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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Secret Life of a Scandalous Debutante by Bronwyn Scott

Secret Life of a Scandalous Debutante by Bronwyn Scott
Publisher: Harlequin Historical
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (280 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 4 books
Reviewed by Freesia

Just another dull debutante?

From boxing at Jackson's to dancing starry-eyed society belles around London's ballrooms, Beldon Stratten is the perfect English gentleman. And he's looking for a perfectly bland, respectable wife.

Appearances can be deceiving…

Exotic Lilya Stefanov is anything but bland. Beldon is intrigued to see that the ragamuffin girl he once knew has matured into an elegant lady, poised and polite!

But beneath the mysterious beauty's evening gowns and polished etiquette lies a dangerous secret—and a scandalous sensuality…

A secret life with a scandalous destiny. A strong-minded, courageous woman, sworn to uphold her family’s lifelong mission. And the man who can give her the one thing she never believed she could have. Bronwyn Scott’s Secret Life of a Scandalous Debutante takes these delicious ingredients and creates a mouth-watering romance to savor on a cool autumn night.

At the heart of the novel is the chemistry between Belton Stratten and Lilya Stefanov. Neither seeks romance with the other, yet they are inevitably drawn to one another despite circumstances that suggest disaster will be the outcome of such a liaison. The two are very much alike—decisive, honorable, passionate—filled with a sense of duty to family. These shared traits become apparent early on, giving the reader impetus to root for the couple who are obviously “made for each other.” Lilya’s character is particularly well drawn as womanly in a strength yet not easily swayed from her duty. She is both of her time period yet with a modern sensibility of purpose beyond the personal.

I also especially liked the way Ms. Scott handled the political elements of her story. The external conflict, the Greek bid for independence during the early 19th century, creates Lilya’s major motivation and ensuing internal conflict, leading to her rejection of romance. Yet the politics and intrigue in no way overshadowed the romantic elements of the story. The novel seemed nicely positioned in the time period and I applaud the use of this seemingly little known historical event as the catalyst for her story.

Unfortunately, a major drawback in the novel for me was the lack of judicious editing. Even if I did not have knowledge of the elements editors seek to correct, I would wonder at some of the errors I found in the book. Words and names are repeated excessively within paragraphs, the worst offender being a character’s name repeated three times in one paragraph. And several inconsistencies were apparent: a character addressed as “Lady” on one page was called “Miss” on another, the anachronistic use of the word “milquetoast,” and the lack of mention of a corset as Lilya is undressed in a time period in which women would have worn one. These were little things that kept pulling me out of a novel I enjoyed being immersed in. A firm editorial pen could have made my experience even more pleasurable.

Secret Life of a Scandalous Debutante is a wonderful love story, set against the backdrop of political intrigue and treachery. The hero and heroine steadfastly battle for what is right, not just for them, but for the world and its larger canvas. Their selfless devotion shines throughout the novel, bringing all the savory ingredients from a slow simmer to a passionate boil. My hope is that you take the time enjoy the feast.