Slightly Scandalous by Mary Balogh
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
As someone who had been quite happy hating Freyja Bedwyn since meeting her in A Summer to Remember, I have no qualms admitting that I wasn't very thrilled about reading her book. At the same time, I couldn't help feeling some kind of morbid anxiety about it, as I wondered if Ms. Balogh would be able to redeem "lovely" Freyja. So, it was with some trepidation that I started reading Slightly Scandalous...
As the story opens, Freyja has left Lindsey Hall, her older brother Wulf's estate, and is on her way to Bath just to avoid being in the neighborhood during the birth of her former beau Kit Butler's first child. Even though that was not the impression I had when I read A Summer to Remember, it looks like Freyja was truly in love with Kit back then and she hasn't quite recovered from it, so she can't stand being near and pretend to be happy while watching Kit and his beloved wife Lauren burst in joy with the arrival of their love child. Bitter much? Ha, haughty Freyja fancies herself above that! Riiiight... Anyway, I digress. Let's get back to the story...
During her journey to Bath, Freyja has to spend the night at a rather shabby inn. While she's fighting the lumpy mattress for sleep, a disheveled man bursts into her room, hides in her wardrobe and asks her to cover for him. How dare he?!? Freyja isn't willing to harbor a "criminal", but when his pursuers treat her with less than the respect she deserves, she lifts her regal chin and orders them to leave her room without giving away the man hidden in her wardrobe. But then, the man has the nerve to kiss her and Freyja, being Freyja, punches him in the nose - Strike One! - and forces him out the window. Naturally, Freyja and her unexpected visitor are to cross paths again, as he's none other than Joshua Moore, Marquess of Hallmere, and he's also on his way to Bath, where he's to spend some time with his grandmother.
One of the first things that Freyja does when she meets Joshua in Bath is confront him about another misconduct of his and punch him in the nose - Strike Two! And she does this in public, for everyone in Bath to see! But as it turns out, Joshua's innocent of what she's accused him of, and he doesn't hesitate to mockingly put her in her place. Strangely enough, Joshua and Freyja end up striking some kind of friendship - Bath must be a very boring place! - where he enjoys teasing and winking at her and she finds pleasure in threatening to punch him in the nose. Again!... I'm making fun here, but Joshua and Freyja's relationship does work and their progression is quite believable.
When Joshua's aunt comes to Bath and starts stirring trouble, trying to get him to marry her eldest daughter Constance, he asks Freyja to enter into a fake betrothal with him to thwart his aunt's plan. Bored with life in Bath and willing to have some fun, she agrees. But what starts as a temporary diversion to fool Joshua's aunt gets more and more complicated, and they can't find an easy way out of it. So what does this mean? Should they turn their fake betrothal into a real one?
As everyone is tired of hearing, I really disliked Freyja in A Summer to Remember and none of the previous books in this Slightly series have changed my mind about her. She was too haughty, spoiled and truly unlikable! The way she talked, walked and acted, lifting her chin and punching the nose of every poor male who had the misfortune of crossing her path, everything in her annoyed me. There's a difference between being feisty and being downright rude! BUT - and it pains me to say it - I couldn't keep hating her after reading this book. I still don't like her and I haven't excused her behavior, but now I understand why she was so awfully nasty towards Kit and his beloved Lauren. Plus, Lauren has forgiven her so who am I to hold a grudge? While I was reading this book, I got the feeling that Ms. Balogh had worked hard trying to redeem Freyja and, to be fair, Freyja did show some redeeming qualities but, at the end of the day, she was still haughty and spoiled Freyja - as she was supposed to be since she didn't have a personality-change surgery - and she wasn't the kind of heroine I love. I've learned to tolerate her, though. :)
As for Joshua, he seemed to be a bit silly and air-headed at first, which wasn't a bad thing considering Freyja's character - I mean, no stuffy and serious man would have been able to tackle her and survive, LOL. He had to be that way to get past her initial defenses, both emotional and physical, but he grated on my nerves with his frequent winking. Halfway through the story, I was on the verge of asking Freyja to punch him in the nose if he "depressed one eyelid in that slow wink of his" one more time! Anyway, I was glad to see that there was more to him than what he presented to the world, and he was a caring, protective and honorable man. I even felt a bit sorry for him the first time he made love with Freyja, because I think she was just using him to forget Kit. I do believe she fell in love with him later, but that first time didn't feel right to me.
As for the plot, it wasn't the most original one and I'm starting to wonder if all the books in this series have the same theme, as in marriage/betrothal of convenience. As much as I love Ms. Balogh's writing, I don't think it's good to have all the books in the series with the same basic plot.
All in all, this was a slightly better than average read to me, but I don't think it would be fair to place it in the same level as Slightly Wicked, which I liked better and has earned 4 stars from me, so I'm giving it 3 stars.
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