Fiction: “A Lady of Scandal” by Nicole Byrd

lady of scandalOh, completion!  I’d forgotten the satisfaction I get from finishing a book.  It’s been just about a month since I’ve finished a book, and I’m still reading about six.  It’s entirely possible that a slew of entries will follow.

But let’s talk about this first.  A Lady of Scandal is just what it sounds like: a Regency Historical Romance novel that I found on a used shelf at Bookland, picked up on a whim because I needed to use up a gift card.  The line on the back of the paperback that convinced me to spend the $3.50 was “Miss Ophelia Applegate knows that ladies rarely become actresses without incurring social ruin — but surely there are exceptions?”  Ooh, theatre, scandal, ‘proper ladies’; I was intrigued, I bought it, and about ten months later, I finally got around to reading it.

It was … cute?  Twin sisters – Ophelia and Cordelia – run away from Yorkshire to London so that Ophelia can pursue her life-long dream of being an actress which, during the Regency period, is unheard of for a ‘lady of quality.’  The girls are saved from a possible mugging by the “rakish” Ransom Sheffield, who, for the majority of the novel, every character refers to as ‘Mr. Ransom Sheffield.’  As in:

“Cordelia went to her sewing nook, tied on her apron and applied herself to her mending.  She saw Ransom Sheffield several times that day…”

Mr. Ransom Sheffield had a vicar cousin named Giles Sheffield, and here’s where my little geek heart ‘sploded, because I managed to find a story with both a Giles and a Cordelia.  Luckily for my little geek heart, Ophelia develops feelings for Giles and Cordelia develops feelings for Mr. Ransom Sheffield.  If Cordelia fell in love with Giles, I don’t think I’d have finished the book, because that would be way too icky for me.

The plot: Ophelia and Cordelia gain employment at a creepy theatre owned by Mr. Nettles, who is meanwhile blackmailing Mr. Ransom Sheffield’s brother, Avery.  Ransom gets a job at the theatre to gain back the evidence against Avery, and also to protect the girls.  A long-lost relative ‘kidnaps’ the girls from the theatre, but he and his wife turn out to be allies.  Then Nettles decides to advertise that a lady of quality is starring in his new play, and now Ophelia and Cordelia are in danger of being exposed.

The whole story barrels along at a slightly slower-than-I’m-used-to pace, with some sidesteps into ‘rescuing young daughters from brothels’ and ‘playwright’s rights’, but overall, I enjoyed it. 

My favorite part was the following passage:

The other man narrowed his eyes — making him look even more piglike; they were already narrow enough.  “What child?”  His tone was suspicious.

“This one.  Did you think she volunteered for this kind of life?”  Ophelia snapped.  “To be abused by monsters like you?  How could you treat a mere baby this way?” [A/N: The child in question was not actually an infant.]

“Shut your mouth!” he roared.  “I’ve told you, I will not be lectured by a two-bit whore in a cheap whorehouse!”

And to everyone’s surprise, certainly Ophelia’s, the always moderate and restrained vicar [Giles Sheffield] took two quick steps, drew back his arm and punched Sir Geoffrey neatly in the jaw, knocking him back over the only piece of furniture in the room.

This passage made me want to watch the episode of Buffy where Rupert Giles essentially did the same thing with a sword when the Mayor threatened to eat Buffy – and I feel that I need to explain the line: see, the Mayor was going to Ascend from human form to supreme demon form, so when he told Giles that he was going to eat Buffy, he wasn’t being crude; he was going to have her as a snack.  A post-Ascension nosh, if you will.

All in all, I read the book, I probably won’t read it again.  It probably gave me slightly more enjoyment because of the Giles connection (in name only, but then, I am a geek). 

Grade for A Lady of Scandal: 2 stars

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