Shirlee Busbee was pretty famous back in the day for writing crazy bodice rippers, most notably LADY VIXEN and GYPSY LADY (which I own). I love bodice rippers, so I was curious about her work, and when I saw SCANDAL on the shelf of my local used bookstore for a buck, I grabbed it.
SCANDAL is a very odd book, and, unfortunately, not a very good one. I think part of the problem is that the hero and heroine are married very early on in the story, which takes away a lot of the sexual tension romance novels use to propel interest in what happens to the characters, and emotional investment in their continued well being (they have to fuck, dammit! #OTP).
It also combines a metric fuckload of tropes into one bloated volume, and...and it's too much.
Nell Anslowe is a Lady of Quality but nobody wants to marry her because she's crippled. This happened when she fell from a horse as a young girl. She went over a cliff (killing her horse) and banged up her head, and ended up in a coma for several weeks. Her fiance at the time didn't want to marry a crip, so he decided to spread rumors that the fall had addled her brains, making her a candidate for Bedlam. (What a gentleman, eh, ladies?) Because of this, and insecurity about her unfortunate handicap, Nell has been on the shelf for all these years.
There's a bastard named Tyndale, though, who's neck-deep in vowels, and he is more than willing to marry Nell for her money. Unfortunately, he's not very good at masking his intentions and Nell refuses him. But "NO" is just white noise to this man, who decides to sneak into her room and kidnap her on a dark and stormy night, intending to spirit her away to Gretna Green, forcibly consummate the marriage, and then enjoy her fortune at the risk of her ruination. What a bastard. Nell manages to fight him off, though, and runs away to an abandoned cabin to take shelter.
At the same time, a man named Julian is chasing after his step-sister, who he believes has eloped with a handsome soldier. When he sees Tyndale's abandoned curricle, he thinks his sister and her eloper were also caught in the storm, and also finds himself in the cabin. Imagine his surprise when he sees not his sister, but a hot, wet woman in a scanty nightdress...OH THE TRAITOROUS CHILLS!
They get married, blah blah blah. Nell doesn't let him sleep with her for a while because she didn't want to get married, and she wants some time to get used to him. Which was interesting, because usually in these types of books, the hero insists on a wedding night and then the heroine (who starts out reluctant) has the orgasm of her life and realizes that this is teh luuuuuurve.
I started out liking Nell quite a bit because it was cool to read about a heroine with a handicap who had learned to deal with her difficulties and didn't define herself by them, but by the middle of the book I found myself increasingly frustrated with her. Even though it's obvious--obvious--that her husband loves her, she's convinced that he's holding a torch for his dead wife. The minute after they have sex for the first time, she interrogates him about her(!) and then seems surprised and put out(!!!) that he doesn't want to discuss his previous marriage in the marriage bed of his current wife.
There's also a murder plot. Nell has psychic powers(!!?!?!) for some reason, and has these prophetic dreams about a man in shadow who kills women in graphic and unpleasant ways in the depths of a hidden dungeon. At first she thinks these are just horrible nightmares, but later on in the story, evidence arises that suggests that these murders are actually happening. No excuse is given as to why Nell has these visions, except that maybe her falling and hitting her head precipitated it?
I don't know, guys. I think this was too cheesy and over-the-top even for me. I wish the hero and heroine hadn't gotten married so soon, and that the story had been darker to fit with the murders: some of the sleuthing scenes in this book had me humming the Scooby Doo theme because of how ridiculous they were. I half-expected to see a painting with moving eyes or a bookshelf housing a hidden door. The secondary characters were excellent, though, and the murder was suspenseful enough that I read to the end in order to find out whodunnit.
SCANDAL BECOMES HER is about as trashy as it is possible for a book to be while also still being somewhat readable. I would recommend it for long and boring car trips, and for plane rides after the flight attendant has ordered that all electronic devices be turned-off.
2 out of 5 stars.