Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Review - - Some Like it Scandalous

by Maya Rodale
Publisher: Avon 
Release Date: June 18, 2019
Reviewed by Hellie

They are sworn enemies...
Theodore Prescott the Third, one of Manhattan's Rogues of Millionaire Row, has really done it this time. The only way to survive his most recent, unspeakably outrageous scandal is to marry someone respectable. Someone sensible. Someone like Daisy Swann. Of all the girls in Gilded Age Manhattan, it had to be her.
...pretending to be lovers...
Daisy Swann has plans, and they do not involve a loveless marriage with anyone. But when a devastating family secret threatens to destroy her standing in society, suddenly, a fake engagement with Theo is just the thing to make all her dreams come true.
...and now it's time to kiss and make up....
Daisy Swann aspires to sell cosmetics that she has created, but this brainy scientist needs a smooth-talking charmer's flair for words and eye for beauty to make it a success. Before long, Daisy and Theo are trading kisses. And secrets. And discovering that despite appearances, they might be the perfect couple after all.

Hellie’s Heeds

I feel I’m slightly late to the game; and I feel everyone is already arriving (or has arrived) to my inevitable conclusion: we should form a protective cocoon around Maya Rodale so she can spend all her time writing and dreaming up these brilliant stories. Maya’s writing style is a balance of plausible modern sensibilities married with the backdrop of almost current history (hey, it’s only been 100 years since we’ve gotten the vote, ladies, and the country is twice as old) with a dollop of sassy tongue-in-cheek details that make a reader think, “Wait, I’m reading a historical and not stuff that’s still happening now, right? Wait, it’s still happening now!” I’m far enough removed from the particular historical era (“Thank God, I don’t have to wear corsets and a thousand layers...and no A/C”); yet some of the things women were fighting for then, we’re still fighting for now. This gumbo of storytelling is what I love best about romances, empowering women even now to advocate for themselves and others. 

I identified whole-heartedly with Daisy Swann, who is stuck with the unfortunate appellation of ‘Ugly Duck’ Daisy Swann due to a cruel, witty boy’s remark when she was thirteen. In the realm of her beautiful mother and siblings, as well as society, she is well aware her nose is too big, her eyes too close, her lips too thin, etc, etc, etc, quack, quack, quack. Being beautiful and fitting in are such key issues for women (and men), and Daisy’s way of dealing with it and finding her purpose and approval in creating beauty products to elevate the beauty in all women is just inspirational. Of course, this is the Turn of the Century--and women do NOT wear cosmetics. The historical detail and conflict was explored while also plausibly introducing a heroine who would nonetheless persist...because you know what? We’ve got lipstick now. And for many of us, makeup does feel empowering and we should feel empowered. 

I thoroughly enjoyed that the attraction between the hero and heroine was not ‘instantaneous.’ While I’m all about a love-at-first-sight (or lust), the fact these two do not like each other but slowly grow in attraction to each other until the lust is finally off the charts was heavenly. The first time Theo kisses Daisy, it wasn’t fireworks. The complete opposite. And when she politely pushes him off and he later asks why the kiss wasn’t working for her, she speaks up for what she wants. She says, “When a man kisses me, I want it to mean something. Desire for me. All of me, body and soul. And I want to feel the same way. That’s all.” Theo is a very beautiful man--which she comments on constantly--but we’re brought back to that truth that for most of us, there needs to be a connection, a click, to spark desire. Men are usually said to be more physical-visual creatures, but for women, we need someone to make love to our brain first or we’re getting nowhere else fast. 

This book explores beauty & what defines it, gender roles (especially what is masculine and acceptable in career choices), equality and access for all genders, fair equity practices in work and relationships, and women’s empowerment across all sectors. (I don’t think most readers are going to be as hung up on these points as much as I was, per se, but it was something I noticed, loved, and applauded.) If you have a friend who doesn’t read romances because they think “romances give women a false idea of love and expectations”, give them this one. It’s all about the empowerment.