsky


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