Scandal's Bride by Stephanie Laurens
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I added this book to my All Things Summer Challenge because it's been sitting on my tbr pile for a long time. The few books I've read in the Cynster series were pretty good, but it's not one of my favorite historical series.
Scandal's Bride turned out to be a nice surprise. I was dragged, kicking and screaming, into enjoying this book. I get really bored with Lord Rake who finds himself reluctantly drawn into marriage-type storylines, and the Cynster series is ripe with those. And, Catriona wouldn't be my ideal choice of a heroine. But, I was pleasantly surprised.
I ended up liking Richard, aka "Scandal", quite a bit. I vaguely remember liking him in the other Cynster books, but that was years ago. His past rakish deeds aren't really rubbed in my face, so that helps. I like that he wasn't extremely averse to marrying Catriona, if that got her in his arms. He's actually a pretty nice guy, smart, and kind. He was willing to play second fiddle as the consort to Catriona, who is the official lady of her lands. He was open minded about Catriona's religion, which involves worship of The Lady. I really respected him for being a strong, dominant man who was able to take on that kind of role, and do it with grace, because that was what being with the woman he loved entailed.
At times, Catriona was a bit too arrogant for my tastes. I do realize that it was a necessity to be so, with all the responsibilities she held. She started growing on me pretty fast. By the end of the book, I liked her quite a bit.
The whole aspect of neither wanting to reveal the strength of their feelings for each other really got to me. I could feel the pain on both sides. Catriona didn't want to hold Richard hostage in her valley, if he wanted to go to London with his family; Richard felt like he didn't matter and wasn't important to Catriona. All he needed was for her to say so. I thought my heart would break when he got ready to leave. Fortunately, he comes to his senses.
This book has a lot of steamy scenes--which seems to be Ms. Laurens' writing style. Overall, I liked them. I didn't really need that many, but no biggie. I could feel the connection between Richard and Catriona, so it wasn't just unnecessary sex filler to me. Thus, they didn't get into the way of the storyline--they fit this novel.
I think this book was a trifle too long. I started thinking, "Is this book going to be over yet?" A significant portion was spent on seeing the Cynster family interacting when they come to visit, and a lot of "Cynster males do this, and Cynster females do that." It was almost a little bit much. Not quite though. I think I have to be in the mood for this sort of book, and it went down easy, since it made the time pass in an enjoyable fashion.
In short, this was a good read. I think it's a weak four due to the somewhat excessive length, and the whole eye-rolling aspects of the Cynsters do this and the Cynsters do that. The suspense plot wasn't that compelling, but I don't really read historical romance for mystery/suspense. In fact, it can be somewhat disruptive. What helped this book was the fact that Richard was a very appealing hero. He's a man that is able to compromise without feeling like that makes him less of a man. I really liked that about him. I liked seeing the family interactions of Catriona's people. Inside, there is a farmer/rancher/live-off-the-land girl in me, so I like reading those kinds of settings in books. This was a book I enjoyed even more than I expected. For that reason, I'd recommend it to a reader in the mood for this sort of thing.
Content warning: Catriona drugs Richard so she can have sex with him to conceive a child. Some readers might see that as a form of rape.
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