|Sadie O’Rourke and Jack Farraday were once young and in love. Sadie was poor and Jack was the son of an earl. They eloped and were married in a pagan ceremony; they lived happily but with Jack being disinherited, money was always tight. Sadie read tea leaves and while Jack indulged her, he never believed in her abilities. Jack took off to find his fortune, promising that he would return when he had some money and they could live in style. Sadie waited but he didn’t return. She moved on, partly due to circumstances beyond her control. Jack finally did return, only to find Sadie gone. He had money but was somewhat heartbroken.
It is now many years later…Jack is now Jack Friday, a successful businessman in partnership with Trystan Kane, who happens to be the brother of a Duke. Sadie, meanwhile, is in London too, still reading tea leaves for the elegant ladies of the ton, under the name of Sadie Moon.Sadie makes a decent living but wants to open a tea room – a place where ladies can come in for afternoon tea and if time, can also have their tea leaves read. Jack shows up in her life unexpectedly and to make matters worse, he and his partner are the landlords of the shop she wants to use. At first they deny knowing each other, only to have circumstances pop up that won’t let them avoid the other for long.
When Marrying a Scoundrel is the story of these two and how they make their way around society. There are those who want to harm them – like Lady Gosling, a young woman who grew up poor and convinced a peer of the realm to marry her. She is an abused wife. She discovered some secrets from Jack and Sadie’s past and is blackmailing them so she can get away and be independent. There are friends who come in and out of their lives and play a role. Jack’s father also comes back – offering him the noble name he once swore Jack would never own.
This is a story that I struggled with mightily. From the outset, Jack and Sadie had a love/hate relationship. They went from refusing to acknowledge their past to feeling some of the feelings they used to feel, to denial to disgust to distrust and on and on. Two hundred pages in, this was the way their relationship was going. I was bored and at times, uncaring. I had to force myself to keep reading and by that time, I really didn’t care if they ended up together.
Smith’s style was to write as if the reader knew their secrets, knowing all the while that most of the past had not been revealed. This made the story feel as if one were reading a series of events rather than a continuous tale. By the time enough had been revealed to show the whole picture, I was disinterested in everything but getting to the end.
Jack was a mediocre hero. I have a hard time accepting a hero who says he loved and distrusted at the same time. I also had a hard time with his almost condescending attitude at times – he would allow that Sadie believed in her tea leaves and that maybe she was right sometimes – but essentially presented himself as superior because he had risen above what he felt were his youthful indiscretions while she had not.
Meanwhile, Sadie had her secrets and I could never feel a connection with her. I think if the author had shared their history up front, I might have been sympathetic and able to like her more. But as it was, she was suspect in my eyes as well as Jack’s.
When Marrying A Scoundrel did not hit on all cylinders for me but Smith has enough fans that might find this acceptable, especially if they have read When Seducing A Duke, whose characters make an appearance in this story. Otherwise, my suggestion is to bypass this one.