Hello everyone, today we start my contrast discussion of the romance subgenres with the “Clean” one. If you want to know more about this, search “Mrs. Y Reviews Books” in a browser bar, and come check out my blog. This is my review of “A Proper Scandal” by Esther Hatch, an Audible book I picked up on my own, thanks to my Audible Subscription. No one asked me to review this, and I found it entirely on my own.
To start, I want to go into a brief synopsis/context of this story. This is the story of Grace, it is set in the 1800s in England, and it is a drama piece with many aspects. Grace is a lucky woman as far as aesthetics and finances, but she has the trust and common sense of a standard garden gnome.
The story premise is relatively simple and has easy-to-understand stakes, moving in a positive progression story arc. Furthermore, that is all the context you get because I will not be giving spoilers here. If you want my thoughts, please check out my blog for the ‘Dirty vs. Clean’ romance comparison I make.
To start the review of “A Proper Scandal,” I will discuss critiques. To begin, I found the use of comedic timing was distracting in places. From page one, the tone was established to be a drama. I was on board with the tone. Nevertheless, somewhere well past the initial setting, comedy began to set in.
Comedy is a wonderful writing technique to take character tension and bring it relief or pressure. I fully appreciate an author trying to add some levity as a tension device to their story. For this book, however, the slapstick situations felt so out of place in the story. There were random hair things, hat things, and then there were smells or random awkward social situations.
Furthermore, there is not anything wrong with humor, and I promise that is not the critique. The problem was the amount of slapstick humor in a period drama/romance novel. No one ever opens up Jane Austin, and thinks “Wow, those funny bits were the best!”
Lastly, a critique about cliches: I have not brought this up in ages, but this cliche is one I have named “Drama Romance Barbie.” Why is it that some romances have to have the most “beautiful” woman in the world meeting the “Oh, he is handsome now, because he bathed” type? Moreover, why is it the impossibly beautiful woman has to be blonde? She has to have huge blue eyes and has to have the self-preservation of a Roomba? It is just ugh. I mean, I like the girl fine, but give her zits or something. She is rich, gorgeous, has somehow an understanding of business, and a voice of an angel goes to church like a good girl. Her flaws are that she is dumb as a box of rocks, overly trusting, and ‘too good to lie.
Ask yourself, have you ever met Drama Romance Barbie in your real life? I have not. I have met plenty of pretty women, but they had flaws that were not like that. I have met plenty of not so pretty women, and they had better characters. I do not understand the need for this stereotype critique that often is parodied in romance novels. I will discuss this more in my comparison critiques on my blog if you want more of my thoughts, but for now, this was an eyesore of a cliche.
I enjoyed several parts of “A Proper Scandal,” so I shall now discuss the positives in this review. Firstly, the kissing scene is fantastic. Clean romance is known for lack of a sex scene and a pivotal kissing scene. Well, this book did not disappoint. I liked that a few marked parts were lovely kisses, and I liked the tension and chemistry between the characters. There is no issue with gravity or Newton’s laws when there are kissing scenes, and I find it a lot less distracting. Also, I found the technique used to bring chemistry between the lead characters very comfortable and approachable. I did not feel it was over the top, nor did I feel this part was dashed with comedy and made it awkward, either.
The next thing I enjoyed was the narration by Abbigail Warren. Abbigail has got to be one of the best I have ever heard in a romance because I enjoyed that for dialogue. She used British accents, and for narration, she used an American accent. It helped me keep track of the action, and I enjoyed being so diverse and comfortable. Abbigail has a good voice. She can do multiple voices and genders. She also is exceptional at adding tension into a scene by just whispering words. I loved that part. She can make any part of the novel feel so realistic. I found myself holding my breath a couple of times with the story due to her verbal queues, and I liked that feeling. Abbigail had a stunning performance of the material.
Lastly, let us go into the structure of the story. “A Proper Scandal” was, for me, well outlined and plotted. The story moved with it has all the makings of an adequate historical drama as well as a romance. I do think my critiques are worthy of mentioning regarding the comedy. However, I also think that despite the distractions, the story is strong. The antagonists in this story, for there are many, are all unique and well fleshed out.
That said, and this is slightly spoilery, but I will try not to be. There is a Lord in this story who is in an antagonist position, and honestly, this guy should have his own story. He is amazing. He has good and bad elements. He would be a fantastic character who could be the leading role in a story efficiently. So I hope someone writes a book about him because that would be cool.
Furthermore, isn’t that what we want with some villains/antagonists? This guy could be a “Loki” type. A plotline is another story that becomes something more substantial later somewhere for himself.
Overall I am giving “A Proper Scandal” by Esther Hatch 81/100, a 4-star review on Goodreads, Audible, and my blog. Please check out my blog for my final thoughts on the contrast between the two types of romance! I am reviewing the other side of this coin. Stay tuned next week, my friends.