Review

Review: One Night of Scandal by Darcy Burke (2019)

Wicked Dukes Club, Book 4

Review of Wicked Dukes Club Book 1; Book 3

Heat Factor: One sex scene with lots of detail

Character Chemistry: It helps that they have a common cause

Plot: Let’s unmask a potentially treasonous Member of Parliament in a time of political instability!

Overall: Mixed feelings

Early on in One Night of Scandal, Jack reveals that he has known that Lady Viola’s male alter-ego, Tavistock, is actually a woman, for the past year. He figured it out because this one time she bent over, and he saw that she had a curvy bum. So he started looking more carefully, and noticed that behind her (false) whiskers, she also had:

  1. Long eyelashes
  2. Lush lips
  3. Cerulean eyes (FFS!)

When this happened, I felt a spurt of rage. Men can have pretty eyes! Men can have nice lips! And some men are not that broad-shouldered triangle shape. The only thing that stopped me from throwing my phone across the room was the thought that at least her eyes weren’t violet. (If they had been, I might not have been able to stop myself.)

You might say that my reading experience got off to an inauspicious start.

What kept me going was the plot: Viola has been posing as a man in order to write a column for the Ladies’ Gazette (because they wouldn’t hire her if she were a woman – misogyny!). She gets a hot tip that an MP conspired with radicals to try and assassinate the Prince Regent, and sets out to investigate. This is her big shot to write something meaningful and important, rather than about who wore what cravat to the pub last week. On the way, she teams up with MP Jack Barrett, who may have radical tendencies of his own.

Now, it’s not as if the mystery of the “bad guy” is that suspenseful or mysterious – it is pretty obvious from the get-go which players are feeding her sketchy information and why. However, what was particularly well done was the details Burke provided about radical activism during the Regency – the Spa Fields Riots, the Spencean Philanthropists, government agent provocateur John Castle, and the Seditious Meetings Act of 1817 all make an appearance. She doesn’t go deeply into the ins and outs, but includes enough historically accurate detail that the reader can get a general sense of some of the political stakes of what is currently going on, which I really appreciated. This felt fresh to me – I can’t recall another Regency that specifically dealt with radical politics (Erin or other history buffs may be able to correct me here); instead, political regencies tend to be about Napoleon or, more broadly, conflict with the French, or they might mention Fox and/or Pitt the Younger (who both died in 1806, and were therefore not that important come 1817). I spent some time reading articles about British history on the internet after I finished this book, so I would call that a win, since I learned some things.

The other component that saved this book was Jack, who was an excellent hero. He has a good relationship with his father (!). He is protective of Viola, but never tries to stop her from doing things – and, in fact, continues to help with the investigation despite increasing danger to Viola because he understands that this is something she needs to accomplish (!!). And he is a politician who does not sympathize with the plight of the poor in general terms (as do so many of our romantic heroes), but rather is working his butt off through political channels to bring about change (!!!).

The things that make us swoon.

In fact, I would say Jack carries this book, because Viola remained a moderately annoying mystery. She has gotten great joy and freedom from her years-long masquerade as Tavistock – but now that she has met the right man, she repeatedly notes how excited she is to give up the masquerade. She wants to feel like a woman in Jack’s arms. She declares she will never marry, but her reasons are opaque. Maybe she thinks that a husband won’t let her write, because the fiancé she jilted years ago probably wouldn’t have? She also spontaneously has this idea that she’s unlovable (mentioned once, but leading to a dramatic and heated scene with Jack, so…), but there is nothing else in the story to back it up, or to suggest why she might think this is the case.

The TL;DR version: while there were components of this book that I really enjoyed, there were enough bits that induced serious eye-rolling that I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it.

I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.


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