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The Perfect Scandal by Delilah Marvelle
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Jul 29, 11

bookshelves: for-review, historical, harlequin

It is a known fact and one that has "turned off" many from reading historical romances, that so many of the characters are essentially beautiful people. They may be poor or come from families on the fringe of the ton but they are still beautiful, sexy, with riveting green or blue eyes, and whose ability to seduce or attract is without rival. Such is not the case in this story and it is a refreshing change. Actually, I think contemporary writers of historical romances are more likely to bring the reader into a world that is less than perfect and sometimes not fixable by the end of the novel. While this novel does indeed have its own "happily ever after" conclusion, it is not reached in a way I would have ever expected and that is the kind of book I enjoy most. It is not stereotypical and I think that adds to its attraction.

Certainly Zosia and Tristan are unlikely lovers--two people who bring enormous baggage to a relationship and loads of hidden secrets that could torpedo any relationship. That they found each other at all is somewhat amazing. Zosia's life and her future were being prescribed by the King of England in response to a plea made by one of her relatives, and her servants weren't really there to aid her but rather, to keep her under house arrest until the King could seal her future to his liking. Tristan kept a schedule that bound him from morning to night, seven days a week, in the hope that his life would be so planned out there would be little if any time for him to indulge in some of the dark activity that had crept in on him for years--since he was 15 years old. Now they have made each other's acquaintance and even with only one face-to-face encounter, Zosia and Tristan come to believe that they have found a person who understands their true nature and concerns, can not only bear their faults, but can thrive without difficulty. However, all is not as it seems, and Zosia's heritage, much of which has political significance of which she is unaware, now beings to crowd in on their personal relationship and not only does the relationship appear to be in danger, but so may be their lives.

This is a novel of manipulation, betrayal, loss, that is balanced by deep affection and great respect for the other that is not dimmed by the presence of differing religious beliefs, Tristan's "dark" secrets, and their discovery that they may have found the one person that understands them. Tristan's grandmother, cousin to the King, is housebound by her own choice--it is her way of dealing with the world that has let her down--is Tristan's only family and she has worked all her life to mitigate his deep disappointment and grief over his parents' death many years earlier. She is a carmudgeon of the worst sort, except she genuinely loves Tristan even though she manages to upset him routinely--over-protective I like her spunk and one can't help forgive her for treating Tristan like a child when she has been the sole stabilizer in his short life. Now, even when he wants to be free to walk his own path, he must rely on his grandmother to help him claim Zosia.

I found this novel to be fascinating because it embraced a historical period that was filled with political strife and against such a background, Zosia and Tristan's story made perfect sense. That they were each trying to make their way through very difficult circumstances and with clear goals that would seem to be difficult if not impossible to achieve made the story even more compelling. Ms Marvelle displayed her writing talents beautifully and crafted a novel that stands apart from those that follow the usual literary formula--as tried and true as it may be--and has dared to give us flawed and hurting characters who, in spite of their aristocratic heritage, could easily be living in today's world. And in spite of Zosia's lofty connections with Russia's Tsar, even there her aspirations are crushed by an autocratic ruler whose desires always took prior place over the needs and goals of others.

Lovers of good historical romance will like this novel a lot, and those who appreciate a story that is complicated and is fraught with surprises will find that this story will not disappoint. It is educational in many ways and it is certainly entertaining. Tristan and Zosia's love story may at first seem to take a back seat in the novel, but really it is critically important and even though when it seems that they must go their separate ways for a variety of valid reasons, the resolution to their dilemma is as surprising as it is satisfying. Just a really, really good read!!

I give this novel a rating of 4 out of 5

This review was originally posted on Book Binge by Judith.
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