Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Book Review: Scandal Before Sunrise by Sabrina Darby (e-novella from the Scandalous Summer Nights Boxed Set)


Three years ago, Abigail Billings was the life of the party: she kept company with dukes and earls, and the most popular debutantes of the season. Then, in the middle of the Season, Abigail abruptly leaves -- never to be heard from or seen for three years.

Now, she's back and her former friends are expecting her to pick up where they all left off, but, the Abigail Billings who has returned to London is more quiet, and more circumspect -- much to her former friends' exasperation and bafflement. The new Abigail is a mystery to everyone, especially to Honorable Elliot Jones.

We've all been taught the importance of making a good first impression, but the thing with Abigail and Elliot is that, Elliot already had an impression of Abigail even before they met. He had expected a fun, bright, and bubbly girl -- and what he got instead was a polite, well-mannered, well-spoken girl. There's nothing wrong with the latter, really, except that it struck Elliot as being terribly inauthentic.

An opportunist. Changeable. With no true identity of her own other than the goal to become a nobleman's wife.

That changeability underscored how very like all the other marriage-seeking females she was.
- Chapter 1

It's very obvious to Elliot that Abigail is hiding her true self and he wants to find out why. I think what starts out as a challenge and a curiosity becomes an exercise in trust and building a relationship and it's wonderful to see how the shift in purpose unfolds between the two: Elliot's initial curiosity deepens into a true desire to get to know Abigail, and Abigail's misgivings of Elliot changes into trust.

"What is your game, Mr. Jones?"

"I want to meet the irrepressible Miss Billings."

"No, you want to meet the young woman with poor judgment who would have ended her Season in scandal is she had not left."
- Chapter 3

My one big problem with this novella was Elliot Jones. I didn't think he was a distinct or a very well-defined character in his own story: his friend, the Duke of Manfrey was more interesting. (I'm very curious about his story with Sasha, Lady Winterbottom). His character didn't develop beyond his physical attractiveness (which Abigail kept noticing). I also felt he judged Abigail too much and was too passive about the goings-on of the Season (and of Abigail).

"Then why me, Abby? I'd be a wretched husband."

"I don't have the luxury of time. I was giving you a chance. I don't know why. Stupidity, I suppose. Not as mature as Lord Norwood thinks me. But ... if you plan to marry someday, Hones, do so now. We'll have time to grow into it."

"All right."

"What?"

""I'm agreeing to your damnable plan."

For some reason that made her more furious, which was ridiculous.

"But I can't promise fidelity, or love, or anything more than the desire to have you."
- Chapter 5

I thought Sabrina Darby presented a broad picture of London society: of the frivolous and the worthwhile, of the insouciant and the desperate -- Abigail has enjoyed one end of the spectrum and now finds herself on the opposite end. This, perhaps, is this novella's strongest point -- how life is a cycle of ups and downs and how we are humbled by these moments. Sabrina Darby wrote of Abigail's troubles a bit too subtly: her mother runs off with her lover, her family is in dire straits, and there's the scandal threatening to ruin Abigail's reputation -- and the resolution for the third was a bit too quick. I really would have loved to read more of the troubles that Abigail was experiencing, and would have loved to read a more triumphant rise from all those problems. Still, this was another enjoyable read from Sabrina Darby and I look forward to reading the rest of this series. ^_^

Scandal Before Sunrise is Book 0.5 in Sabrina Darby's The Weekly Scandal series. To find out more about Sabrina Darby and her books, click below:

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