London’s Perfect Scoundrel. I couldn’t think of a more aptly named title for this extraordinary book by Suzanne Enoch. Not that the hero, Saint, is perfect. But he is perfectly sinful, perfectly wicked, perfectly delicious, and thus, a perfect scoundrel...and my all-time favorite bad boy hero. Suzanne Enoch’s story shows how one completely immoral man slowly transforms into a gentleman because of the determination and love of one incredible woman. Here’s a small (okay, maybe a little bit more than small) taste of why I have such strong love for this book and its hero.
“My dear, Saint doesn’t have to be good because he is so very...very bad.” – Lady Gladstone
“It amazes me, Saint, that you can own so few redeemable qualities and still be so likable.” – Prince George
“Why does everyone call him Saint?” – Evelyn Ruddick
“Besides the obvious? I imagine he finds it...amusing, since he’s about the furthest thing from a saint there is without taking hell into account.” – Viscount Dare
“I wonder that anyone tolerates him at all.” – Mrs. Ruddick
“Probably because he doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what he is.” – Evelyn Ruddick
“I believe it’s just that the expectations for me are so low, I can’t help but amaze.” – Lord St. Aubyn
Michael Halboro, Marquis of St. Aubyn, or Saint as he’s called, is anything but a saint. Ironic, that. He’s tall, devilishly handsome and extremely wealthy. Everything a girl could hope for, right? Yes, except that he also engages in scandalous affairs (he takes his lovers’ marriage vows as seriously as they do), says shocking things (which often offends the recipient and anyone else within earshot) and wants to raze the orphanage that he’s the chairman of, thus releasing him from the obligation stated in his mother’s will.
It is because of said orphanage, the Heart of Hope, that Saint meets his heroine, Evelyn Marie Ruddick. Evelyn is there to meet with the board of directors in the hopes that she will be allowed to volunteer. She wants to do something useful and worthwhile since her brother, Victor, and her mother think her nothing but an empty-headed girl that they use to help further Victor’s political ambitions. During their first encounter, Saint shows just how depraved he is by mocking, insulting, and not taking Evelyn’s request seriously, as shown in this scene when she was asked to leave.
“Why don’t you want me to volunteer here?” she asked over her shoulder, hearing his boot steps close behind her. “It won’t cost you anything.”
“Until you grow tired of providing puddings and sweets—or until the orphanage has to begin paying for the removal of the children’s rotten teeth.”
“The offer of sweets was only so they would talk to me. I imagine they have little reason to trust adults.”
“My heart weeps at your compassion.”
She faced him, stopping so suddenly on the stairs that he nearly ran into her. St. Aubyn towered over her, but she refused to look away from the scoundrel’s arrogant, cynical expression. “I didn’t think you had a heart, my lord.”
He nodded. “I don’t. It was a figure of speech. Go home, Miss Ruddick.”
“No. I want to help.”
“First of all, I doubt you know the first thing about what the brats and this building might need.”
“And in the second place,” he continued in a quieter voice, moving one step down so that her face was level with his crotch, “I can think of a place where you’d be much more useful.”
Heat rose in Evie’s face, but she refused to back away. “And where might that be?”
“In my bed, Miss Ruddick.”
|This is how I picture Saint...|
“Why are you cleaning out the storage rooms?”
“To make classrooms.” Her fine brows furrowed. “Did you listen at all to my proposal?”
“Evelyn Marie,” he said in a low voice, wishing the flock of chickens [women] was elsewhere so he could taste her honeyed mouth again, “you’re not here because of your proposal.”
Her scowl deepened. “Then why—”
“You’re here because of my proposition.”
“I told you that you wouldn’t frighten me away, my lord.”
“Saint,” he corrected. “Have you ever seen a man naked and aroused with wanting you?”
A deep blush stole up her cheeks. “N...no”
“You will.” Unable to stop himself, he reached out to touch her cheek. “The things I will teach you, Evelyn, aren’t lectured about in classrooms. And you’ll beg me to teach you more.”
Her mouth opened and closed again. “Go away,” she finally commanded in a quavering voice. “I will not be seduced by you.”
Evie doesn’t give in to Saint as easily as he thinks she will. She gives as good as she takes and gradually starts to throw him off balance by asking him personal questions such as what his Christian name is, about his mother, and his life now. He tries to change the subject by artfully relieving her pearl pendant necklace right from her neck. When she questions how, he replies, “You should see me unfasten a gown.” He then tells her she must ask for it back at that evening’s soirée (which he found himself attending more since making the acquaintance of Evelyn) in front of others. By this point, Evie is getting flustered, but she manages to do it, with style.
Best to get it over with then. “Lord Dare mentioned that you’d found a necklace at the Hanson soiree. I think it may be mine. May I see it?”
His lips twitched. “Yes, I discovered it in the punch bowl,” he said smoothly, and reached into his pocket. “Would this be it?”
Evie felt faint with relief. “Oh, thank you so much, my lord,” she gushed, before he could even produce the thing for her inspection. “It’s my favorite piece, and I thought I’d never find it.” She held out her hand.
Saint stepped behind her. “Allow me.”
Before she could do more than gulp and flush bright red, the marquis slid the cool chain around her throat and fastened it. His fingers brushed the hairs at the back of her neck as he leaned closer. “Well done, Evelyn Marie,” he murmured into her hair. “Now smile and say ‘thank you, Saint,’ or I’ll kiss your ear.”
If her heart beat any faster, it would burst from her chest. She gave a friendly smile to the air. “Thank you again, Saint. That was quite thoughtful of you.”
“You arouse me,” he whispered, “and you’ll pay for that.”
|...or maybe like this. *g*|
“You’re just like all of the other men in my life, you know.”
Whatever she meant by that, it sounded insulting. “No, I’m not.”
“Yes, you are. Victor sends me to talk to disgusting old men because they think I’m charming. He doesn’t care if I have to lie to them about how interesting I find them, or whether the stupid political teas he makes me are useless and worthless and make me very . . . nervous. And you—you’re worse.”
“You only let me into the orphanage because you thought it would give you the chance to lift my skirts. You’re handsome, and exciting, and . . . enticing, but I do have a mind, you know. You don’t know me, and you don’t know these children who depend on you for their lives. All you care is that it’s inconvenient.”
His angel certainly had a mouth on her. He would never have expected it, but at the moment he didn’t much appreciate it. “Are you finished?” he snapped.
“Not yet. As of this moment, nothing is inconvenient for you. You now have all the time in the world. And someone else gets to judge whether you should be let loose into Society again or not.” She stood. “And ponder this, Lord St. Aubyn. If you never reappear, will anyone even miss you?”
During his week (yes, a whole week!) spent in the dungeon, Saint does a lot of soul searching and comes to some harsh realizations about himself, one of which is the fact that he really has absolutely no one to call “friend”. He manages to escape, but not before he finally succeeds in seducing the tempting Evelyn, which only brings up more realizations, such as the fact that Evelyn Marie Ruddick is unlike anyone he’s ever met and the only woman that has wanted him, not something from him. Along with appreciation comes admiration and respect. So when Evelyn’s family wants her to marry Mr. Clarence Alvington because of his family’s political connections, Saint will do anything in his power to make sure Evelyn has a choice. And if he wants any chance to spend time with Evelyn, Saint knows that he needs to behave like a gentleman. It was quite endearing because he tries so hard and starts worrying about saying the right things.
“You’ve...picked a lovely day for our outing,” she said.
“Are we talking about the weather now?” Saint set the bottle in the grass and took one of the glasses from her, making sure that he brushed her fingers as he did so. It seemed imperative that he touch her every few moments.
“The weather is always a safe topic.”
He took a sip of wine, gazing at her over the rim of the glass. “A ‘safe’ topic. Fascinating.”
Her eyes lowered. “No. It’s dull.”
Evidently he’d said the wrong thing. Being proper was even more difficult than he’d imagined. “No, really. This is new territory for me. Usually by now on a picnic I’m unclothed. Are there other ‘safe’ topics?”
She looked up at him again, suspicion in her clear gaze. “The weather is the safest, being that everyone knows something about it. Fashion is controversial, unless one laments the new decadence of style, and—”
“Decadence. I like decadence.”
Evelyn smiled. “I know. And bemoaning the waltz is safe with the older generation, for the same reason. Also, no one likes Bonaparte, and the Americans are very gauche.”
“So it’s safest to like nothing.”
She hesitated for a moment, taking far too long a swallow of her wine. “And to approve of nothing, and to do nothing.”
“My, my, Evelyn. I had no idea you were a cynic.” He tilted his head, trying to read her expression. “That’s not it, though, is it? That’s just what you say to your brother’s odd selection of political Bedlamites. Because you, my dear, are far more interesting than the dull creation you describe.”
To his surprise, her eyes filled with tears, though the apology for whatever he’d said wrong this time faded on his lips at the sight of her warm smile. Some very uncomfortable things began happening to his nether regions.
“That, Lord St. Aubyn, is a very nice thing you just said.”
He reached into the basket to cover his sudden discomfiture. “How very unusual of me,” he muttered, and produced a sandwich. “Pheasant?”
“I’ve finally realized why they called that damned place the Heart of Hope. Because somehow, someone guessed you and I would meet there, Evelyn Marie.” – Lord St. Aubyn
“I lied to you earlier. I told you that I didn’t have a heart. I do have one. I just didn’t know it until I met you. You are my light. My soul craves you, and I love you with every ounce of the heart you’ve awakened in me. I...I could live without you, but I wouldn’t want to. Will you marry me, Evelyn Marie?” – Michael Edward Halboro, Marquis of St. Aubyn to Evelyn Marie Ruddick in the middle of the Dorchester ball
Oh, how the mighty have fallen! Now, to say that Saint did a complete 180° would be a bit misleading. He is still very much a bad boy...but only for Evelyn. :wink:
London’s Perfect Scoundrel is one of the few books that I have read more than once. I hope I was able to convey some of the love I have for it in my blog. :) Since I featured a historical bad boy hero, I’d like to know who some of your favorite historical bad boy heroes are? Also, do you reread books? If so, which ones?