Love and Other Scandals by Caroline Linden
Tristan, Viscount Bourke, is friends with Douglas Bennett even though Douglas' mother disapproves, and he and Joan Bennett, Douglas' sister, run into each other several times throughout the years. At 24 Joan is firmly on the shelf and per her mother's request she goes to coerce her brother into attending a ball in the hopes that he will find a wife. She runs into Tristan who is staying with Douglas while his house is repaired and is immediately horrified at the virago who storms into the house. She blackmails and manipulates the hungover Douglas before turning her sights on Tristan and he can't help but admire her. They next meet at a bookseller where Joan is secretly trying to buy a very scandalous pamphlet but upon seeing him she leaves and he purchases it for her, not knowing what it is. At a ball he returns her book to her and discovers that The Fury, as he calls her, has quite a little secret. Everybody notices that the most scandalous man of the ton has taken an interest in the ton's most infuriating spinster, including Joan's controlling mother who entreats Joan to refuse any attempts of Tristan to court her.
When Joan's mother is struck by an illness her parents go out of town leaving her in the care of very scandalous Aunt and Douglas goes to a family estate after asking Tristan to "look out" for Joan. Tristan takes the call to heart and begins to call on Joan, taking her on a balloon ride and finding that he can confide in her about the death of his parent and growing up as an orphan. She realizes that the happy and scandalous facade he presented was merely to cover up the hurt inside and to make himself likable. She learns about his unhappy childhood with a bitter aunt and cousins who resented him because he would inherit the title one day. Joan does not know if Tristan ever plan to marry but she knows that she wants one night to remember, but when her parents come rushing into town after hearing the rumors. Suddenly Tristan and Joan's relationship is thrust into the spotlight and they realize that they are in love.
Tristan and Joan had a very contentious relationship that basically consisted entirely of them arguing, bantering, trying to one-up the other, and trying to annoy the other. This is something found in a lot of romance novels and it is something that I despise. I want to see characters who like each other, who enjoy being with the other and even though they apparently like arguing with each other, I could not get behind their relationship. Joan was an overly talkative young woman who was far too fearful of her mother for my taste and it made her seem very immature and incapable of holding her own. Tristan's past as an orphan who had to live with a hateful relative drew me in but was not really developed enough for my taste. They did spend a lot of time together, both in large group settings, in secret meeting, and just the two of them and not all of them were completely contentious. There were some fun times between them, especially the hot air balloon.
They were supposedly extremely attracted to each other, and their arguing was apparently a sign of that, but the book did not have a lot of sexual heat in it. There were a few little kissing scenes but only one scene where they actually had sex and it was far from hot. It was bland and boring and I just did not feel it. Their relationship just did not seem to be built on anything lasting; they didn't really seem to like each other and they didn't have a ton of sex so really nothing there. The writing was fast and it took me almost no time to get through it, and not just because I was hoping that something I liked would happen. I know that Linden can do better than this and hope that in the future she writes characters capable of carrying on a real conversation and engaging in some extremely hot sex.
Rating: Rather boring characters really who argued FAR too much and did not have nearly enough sex to make this very fast read enjoyable.