Simply Scandalous by Tamara Lejeune
When Juliet Waryborn's brother Cary is badly beaten by footpads who claim to be hired by Lord Swale the night before Cary is set to race Swale (in a curricle) Juliet is determined to "avenge" her brother. She humiliates him by beating him in the curricle race and then further damages his reputation when he loses his temper with first her and then later her brother and his friend. Even Swale's father is angered with him and insists he makes ammends to the entire Wayborn family- preferrably by marrying Juliet. However Swale has no intention of marrying the female who humiliating and whom, he is sure, is entirely mannish. Despite his not at all attractive looks and his atrocious temper, which he never can seem to control, Swale thinks of himself as a great catch and thinks he is far to good for such an unladylike lady. He determines to make Juliet fall in love with him and so follows her out to Hertfordshire where she is staying with relatives in the hope that gossip in London dies down. While surprised that she is not what he expected as far as appearance wise he is not at all shocked when her behavior is not exactly welcoming.
Nevertheless the two of them begin to grow on each other and when Swale leaves for London and Juliet for Wayborn Hall they both have trouble keeping their mind on other things. Swale is scared that Juliet will marry her cousin, the very attractive Captain Cary, and Juliet is scared that Swale will marry the horrid Lady Serena, who has already broken several men's hearts and is only after money. And both of Juliet's brothers are determined that the two will not make a match and are joined by Swale's sister Maria who, with Lady Serena in tow, move into the estate next to Wayborn where the two waste no time giving her the cut. When Swale is assigned to watch over Cary Wayborn the two head off to Wayborn Hall where the crazy antics really start. Both Juliet and Swale are convinced the other is going to marry the wrong person and this causes much hilarity to ensue as they each try to both win over the other and play tricks on the family and friends determined to keep them apart. The mistaken intentions aren't cleared up until the very end leaving everything (but not everyone) very satisfactorily.
While I know that everyone has different tastes when it comes to attraction and the opposite sex and romance novels have a wide variety of appearances among the heroines, this book seems to take that a tad to far. Our hero has bright red hair, often unkempt, with long bushy sideburns, a nose described as both ugly and pug as well as a mouthful of crooked teeth. Juliet's appearance isn't as detailed but while it is clear she is not a diamond of the first water she is not at all displeasing to the eye. Later on it does seem as though Juliet begins to like his red hair and comments that she misses it when it is cut and does begin to fantasize about little red-haired children. But the teeth? It must be they're understated attraction to each other that leads to very minimal steam. There is one very very brief (and not sensual at all) kiss and one very fun and well-written sex scene. Despite the very few scenes the book doesn't seem at all lacking because of them and there is more than enough happening in the book that one doesn't really miss them.
Juliet and Swale are amazing characters and so much fun to read about. I was confused about the rapidity with which Swale changed from a tempermental brute to a gentleman determined to control his emotions in order to impress the woman he had fallen in love with as well as how fast the two of them had fallen in love with each other. I guess the way Juliet dealt with her mistaking Swale as the man who beat up her brother and how much Swale had changed for Juliet had something to do with it. The two characters spent a remarkably small amount of time in each other's company and even less just the two of them, but that doesn't stop the banter which is fun and not at all overwhelming. Despite the madcap mixups and numerous cases of mistaken identity, all of which made the book funny, the book wasn't exactly fun or fast to read. Unlike "To Catch a Heiress" the 'mistaken identity' plots (not exactly mistaken identity but mistaken people and intentions) were well written, crazy without being overwhelmingly unrealistic and persisted because the characters talked at cross purposes.
Rating: I certainly enjoyed the book, the characters and the remarkably way that Lejeune has with words. Not exactly everyone's cup of tea, but certainly a great read.