Lady Victoria Jane Emerson left behind her girlish notions of romance when Jonathan deserted her without a backward glance. Now the time has come when she must finally choose a husband, and she has vowed to marry someone who will never break her heart.Publisher: HQN, February 2011
Jonathan Pierce Thatcher, Viscount Remington, has returned home, free of all his family's debts. Only to discover that by some miracle he has been chosen to vie for the hand of his beloved Victoria. To convince his only love to once again believe in the magic of love and the promise of desire will be his greatest challenge yet. And one he cannot fail!
Genre: Historical Romance
Single Title/Series: ONCE UPON A SCANDAL is Book Two in The Scandal Series but can be completely and easily read as a stand alone novel.
Cover Thoughts: Love it! I think this historical series features some of the most sensual covers. The HQN Art Department took excellent consideration portraying the physical characteristics of the hero and heroine. It's so important to me as a reader to have a cover that represents the book's inner contents well and this one nails it.
Why I Read It: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
At nineteen, Jonathan Pierce Thatcher, Viscount Remington, was led by his heart having waited for the day to fall head first into love from the very moment he was capable of understanding its meaning. And when Jonathan found his heart's reciprocating beat in the young, green-eyed Lady Victoria, he was desperate not to bed her but to wed her! Having little to offer Victoria, Jonathan strove to win her heart and win it he did just in time to secure her hand before a trip to Venice, Italy would take him from her side for ten months. But when a foolish venture leaves him penniless and indentured to a powerful Venetian family, Jonathan was forced to cut off all communication and abandon his love and his happiness.
Five years later...
Having already buried her mother, her twin brother and her once future happiness with the now estranged Jonathan, Victoria fortifies herself for her father's imminent death. The ever present man in her life, Victoria is in agony over her father's rapid demise. Even more unbearable, she can't even be Victoria around him as the delusions brought upon by his advanced stage of syphilis has turned her into the mythical Camille and to deny her father's claim only frightens him beyond control. Wanting to keep her father calm and in some sort of relative peace, Victoria will be whomever she has to be to remain by his side. But the nightmare apparently knows no bounds when Victoria's cousin informs her that she must marry one of three men chosen for her by her once lucid father before he dies or risk losing her inheritance.
For the last five years, Victoria has stubbornly remained unmarried despite the copious amount of offers she'd received much to her father's baffled dismay. Reluctant to admit that she's been waiting for Jonathan, a man who cut his correspondence and ended their romance for some nefarious reason no doubt, Victoria chose instead to remain by her father's side as they are both so alone in the world without the other half of their family. Now, desperate to protect herself from any further heartache, Victoria is dumbfounded and determined to decline his insulting proposal when Jonathan arrives to vie for her hand with the other two marriageable men selected by her father. Outraged, hurt and terrified at Jonathan's re-entry into her life after his betrayal, Victoria is lowered to cruelty in the face of his declarations of love and marriage but when circumstances leave Jonathan as the last man standing, Victoria will do her duty by her beloved dying father and marry the imbecile.
After five agonizing years of separation, Jonathan is in painful shock when finally faced with the newly cruel-hearted Victoria. Harboring vague doubts about whether his haunting years of indentured servitude and recent pilgrimage to London have all been for naught, Jonathan clings to the flaring hope that love still burns somewhere in Victoria's soul. Surely she can't be completely hardened against the world after the suffering losses she's sustained but he's underestimated Victoria's pride and her desperation to guard her heart from the future pain that she's certain he'll inflict. The trust has been tarnished, Jonathan admits that but he's willing to throw down the gauntlet for one last shot at happiness with the woman he's loved and still loves. One month. One month in Venice with Victoria acting the dutiful wife and if he can't convince her of his deeply honorable intentions, if she still can't find it within her heart to love him once again, Jonathan will set her free.
Victoria has been dealt numerous and heartbreaking injustices, all of which have trained her that to abstain from love is the only way to survive it and to defend herself from its inevitable loss. To love is dangerous and Victoria says and does whatever it takes to guard herself from the wrecking ball of an emotion that has effectively destroyed her life, depriving her of any stability or comfort. Jonathan once revived her heart when she was seventeen with the deaths of her mother and brother still fresh in her mind but when he left, their promises of forever broken without explanation, he effectively broke her fragile and newly glued heart. And now with her father's looming death, Victoria's soul risks annihilation and no one, not even Jonathan would be able to save her if not for the fortuitous opportunity to vie for her hand and fight for her happiness.
Wielding cutting remarks and biting disdain, Victoria slashes her anger with pain tipped claws across Jonathan's willing heart. However there is remorse, she does inwardly cringe and outwardly apologize for her behavior but one can't really blame her for her radical defense. She's been disappointed so many times and than backed into a corner and having to choose a man to marry when it's the last thing in the world she'd ever want. When looking at Victoria's forced situation, one can whole-heartily empathize.
The polar opposite of the classic historical romance hero - a rake jaded to his worldly core - Jonathan is a man who actually believes in love and revels in the chance of finding it. His is a love born from the purity of childhood and holds true despite the atrocities committed to him while in servitude. There's something to be said for a tortured hero, for a tortured man, who can still believe in the power of love. Opening the book with Jonathan's POV is genius and while he tends to spout impassioned metaphors, his brawny physique, piercing blue eyes, and lusty libido never let you doubt the fact that he is very much all male.
When facing Victoria's pride and wrath, Jonathan feels a measure of guilt for being another person dear to her who has let her down. Yet, it's Jonathan's constant drive to look out for others that leaves himself vulnerable to attack. He's always the one fighting the battles, the man on the white horse forever willing to save the day. But it's Victoria that needs to be his white horse now.
My Final Thoughts:
Based very loosely on Cinderella, what ONCE UPON A SCANDAL lacks in Fairy God Mothers, it sings with a magic all its own. Chalk full of some of the most emotional and page gripping dialogue, this is a book that speaks to you of betrayal, of family and most importantly, of love. Jonathan is a unique hero, perhaps the most unique I've ever read given his passionate emotions and love sick heart. I hesitate to call him a hopeless romantic because Jonathan is anything but hopeless but he does embody a dreamers antics as a man with his heart on his sleeve. While guided entirely by his strong emotions, Jonathan doesn't stupidly rush into things but rather he knows his heart and he knows his soul and he'll fight for both. Victoria is instead the jaded half of the pair. She's been hurt repeatedly. Not by mean individuals but by death and the fact that its stolen her family and her will to love. When Jonathan re-enters her life after five years, he may as well be dead to her for she treats him as such and while a part of you is hurt by her behavior just as much as Jonathan, never once did I feel she was overtly cruel. Her actions were justified.
However, there was one character aspect that I encountered with this read that kept it from reaching a five star rating. I didn't like the scene where the final vestiges of Victoria's guard is stripped from her heart once and for all. It was a frightening scene told exceedingly well but it's simply not how I wanted things to happen for Victoria. Without giving too much away, suffice it to say that I wanted it to be Jonathan.
Still, ONCE UPON A SCANDAL is a decadent and masterful storytelling of two very unique characters. The plot does justice to this one of a kind pair by being just as complex and unique as the two individuals it hosts. The history is lush, the settings are rich in detail and the secondary characters are multi-dimensional and forces all their very own. If Delilah Marvelle hasn't already secured your fanship, ONCE UPON A SCANDAL will surely conquer and dispel any previous misgivings.
Read this author. Buy her books and enjoy some very refreshing and beautifully told romances.
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ONCE UPON A SCANDAL
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