REVIEW: My Season of Scandal by Julie Ann Long

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Dear Julie Ann Long:

This is the latest (the seventh) installment in the Palace of Rogues series; I believe I’ve read every book except book three, though I started out of order. I began with book four, After Dark with the Duke, which is still by far my favorite in the series.

Anyway, on to My Season of Scandal. Catherine Keating is a young country miss in London for the Season, courtesy of an acquaintance named Lady Wisterberg. There’s not room for Cat at the crowded London townhouse that Lady Wisterberg and her goddaughter are staying at. So Cat is staying at the Grand Palace on the Thames, where the proprietresses will serve as chaperones when she’s not in the care of Lady Wisterberg. Cat is the sensible daughter of a widowed country doctor; at 22, this is likely her only chance to come to London, experience some adventure, and perhaps meet a husband.

Lord Dominic Kirke is also staying at the GPotT; his home is unlivable currently due to his mistress having set it on fire. Dominic is 35 (I side-eye such age differences, especially coupled with life-experience differences, in a way I never used to) and a notorious member of the House of Commons. I’m a tiny bit confused, in retrospect, about him being a lord and being a member of the House of Commons, though to be fair I don’t really know how that all works, and Dominic’s title is definitely not inherited, so perhaps it makes sense.

Cat and Dominic first encounter each other after he visits her room late at night to complain about the noise Cat is making; freshly arrived in London, and unused to her new surroundings and relative freedom, Cat is belting out a naughty song she learned in the GPotT’s drawing room, and dancing around, inadvertently knocking over furniture. The encounter is brief but Kirke makes an impression.

They meet again the next evening, at a ball. Catherine, overwhelmed by the crowds, is hiding among ferns when she overhears an encounter between Kirke and an obnoxious aristocrat, Farquar. That meeting ends with Farquar trying to punch Kirke, and Cat hurries away, only to run into him again minutes later in a secluded location (of course). They engage in banter and she confesses to him that she was made to feel bad about the age of her dress and not having the most in-fashion sleeves. There’s an attraction; hesitant on Cat’s part due to Kirke’s infamy and dangerous air, and somewhat detached on Kirke’s part, because he knows they aren’t suited (I’ll give him a bit of credit there). Still, after they part he does her a service – pays a footman to make sure that Lady Wisterberg, apparently a gambling fiend, leaves on time with Cat in order to get Cat home before the GPotT’s curfew.

The two continue to be thrown together at balls and at the mandatory GPotT’s dinners and evenings spent in the sitting room. There’s a slow-ish build up to admiration and attraction, which I appreciated, and as mentioned above Kirke is pretty sure that it can’t go anywhere, and Cat is probably a bit too dazzled and unworldly to imagine that it could, either. Kirke does go out of his way to do something unusual for him – he dances with Cat publicly at a ball, thus setting her up as the Next Big Thing in the minds of the ton.

Cat is happy with her newfound social success but she is still very drawn to Kirke. Kirke is nursing a secret (though some in the ton know, so I guess it’s not entirely a secret) and eventually he shares it with Cat.

Eventually Cat and Kirke’s relationship progresses to doing naughty things in the garden of balls, which…no, I am just over that at this stage in my life. Maybe once it seemed daring and sexy, now it just seems dumb and I wonder what the h/h think they are doing.

I felt like there was perhaps a bit less time spent at the GPotT than in previous books. I had mixed feelings about that; on the one hand I really like the cozy “found family” conceit of the setting, however twee and unrealistic it may be. On the other hand there is just so much lore and insider information that gets repeated in every book, and it can get tedious.

To borrow a phrase from today’s youth, My Season of Scandal was very mid for me. I think I would have gotten a lot more out of it at another time in my romance reading. It has good writing, a nice, simple plot without a lot of extraneous nonsense, and sympathetic characters. But it’s a plot and characters that, with minor variation, I have seen a thousand times. And that just doesn’t do much for me anymore – maybe it never will again. I just know that when I dip my toes back into historical romance, nine of ten (or more) books just aren’t moving me because they aren’t unusual enough. After Dark with the Duke might actually be the last one that qualifies.

So, my grade for My Season of Scandal is a C+, with the qualification (one I seem to be making almost every time I review historical romance these days) – I think a lot of other historical romance fans might like this more than I did.

Best,

Jennie

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Jennie

has been an avid if often frustrated romance reader for the past 15 years. In that time she’s read a lot of good romances, a few great ones, and, unfortunately, a whole lot of dreck. Many of her favorite authors (Ivory, Kinsale, Gaffney, Williamson, Ibbotson) have moved onto other genres or produce new books only rarely, so she’s had to expand her horizons a bit. Newer authors she enjoys include Julie Ann Long, Megan Hart and J.R. Ward, and she eagerly anticipates each new Sookie Stackhouse novel. Strong prose and characterization go a long way with her, though if they are combined with an unusual plot or setting, all the better. When she’s not reading romance she can usually be found reading historical non-fiction.

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