Series: Scandal & Scoundrel #3
Published by Avon on June 27th 2017
“I am Seraphina Bevingstone, Duchess of Haven. And I require a divorce.”
“The only woman he’d ever loved. The only woman he’d ever hated.”
FINAL DECISION: Fabulous. The villain of the first book becomes a hero and the woman he wronged becomes a strong, independent woman who makes him pay for being an ass. The book just works on so many levels, but a reader has to be willing to give the jerk a chance.
THE STORY: Seraphina and Malcolm Bevingstoke, the Duchess and Duke of Haven, have been apart for over three years. Mal viciously sent Sera away when he discovered that she planned to have them found in a compromising situation in order to force their marriage. Now Sera has returned demanding a divorce. Mal has promised her the divorce she wants if she helps him find her replacement. The two are to spend the summer together, but Mal has no intention of finding a new wife when he has finally gotten the one he wants to return to him.
OPINION: This is a powerful and angst filled book. There is no easy road for these characters who are complex and not always the easiest to cheer on. This book is not for everyone. Before this book even begins, readers of the series know that Haven has been unfaithful. Caught in the act, he was pushed into a fish pond by his sister-in-law (kicking off the events in A ROGUE NOT TAKEN). I will be honest with you friends. There is no mistake, no wishy washy out, no hidden secret to take away that truth. The hero of this book was unfaithful to the heroine after they had met, fallen in love and married. For some readers, that might be a deal breaker which turns them away from this book, but I hope not. This book deserves a chance because the reality is rich and complex and the journey difficult and worthwhile.
The reality of what happened between Mal and Sera in the past is dark and nuanced and has an explanation. Not an excuse, not a justification, but an explanation and an understanding. There is no justification for Mal’s actions and, in truth, he doesn’t seem to want to justify his past actions. The question this book is interested in is different. Is there a way forward in a relationship where the foundation was intertwined with lies and deceit and betrayal?
The structure of this book interweaves the past and the present. Beautifully conceived, the very structure and form serves to tell the entire story of Mal and Sera but also clearly demonstrates how the past haunts these characters. Their obstacle is the past which is both horrible and beautiful in parts.
I find myself most satisfied by books that delve deeply into the emotional life of the characters and MacLean is a master of this type of story. Can these characters understand and accept the past and move forward? Is it even possible for forgive the past which will never be forgotten? For that is at the heart of the conflict. Sera and Mal will never be able to forget the past. They can only accept is and decide if they love one another enough to be willing to build a future together.
This was a difficult book for me. I finished it a week ago and knew that I would give it a 5 star review, but I didn’t know how to approach the review. I needed to let the story and the characters settle with me. I ultimately loved this book because the conflict these characters have is real and genuine and seemingly insurmountable. But that is also its beauty. They can move forward, they can love one another again in a better and more honest way. Perhaps that is what I most like about this book. Flawed and damaged people also can find love and are entitled to their happy endings — even if they have done terrible things, even if they have made mistakes and are not perfect.
Isn’t that hope for all of us?
WORTH MENTIONING: Spoiler! Spoiler! Content Warning!
There is a miscarriage depicted in this book for those who might be sensitive to the content.
CONNECTED BOOKS: THE DAY OF THE DUCHESS is the third book in the Scandal & Scoundrel series. While this story is independent of the others of the series, Mal and Sera’s story is part of both of the prior books in the series. This book is just better if you have read the others (especially A ROGUE NOT TAKEN).
STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.