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Monday, April 8, 2013

ARC Review: A Most Scandalous Proposal by Ashlyn Macnamara

What do you call a book with two heroines, two heroes and four points of view? Perhaps a confusing mess, but certainly not an example of crisp, clear writing. A Most Scandalous Proposal is the debut Regency novel by author Ashlyn Macnamara. It is a pleasant story and Macnamara shows some flair with story creation and witty dialogue, however, the book had some notable difficulties.

Sophia St. Claire and her younger sister Julia are resistant to marriage for different reasons – Sophia because she is waiting to be noticed by her heartthrob, Ludlowe, and Julia because she wants to avoid emotional entanglements. Their parents want them married for different reasons – their mother because she wants to climb socially by making advantageous matches and their father because he needs the money. Soon Sophia is caught in a compromising situation and finds herself, through no fault of her own, engaged to the Earl of Highgate, an older, scarred widower. Meanwhile Ludlowe, who becomes the Earl of Clivesden, contrives to marry Julia who is then rescued by her childhood friend, Benedict Revelstoke. There are a number of misadventures that lead up to the final resolution.

Now about those difficulties. It is quite tricky to write a book with two heroines and two heroes. The usual method is to focus on one pair of characters and tell the story from their point of view. Macnamara began by telling Julia's story, but suddenly switched to Sophia's with no warning. By the beginning of Chapter 4 the direction of the book was completely unclear. It's a real problem if the reader doesn't embrace the critical premise of a character. I never completely sympathized with Julia's reluctance about feeling love. The story did not flow well. There were times I was uncertain who was speaking or thinking (probably caused by too many points of view). The ending was dragged out and could have stopped a couple of times before it actually did.

Another reader stated that the book was Sense and Sensibility with sex. Unfortunately, the film version of Sense and Sensibility was on television during the time I was reading the book and it was not a good comparison. Julia was definitely not Elinor Dashwood. Elinor was tough on the outside, but deeply emotional underneath. Julia was kind, but seemed to repress her emotions, except when sexually attracted to Benedict. Her relationship with Benedict was actually more like that of Emma and Mr. Knightly. Sophia did resemble Marianne Dashwood because she was a bit of an airhead. Neither Sophia or Julia was all that likeable.

I certainly didn't hate the book and Macnamara has potential as an author. Her male characters, Highgate and Revelstoke, were interesting and well developed. There was strong evidence of historical research in her use of Regency period language. It is surprising that some of the previously mentioned issues were not resolved in the editing process. Macnamara has another book in the works. Let us hope she puts more effort into developing a clearer writing voice.

**ARC copy provided by NetGalley**

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