“If Emma could have had all the sex and intrigue that Austen implied she desired, she might have been Carissa Portland in My Scandalous Viscount.”
Remember your mother’s bodice rippers? Those guilty secret books she’d never admit to reading in public but privately devoured? Heroes were smoldering, dashing, and Godlike, and heroines were their perfect foils: ravishing, delicate, and innocent.
At first glance, it appears that My Scandalous Viscount by Gaelen Foley sits squarely in that tradition . . . or does it?
All of the tropes of the bodice ripper are observed here: love without reason and instant lust resulting in glorious, abandoned rapture (even for the innocent heroine). There are duels, intrigue, passion, and social dramas galore.
From the first paragraphs, though, Ms. Foley takes every opportunity to set her story apart from the pack. Young Carissa Portland may be beautiful, with “flame-colored hair,” but she is no innocent, demure flower of Regency womanhood. In fact, it is her nosy tendency to gossip (she is referred to as a Lady of Information) that creates a situation that results in her hasty marriage to Viscount Sebastian Beauchamp.
Beauchamp, for his part, is a known rake and scoundrel, a member of the infamous Inferno Club, whose members are well known to society as libertines. But is he really so bad? Rather than conforming to the expected scheme of debaucher-turned-devoted slave to his savior wife, Beauchamp turns out to belong to The Order, a crack team of spies, charged with special service to the crown.
Ms. Foley continues in this vein, combining the expected romance novel tropes with unexpected areas of fun. The dialogue is witty, the sex scenes mercifully brief, and the characters, particularly Carissa, drawn with a sharp eye to humor and humanity.
Much fun is had with social mores, and it’s clear that Ms Foley knows her Regency era manners, clothing, and social guidelines. Sure, a few words are anachronistic, and sure the story subtext of lying “to protect the one I love” has been used before, but the author does a marvelous job of creating two main characters who are funny and unique, with the added bonus of creating a romance that seems natural and believable.
For icing atop this literary confection, Ms Foley’s ear for Regency era speech patterns and diversions is used beautifully. If Emma could have had all the sex and intrigue that Austen implied she desired, she might have been Carissa Portland in My Scandalous Viscount.