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Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Lady's Lesson in Scandal, by Meredith Duran (late Victorian)

Short review today because I am ill and screwed up a review yesterday by Typing While Feverish. Maybe if I keep this short I won't get tangled up in my own words and fall down.

If you like historical romance (late Victorian) you must read this book. You just must. Vivid characters, unusual situation (a little Pygmalion, a little Cinderella, a little wrong side of the tracks, but more than that or the combination of those factors), characters who grow - really grow and change - as a result of their interactions with one another. A very slow and crabwise walk to emotional intimacy before sexual intimacy. Plenty of period detail without visible checklist in author's hand. Smart people who do stupid things, but not head-bangers, just the kinds of stupid things that you and I do when we haven't thought something through, have insufficient information, or are working from a basis of fear.

This book packed an emotional wallop. I actually slowed down to read it. Stately pace, which I know some people find frustrating, but you have to have the setup in this book to get the payoff. Payoff worth it.

Kindle formatting perfect. Grammar perfect. Book about as close to perfect as you can get. Pretty rich language, at times maybe a little too rich? Would like to have seen more of the villains throughout the book, they were a little one-dimensional. There's a foreplay-to-third-base scene during a billiards game that was pretty amazing. Sex late in the book, explicit but not dirty and not a lot of it. He loves her so damned much that it hurts to watch her reject it. They both become so much more than they would have been otherwise.

Now that I've written this, I've read some other reviews. I have to say this: When a child is separated from his/her parents before the age of seven, it is not at all unusual for the child to have little or no memory of the parents or siblings. It's not universal, but it is normal. Perfectly sound from a psychological standpoint, author on firm ground here. Also, when you grow up on the wrong side of the tracks, no matter what you make of yourself later on, there's still that hungry, beaten child, eyes narrowed, fists up, deep inside, suspecting motives, keeping score.

You have got to read this book. A-minus, a little off for the villains. 


  1. I so love this book. But then I'm a Meredith Duran fangirl and she is one of my few auto-buy authors.
    Your lovely review reminds me it's time to a re-read.

    1. I can see how she would become an auto-buy if the rest of her work is consistent with this standard.

      Stay safe out there in Maryland, okay? Maybe that storm will blow on out to sea.

  2. Yay, Meredith Duran! Is this the first book of hers you've read? There are so many things she does well, but I especially appreciate her characterization (her people feel so grown-up and real to me), and the care she puts into showing why this particular woman belongs with this particular man.

    That billiards scene was a knockout, wasn't it? So full of the pleasure of getting to know one another; the sexual tension really followed on that instead of driving it.

    1. Yes, this is the first of her books I've read. I had no idea the treat I had in store. I saw it listed on your Goodreads page as one of your few recommendations and, since your recommendations usually work out well for me, took a chance.

      A thousand small things, like the poignancy of his remembering her mother - when she cannot. Her gut-level appreciation for his music, music he is afraid/ashamed of on some level but can't stop creating. The lamination of class structure. That dinner where the tutor criticized every move Nell made to the point that the rules are revealed to be arbitrary and ludicrous, and their thoughtless rigidity in the face of this person still too thin from inadequate protein/calorie access. Simon's appreciation for Nell's biceps! Yes, that billiards scene, a friendly game that develops into true communication, verbal, non-verbal. Lovely. The whole thing was just lovely.

    2. Oops - now I see it was Ms. Duran's Bound by Your Touch that you have on your recommendations list, not A Lady's Lesson in Scandal. Oh well. Worked out just fine. :-) Now I know I'll read Bound by Your Touch next.

      I really need to start keeping a list of where I get recommendations. I'll put that on my list of things to do.

    3. I'm way behind on posting things on Goodreads. A Lady's Lesson should be on there too. Oh, and thanks for reminding me about how he thought her biceps were hot! That had slipped my mind, but it was one of the details I loved best.

      Also I appreciated that she held the line about no intercourse until they were married. Being who she was, she had too much to lose if something happened and the marriage fell through.

      LOL, awhile ago Liz McC was trying to remember if I was the one who'd brought your blog to her attention, and I said, "I will gladly take credit for putting MFOB on anyone's radar." I'm equally glad to claim credit for alerting you to the awesomeness of Meredith Duran :)

    4. I don't see how authors find time to write. Many have straight jobs, are in a relationship, have children and/or elderly parents, and then there is this pressure to engage readers in various types of social networking: Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, probably others I'm not aware of. Conventions, meet 'n' greets, book signings, blog hops, YouTube book trailers. Honestly, when do you guys find time to write, nevermind updating your Goodreads page?

  3. I loved this book and it holds up to re-reading well. After reading it I read all but two of Ms. Duran's books in a row. I stopped at "Duke of Shadows" because that one made me close to furious towards the end. I was worried that "At Your Pleasue" would be similarly infuriating.

    1. Hi, RabidReader, welcome! You raise a good point. I find that reading even the best writer's work back-to-back-to-back can jaundice my eye. It's like finishing that piece of cheesecake that you knew was too big.

      I try very hard not to set my expectations too high based on hype or past enjoyment of an author's books. Try, often fail. But yeah, there have been a couple of authors whose fourth or fifth books were just howlers - that's the way it goes - to the point that I can't even go back and re-read the much-loved first or second book.

      I'm glad to hear that Lady's Lesson holds up on a re-read.

  4. I have this one on my TBR. She is an auto-buy author for me also. I loved Written on Your Skin better than Bound by Your Touch but both were very good. I shall now go and look you up on Goodreads :)

    1. Hi, Kaetrin! Yes, I had one of those "Author, where have you been all my life?!" moments while reading this and was delighted to see that there are more books to read.

      I confess that I don't keep up on Goodreads very well. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but once I got the blog going, it became easier and easier not to cross-post a review. Sometimes I'm lazy ...