|Jennifer Haymore’s first book, A Hint of Wicked apparently caused quite a bit of buzz, dealing as it did with a ménage a trios of a sort. (I felt the need to find out about book one in order to understand the new book, never a very good sign.) In said book, Haymore created a most unusual situation. Garrett, Duke of Calton disappeared during the Battle of Waterloo and was presumed dead. After deeply mourning her lost love and waiting the requisite seven years, his duchess, Sophie, had married his and her best friend, Tristam, Lord Westfield, a widower. But Garrett was not dead; instead he had lost his memory and had spent the past eight years working as a laborer on farm in Belgium. His memory had finally returned and he rushed to London, only to discover his wife in bed with his best friend. He had been furious, deeply hurt, and confused and suffered from the ill effects of his wound and the past lost years.
The conflict in A Hint of Wicked centered on whom Sophie would choose, her old love or her new. From perusing comments about the book, apparently a lot of readers were rooting for Garrett, the epitome of a tortured hero. But in the end, Sophie chose Tristam. She was no longer the young girl who had idolized Garrett and she and her new “husband” (obviously he was not legally her husband) had created a good life. Theirs was a deep and mature love and she was unwilling to resume her marriage to a man she no longer knew. Ultimately, Garrett accepted her decision and proceeded to divorce Sophie so she could marry Tristam.
There was another developing plot in A Hint of Wicked, the discovery that one of Garrett’s subordinates had been responsible for his lengthy absence. When the duke was wounded, rather than get him help, William Fisk had secreted him away and had kept his identity from him. Then, all those years later, he had pretended to discover Garrett and had used his seeming friendship to defraud the duke and elope with his sister. Fisk was apparently driven to these evil plots because he blamed the duke for his twin brother’s death. Not surprisingly, Garrett has vowed vengeance. Which brings us to the start of A Touch of Scandal.
We meet Kate, our heroine, as she is asking her mistress, Lady Rebecca Fisk, for permission to leave her work early. Kate has considerable sympathy for Lady Rebecca who finds herself in much reduced circumstances. As the sister of a duke, Lady Rebecca must find living in a small cottage with a mere four servants - quite a come down. But we discover that Kate is not merely a maid servant; she is actually the sister of William Fisk who has insisted that she keep their relationship secret.
Kate has a personal reason to want to go home before times: she hopes to catch another glimpse of the handsome man who is camping in the woods near the Fisk home. Of course, she is discovered by none other than the Duke of Calton who is spying on his enemy. Of course, they are taken with each other, neither knowing the other’s identity. Of course, Garrett discovers that she is his enemy’s sister. Of course, there is a big misunderstanding. Of course, there is danger and betrayal and all sorts of stuff.
I cannot begin to describe the problems I had with this book. First, there is the premise that leads to Garrett’s and Kate’s meeting. Why in the world is the Duke of Calton lurking alone in the woods? He’s a duke, for heavens’ sake! William Fisk has perpetrated fraud on him. By the laws of the day, Fisk could be hanged. Why this need for lurking about, except, I guess so he can meet the lovely Kate. Second, Kate comes across as that least attractive of heroines, one who is “too stupid to live.” First, she spies on a handsome naked man; then, when he discovers her, she sticks around for a conversation and she just knows he’s a nice man. Then, when her brother imprisons said nice man and warns her that he is dangerous, she just knows, without any evidence, that her Garrett can’t be all bad and just can’t wait to have sex with him. And these are just the problems I had in the first few chapters!
I knew before beginning A Touch of Scandal that its prequel had received a coveted five heart rating from TRR and had been well reviewed on other sites. I really looked forward to reading this book. Needless to day, I was disappointed. I like my stories to make a modicum of sense. A Touch of Scandal was sorely lacking in this regard. I can’t help but believe that readers who were eagerly awaiting Garrett’s “happily ever after” may feel the same.