A Study in Scandal, by Caroline Linden

16 Jan

I am trying to slip this one under the wire, see if I can start the year right.

I got this novella, in print, at RWA National Conference, in July 2017, so it was totally in the humongous, overwhelming, print TBR Cordillera of Doom, and therefore it qualifies wonderfully for SuperWendy’s TBR Challenge 2019, January edition. Yay!

Also, I’m pathetically grateful January’s theme is shorts, because between life and the reading slump from hell, I don’t know I would have even attempted anything longer.

“A Study in Scandal” by Caroline Linden

While this is one of the later stories in the Scandals series, I wasn’t lost, despite not having read any of the other stories.¹ There was a bit of filling in some of the series’ backstory during the first couple of pages, but it was easy enough to follow.

I did have other problems with the story, but we’ll get to that. First, the back cover blurb:

After a youthful infatuation went terribly wrong, Lady Samantha Lennox gave up all thought of suitors and happily-ever-after. But when she angers her strict and demanding father, the Earl of Stratford, he retaliates by arranging a marriage for her to a man she could never admire, much less love. In a panic, Samantha flees to London, only to find herself lost, alone, and nearly kidnapped–until an unlikely hero saves her.

Lord George Churchill-Gray is an artist, not a knight in shining armor, but he doesn’t hesitate to rescue Samantha from disaster and offer her temporary sanctuary. He wouldn’t mind if she repaid him by modeling for his latest painting. He’s enchanted by her face…her smile…all of her, really. But with every study he sketches, he falls a little more in love with her, and Samantha begins to suspect her scandalous actions might lead to the sort of love she never thought to find…

As the story starts, we learn that the Earl of Stratford is an abusive man, who has terrorized his wife and children all their lives. While he has never struck the Countess or either of his two daughters, his son and heir was never so lucky. And so when Samantha not only confesses to having stolen from him, but then forces his hand in order to help someone her father despises, it is not surprising he retaliates by announcing she’ll be married off, in short order, to a blue-blooded brute, rumored to have “immoral tastes.”

Within hours, with no preparation or planning, Samantha boards a coach to London, hoping to reach her brother. As soon as she reaches Town, however, she’s waylaid by a couple of ruffians intent on selling a pretty young thing to the nearest brothel. As luck will have it, Gray happens to witness the snatch, scares the would-be kidnappers, and rescues fair maiden.

With one thing and another, Gray ends up taking Samantha in, even though she won’t tell him who she is, because reasons. There’s a loquacious and very proper landlady, and a very precocious and improper young maid, and some rather explicit erotic pamphlets, and painting, and family feuds, and…and…and.

And we are not even on page 70 yet!

Sadly, when it was over, I found myself…dissatisfied. Not profoundly dissatisfied, just…a bit bereft, I guess.

There is a happy ending for the characters, and yet.

I never lost myself in the story. I found both main characters fairly likable–though Samantha’s impulsiveness veers dangerously close to TSTL territory at least twice–but I never truly cared for them, other than distress as the thought of an obviously abusive parent having near total control over his entire family. There is never any real conflict between the two characters, so the dark moment in the story is external, and solved off page, between two other characters, in a very Deus Ex Machina way.

Despite this being shy of 120 pages long, I found myself skimming entire paragraphs. It’s a sad state of affairs indeed when the one character I’m most curious about is never actually on the page!²

So how to rate this story? There is nothing terrible or offensive about it, as far as I can tell, and its only fault is that I was never engaged, with the writing voice or the characters. Which honestly saddens me, as I’ve enjoyed Ms Linden’s writing before.

“A Study in Scandal” gets a 5.50 out of 10 from me.

~ ~ * ~ ~

¹ I’m pretty sure I have at least the first novel somewhere in the print TBR sprawl that’s slowly, but surely, taking over my house.

² Samantha’s sister, Elizabeth.

6 Responses to “A Study in Scandal, by Caroline Linden”

  1. Dorine 16/01/2019 at 9:22 PM #

    Congrats on getting the first one done! This month is always a struggle for me. Hopefully, the first book will be more engaging for you.

    • azteclady 17/01/2019 at 10:26 AM #

      Thank you! I don’t know when I’ll get around to reading Ms Linden’s work again, though I have, as I said, at least one in this series, and maybe two others in the TBR mountain range. But I have liked her work before, so it’s likely I will again.

  2. shallowreader 16/01/2019 at 11:05 PM #

    Reading slumps can be debilitating. I’m hoping that this book is just a tiny step upwards for you even if it only just garnered a pass.

    • azteclady 17/01/2019 at 10:28 AM #

      Thank you so much, Vassilikí! Here’s hoping we all read more for enjoyment this year.

  3. SuperWendy 18/01/2019 at 11:59 PM #

    January 2018 I started out reading like a house on fire and January 2019…um, not so much. I tore through 4 shorts stories but now…I’m back to not reading. Le sigh. I’m going to try to muster up some motivation this weekend since I’m off for MLK Day….

    (I’m glad you’re going to try the Challenge again this year. And heck, you can read short all year long and go off theme if that helps…)

    • azteclady 19/01/2019 at 3:06 AM #

      I need to get off twitter and make myself read something (anything!) for at least an hour every day until something sticks. (At least, I’m going to try this now, because I’m pretty desperate a this point–the slump has been going for nigh FOUR YEARS, Wendy. FOUR. YEARS.)

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