Saturday, September 18, 2010

Scandalous

England, 1810: When Lady Gabriella Banning receives word that her half-brother, the Earl of Wickham, has died on his tea plantation in Ceylon, she faces the reality that she and her younger sisters, Claire and Elizabeth, are suddenly penniless. The family's riches will pass to the next male heir -- a distant cousin -- and the Banning sisters are doomed unless Gabby thinks fast.

Which she does. Pretending that Marcus is still alive, Gabby arranges beautiful Claire's London season. She'll keep up the pretense just long enough for Claire to marry a fabulously wealthy nobleman. But when a handsome gentleman arrives at the door and claims to be Marcus, Gabby's plan backfires. For if she exposes this mysterious stranger's deceit, she exposes her own. Bound by secrets and lies, Gabby and the roguish adventurer strike sparks off each other -- and soon London society is abuzz over the scandalous pair of "siblings" who appear to be falling in love....

With this beautifully rendered romance, bestselling author Karen Robards begins a sweeping series about three unforgettable sisters poised to take the ton by storm.

Good story but takes a bit to get going...

Scandalous is the first in the Banning Sisters Trilogy and had you asked me if I would continue reading the series before I got halfway through the book, my answer would have been no.  The first half of the book was painfully slow and so completely over-wordy, I was exhausted by chapter two and ready to skip to the end chapters just to see how it all ended.  I must quote a snippet so you have an idea of the wordiness to which I refer...

"By the time Bond Street, which both the household and the Pocket Guide assured them was the most select boulevard for the acquisition of elegant goods in town, was reached, even Gabby felt as though, if she did not take care, her jaw might hang open as Beth's had done before Claire had adjured her, in the name of saving them all from looking like country bumpkins, to please shut her mouth." (Page 109)
Holy guacamole, Batman!  Don't tell me you read that sentence and understood every ounce of it on the first take?  But take this sentence - this ONE sentence - and multiply it by about 125 or so pages worth and there you have half a book.  I had an attack of the megrims trying to decipher every minute detail that the author tried to squeeze into every sentence.  A lot of unnecessary fluff, really.  So please, let me clarify this snippet...

"The household and the Pocket Guide were assuredly correct that this was the most select boulevard for the acquisition of elegant goods in town.  By the time Bond Street was reached, even Gabby felt as though her jaw might hang open as Beth's had done before Claire had adjured her to please shut her mouth." 

Still not great, but I feel better.  Now, I must warn potential readers... if you like a lot of dialogue in your stories like I do, you may want to skip Robards and look elsewhere.  Just flipping the pages quickly with my thumb, all you see are paragraphs and paragraphs and paragraphs.  The second half of the book is better, almost as if there was an editor change halfway through, because the paragraphs got less wordy, less over-explanatory, and thankfully, more dialogue seemed to emerge. 

Now, back to the story. The blurb at the top of this posting (from the back cover) really tells you a lot and sets things in motion.  Obviously, a brother and sister falling in love would be the Scandalous part, but somehow, someway, you know that they'll get a happily ever after in the end. All the meat in the middle was enjoyable enough but the ending didn't suprise me in the least.  Given the situation, really, what were the alternatives? 

Gabriella was a snooty, fiesty, bitchy sort of high-bred spinster - really, a mother hen protecting her chicks.  And just when I would start warming up to her, she'd get all bitchy, snooty and fiesty again and I'd be right back where I was... not really caring so much.  (Notice I rearranged the adjectives there?)  "Marcus" was clearly up to something which we don't fully know about til the very end.  Honestly, I liked "Marcus" quite a lot because he just played off of Gabby at every turn, frustrating the heck out of her.  But as tender and sweet as their love scene was, it was almost a wonder that they managed to fall in love at all.  "Marcus" must be a glutton for punishment because that would be one fiery relationship in the long-term... and he knew it!  I do give him a box of kudos, though, for seeing Gabby as the strong, courageous female that she was.  Her facade was quite literally like iron, even though there was a girl underneath that just needed a pair of stong arms to hold her and make her smile more often.  Gabriella and "Marcus" quarrel a lot, so I kinda had a hard time seeing how strife, manipulation and resentment could turn in to love as easily as it appeared to.  I've seen stories where it worked.  This one didn't quite convince me.

Now, I admit that I've been a bit hard on this story, and as I mentioned above, had I not made it at least halfway through, I would not be continuing the series.  But I did make it halfway, and all the way to the end.  And I'm glad I did.  And yes, the other trilogy books are on my paperbackswap.com list.  I'm crossing my fingers that the writing won't be so cumbersome and I'm curious to see how Claire and Beth weather the aftermath of "Marcus" and Gabby's scandal.  I would hope that some of the unanswered questions from this book would be explained as well.  So, all said and done, I think had the first half of book been heavily edited (in chunks) it would have been a lot more of a pleasurable read.  The actual meat of the story was still good but be prepared for a lot of longwindedness from the author and very, very strong-willed characters.  Irresistable is the next book in this series, which tells Claire's story.  Shameless is Beth's story.

My rating:  5 - I liked most of the book

The Banning Sisters Trilogy in order...

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