Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Review: A Taste for Scandal by Erin Knightley


Richard Moore, the Earl of Raleigh, leads a charmed life. Everything comes easily to him -- and, if they don't, he uses his charm, his title and his wit to get it. But a chance encounter with a baker proves to Richard that there are occasions in life where he can't get by on his charm, title and wit.

Jane Bunting's whole world is her bakery -- and when an unknown man comes in, attacks her cousin and proceeds to break almost every piece of china in her shop, she does what any normal citizen would do: she calls the authorities.

When the man identifies himself as the Earl of Raleigh, Jane again does what any normal citizen would do: she doesn't believe him and proceeds to laugh at his face.

Richard has never had that kind of reaction before. He knows how to treat women, having lived with 4 -- and having charmed hundreds. Jane intrigues him -- who is this woman who is unimpressed by wealth and rank? And proceeds to discover the answer ... and more.

This is the second book in Erin Knightley's Sealed with a Kiss series. (I really, really loved her first book, More than a Stranger and was so happy that this one is finally out. ^_^)

There are several aspects of this novel that I enjoyed:

1. This is a foodie's romance novel. The discussion on baking (and savoring -- read p. 153) blend very well into the dialogue and narration -- and adds to the spice of Richard and Jane's blooming relationship.

2. Erin Knightley uses the epistolary very well. The letters from Jane's mother are so poignant and so bittersweet for Jane. (And they contain such thoughtful and relevant advice about love and courtship and life. ^_^)

Favorite lines from Jane's mother: A woman's reputation is like a lovingly prepared souffle. It can take ages to prepare, but only a single moment to destroy. Once flattened, it can never again be shaped to anything of use, and all who glimpse it will know at once of its downfall. - p. 89

But it is this third point that I would like to talk about:

3. The commentary on nobility. I love that Jane wasn't immediately impressed with Richard's pronouncement of his rank. Knightley cleverly opens up a conversation on how we view nobility. When Emerson and Weston and Jane figure out that Richard truly was the Earl of Raleigh, Jane is immediately concerned about how her lack of respect would affect her livelihood and general welfare and immediately goes to Richard to make amends. But Richard had no clue of the repercussions of the event -- he had already forgotten it.

"I am not a lunatic," he growled, jerking his arms against the hands that held him. "I'm the bloody Earl of Raleigh!"

As the claim echoed around the small space, everyone froze. A pregnant moment of silence fell on the room, unbroken by even a single breath. Relief coursed through Richard's battered body -- finally, he was being heard.

...

"If you would be so good as to allow me to produce some identification?"

The two men exchanged glances, and the older of the two nodded.

With his dignity in about as good a shape as his mangled cravat, Richard rolled his shoulders and adjusted his now ruined coat. Feeling slightly better, he extended his right hand to the room at large. In the morning light, his gold signet ring glinted dully.
- pp. 17-19

The reality of Jane and Richard is that they belong in very different social classes -- and one would think it would be impossible for a baker to meet, let alone marry the heir of the Marquis of Granville.

But Jane challenges this reality and him. While one's title and nobility is inherited, noble-ness and respect have to be earned. Richard has always relied on his wealth, position and charm -- but being with Jane has made him discover whole new aspects of himself and of what he is capable of in the face of trial.

The lessons in baking transcended beyond measurements and ingredients and became a lesson in life. And Jane is an excellent teacher -- open, thoughtful, generous and caring. She shows how industriousness and diligence result in the most spectacular and delicious pastry creations -- items that Bea and Richard take for granted on a daily basis. She makes them appreciate the work that goes into even the simplest bread. And Richard is intrigued by this.

...She lifted her arms to his view so he could see the scars branding her forearms. "Not so quickly, and definitely not so pretty."

Richard drew in a breath, noticing for the first time the faint lines marring her beautiful skin. It seemed a travesty. Without thinking, he reached out and traced the darkest one, its edges slightly puckered against the smooth silk of her skin. She held utterly still, not even seeming to breathe as he explored the scars her profession had wrought.

She was a warrior, his little baker. New admiration filled his chest, pushing back against the pain that pulsed in his arm. To some, the scars may have looked ugly. Actually, they may have been ugly to him only a few weeks earlier. But looking at them now, as the razor sharp heat of his own wound burned like fire, they seemed like trophies of her strength. Was there anything that she couldn't handle?
- pp. 130-131

I think Erin Knightley's work is genre-changing: in the aftermath of Fifty Shades of Grey, Knightley is proving that the page and the characters can sizzle and combust without relying on love scenes and that romance is about a relationship developing through the telling a really good story with really beautiful characters.

A Taste for Scandal is the divine, thoroughly enjoyable follow-up to Erin Knightley's debut, More than a Stranger. Both books are part of her Sealed with a Kiss series. She released an e-novella, Miss Mistletoe last November. Flirting With Fortune (Bea's story), will be released in September 2013.

4 comments:

  1. Hey Tin,

    I've taken a look at this book once or twice before, but it was your review that has finally convinced me to add it to my TBR list :). In particular, I liked what you said about developing the romance without depending on love scenes to carry the story.

    - Chris

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi, Christopher!

    Thanks for dropping by. (I'm glad you found a book for your TBR ^_^)

    Have you read her debut? Both of her books are wonderful. ^_^

    Enjoy!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not yet, but I added that one to my TBR too :).

      Thanks,
      Chris

      Delete
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