This is the third of my four rummage sale romance novels (previously and previously) and my winning (losing?) streak is continuing! I mean, of course we all expected this, because most of what was written before 1990 is just dreadful. And Beloved Scoundrel is no exception! You can tell just from the title that it’s going to be ridiculous. Scoundrel? Scoundrel?! A scoundrel is, like, a little Scotty dog in a jaunty cap. A scoundrel is a chipmunk that you shake your fist at after it steals your nut. A scoundrel is NOT a hot dude you want to bonk. Come on! I can’t even think about that word without giggling, and you know how romance heroes hate to be giggled at, so it just stands to reason that Captain James would be a total douchenugget. I caused this. I’m sorry.
(As an aside, while I was searching for a cover image – and couldn’t find a big one, which is why this post is preceded by such a teensy tiny image; also because I am too lazy to take a picture of the cover of my book – I discovered that “scoundrel” is a VERY popular word in romance novel titles. Seriously! SCOUNDRELS, the lot of them!)
Sooo getting down to business! Captain James Mallory is a sea-faring pirate brigand! No, just kidding, he’s a totally normal regular dude who happens to captain a ship and carry cargo back and forth across the pond. A businessman, if you will. Totally on the up-and-up! And also everyone adores him. Especially the ladies, who he has sex with, because of his excessive manliness. Yes, it is possible to be uber-manly and also not a brigand! James Mallory shows us how! Anyway, James’s madam friend (whore house madam, not lady madam) has this years-old letter from her estranged sister in London (the madam is in New Orleans) begging her (the madam) to care for her (the sister’s) child because she (the sister) is surely dying. James Mallory takes the case! Also he takes a prostitute to bed and shows her an awesome time. What? You thought James Mallory would walk inside a whore house and not get it in? Impossible!!!! Later, in England, James gets ready to hunt down the male-child, Chris. Also he has sex with a woman named Lucy who is a sweet but, I gather, somewhat dim serving wench in her daddy’s tavern (uh oh, James!) and she declares him the manliest of the all the manly men! THE MOST MANLIEST! He doesn’t just rock her world, he blows it up with the fury of his thrusts and then has sex with all the glittering little pieces! HE’S THAT MANLY! Also somebody steals his favorite cloak and he goes racing after the little thief and then finds out that the thief is Chris! The one he’s looking for! HOW MANLY IS THAT?! Job well done, James! That is, until James gets drugged by Chris’s ragtag compatriots and has to start looking all over. But of course he finds him the next day at the hanging – I mean, of course they would both go to the hanging, what else is there to do? – and drags his thieving ass to Lucy’s dad’s tavern and all but drowns the kid in the bathtub and is like BATHE YOURSELF, SON, and then he goes to schtupp Lucy. OF COURSE HE DOES! It’s been HOURS! James takes her on a scenic drive along the orgasm superhighway and then she goes to check on the little ruffian.
SURPRISE! The ruffian is a lady! Chris is actually Christianne! OOPS! It’s not very manly of hero that he didn’t noticed that she was a he. I mean, don’t romance heroes have special sensors in their peens that keep track of all the hot ladies in a ten-mile radius? Also he doesn’t seduce her while she is naked? In his room? Tsk tsk, James. Later James goes out and buys her incredibly fashionable, fancy clothes, which he has tailored to her measurements which he has learned with 10000% accuracy just by looking at her briefly – and I know what you’re thinking, but it’s actually SUPER manly to know a lot about ladies’ clothing. James spends approximately 45% of his time removing ladies’ clothing so he’s become well-acquainted. Ohhhhhh yeahhhhhh! Then poor, sweet Lucy gets tricked into helping Christianne escape (and spanked for her efforts when James finds out! THE NERVE!) and James has to go track her down AGAIN and drag her onto the boat. Well, he doesn’t have to drag her, because she sees the pretty dresses and gets all goo-goo faced and goes willingly. Women, am I right?! On the boat she tries to cause all kinds of trouble for him, but it doesn’t really work, and he invites her to Barcelona, and makes her swear on her mother’s grave that she’ll be well-behaved, and then she’s like, hmmm I don’t want to break this oath that I swore on my mother’s grave but maybe I could manipulate him into doing something and then be justified in breaking it? HMMMMM! Surely this will work! Meanwhile, they’re in Barcelona visiting his friend and his friend’s wife, who used to be James’s main squeeze…or maybe the woman that he seduced (raped?) while she was a prisoner on his ship? I’m not sure, the backstory is not entirely clear, but how awkward does this dinner sound??? JUST KIDDING – everyone is friends and there’s no awkwardness at ALL, not even about James’s ship BEING NAMED AFTER THE DUDE’S WIFE. Are you familiar with the internet acronym SMDH? It means “shaking my damn head,” and it’s what I’m doing. Right now. Reading this. Remembering reading this. Typing this. Oh, golly.
So, anyway, after lunch Christianne is all, ughhhh I fell nauseous!, which in romance-ese means, “I am totally pregnant!” except our hero hasn’t had time to fertilize her sexy, sexy eggs yet, so hm. I guess she just overate! Then she lays down for a siesta, but decides, hey instead of sleeping won’t it be an awesome idea to seduce Captain James? Even though, NO, that is NOT an awesome idea, she has it in her head that if she tricks the notorious rake into having sex with her, she’ll somehow be let out of her promise to behave well. Which…whatever. Honey, are you 12? Are you seriously 12 years old? James figures it out and makes fun of her for it and instead of being like, shut the fuck up James you’re an asshole, she has a little CRISIS and starts feeling shitty about herself. So of course he has to make her feel better with the sex – and not just any sex, the best sex she’s ever had, because he is the best sexer and that is what he does. He sexes well. I’m not even joking, he actually has a line in which he reflects that he’s going to give her an extra-good time because her previous lovers were probably no good. The ego on this guy! Man! So in true gross romance novel fashion, she wants it until she doesn’t want it and when she doesn’t want it she’s told “too bad!” and gets it anyway. Ugh. James calls this seduction and I call it rape and I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree? Of course, thanks to James’s, ah, persistence she comes around to really liking it and so does he. Enough to say, direct quote here, “Hellion! Sweet, wild hellion, love me!” I was reading this scene while eating my lunch in my office cafeteria and I have to admit this line make me choke on my salad a little. Hilarity ensues on the next page when James reflects on his actions:
Guilt pricked him fleetingly as he flung aside the sheet and saw proof of her virginity there like an accusing crimson finger pointed straight at him.
I COULDN’T MAKE THIS SHIT UP!!!! Pricked fleetingly (that’s what she said)! AN ACCUSING CRIMSON FINGER! Seriously. Where do you even go from here? Where do you possibly go? If you’re Christianne and James, you go out to parrrrr-tayyyyy and dance and eat and get your fortune read. The fortune teller tells Christianne that she’ll find true love and have lots of babies, but not with James! And also not before a WHOLE lotta heartache and bullshit! Well, thanks lady, that’s a real inspirational message. Then other things happen and they argue, blah blah blah, and Christianne ends up hanging from a fence by her skirt, haha, whatever, etc, etc, and then they leave.
Back on the ship they continue to bone! They rock the boat! They put the motion in the ocean! Eventually Christianne stops trying to fight him off and even starts to like it a little. Meanwhile, she’s flirting like mad with one of James’s seamen (heh) just to piss him off, and then she finds out that her aunt owns and operates a whorehouse. I mean, the best and most classy whorehouse that New Orleans has ever seen, with only the finest and most, ah, talented ladies employed, but still a whorehouse. Are you surprised that this is a hard sell? They fight again and then Christianne goes on a hunger strike and the sailors bet on who will break first and the first mate is like, hey captain maybe you shouldn’t be forcing this girl to have sex with you?, and Captain James is like, whatever man I do what I want!, but then he brings Christianne food and DOESN’T force her to have sex with him, so maybe he’s turning over a new leaf.
But then – mutiny!!! MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY!!!! Well, talk of mutiny. Little pre-mutinous mumbles. But that’s enough for Captain James to start flogging some dudes! And by “some dudes” I mean one dude, the dude that Christianne was flirting with. Oh ho! She does not like THAT one bit, no way, so she tries to stab him. And he’s like, stab ME will you?! And I think you know what comes next. Ick. So then guess who shows up? Because she’s been stowing away on the ship? But now she’s sick and passed out? LUCY! Lucy the lusty tavern wench! Because of course! Because why not! Because it’s nonsense! Because who cares! And Lucy has overheard all the mutiny talk, so it goes from maybe-mutiny to full on confirmed mutiny! And Christianne’s dude on the side gets thrown in the brig. But first he asks for her help with getting away and she agrees to help him against her better judgment (good decisions! start making them!) but first she seduces Captain James and drugs him but he’s not really drugged because he’s spent the last few years building up an immunity to iocane powder OF COURSE HE HAS so he’s pissed off and roaring at his seamen (heh) find her (they already did – heh heh) but she has escaped with the other dude. Well, not escaped so much as dragged overboard and then clubbed over the head and tossed in a boat and taken away. But that’s just semantics!
So, anyway, the dude takes her to his super duper secret island lair hideout and says she’s going to be his wife now. And this guy has some SERIOUS lady-issues, by which I means he kind of hates them. ALL of them. Especially his mother! Also his previous squeeze is still living in the island lair (also, pregnant) and when she meets Christianne there’s a lot of screaming and punching and attempts at stabbing and name-calling because that’s what women DO when they meet each other for the first time, just like how dogs sniff one another! It’s science! But then they decide to be friends or whatever and they try to come up with an escape plan but then everything gets ruined and Christianne is like, oh crap I have to marry this asshole, so she goes to marry him. But then! The priest! Is actually Captain James IN DISGUISE! And there’s a battle! James and his dudes run one way, Christianne and her mute eunuch helper guy run another way! Then the helper guy gets killed! Then James shows up again! Then they try to go in a boat! Then they get shipwrecked on an island! And she and he stay there, together, fighting and screwing and being assholes to each other FOR WEEKS and he says that special magical phrase (eight letters, three words, one meaning), but Christianne REFUSES to hear it! And also he’s like, haha look at you getting fat haha you fatty! And she’s like I’M PREGNANT, except she is not like that, she is not like that at all, she’s just like yeah whatever, and I don’t know, plans to just pretend herself out of the pregnancy until some later date when she feels like cluing him in and/or never, because she’ll have made one good decision and left his ass behind and gone off to live a happy life somewhere sans him. Then finally Captain James gets bored of all that so they hike out to some little town and then they finally reunite with everyone and then there’s another battle and then they finally make it to New Orleans and she meets her aunt and she’s so pregnant and so happy and they’re going to get so married and live so happily for so long! It’s possible other things happened – but I doubt it! – because I basically just skimmed the last 150-200 pages. It’s just SO HARD to care about these two. I think my dream ending would be if they got shipwrecked and found their way to a deserted island and then fell into a big sandy pit and couldn’t get out and died there. Alternately, they could be eaten by crocodiles.
The real tragedy of this novel is that the sweet fortune teller woman from the beginning was wrong. Well, she was right about everything except the part about not ending up with Captain James. What does it mean??? Is this the author’s way of telling us that he’s grown? That he’s changed? That he’s a different man now? HAHA PSYCHE! Of course he’s not a different! He’s exactly the same stupid violent assface that he was at the beginning, the only thing that changed was now she’s totally into that. Or maybe it was just a red herring? Meant to throw us off the trail of True Love and think, maybe, just maybe, the blurb had lied to us and the book would turn out to be different? Thanks a lot for that little mindfuck, Penelope Neri. WE ARE NOT FRIENDS ANYMORE.