Eleven Scandals To Start To Win A Duke’s Heart (Thank goodness MacLean’s leaving rhyming titles behind. It’s like a Fiona Apple box set, these things.) is a more assured and nuanced story compared to the previous books of the trilogy. I’m not sure I needed to read those to appreciate Eleven Scandals, but I’m glad I had the background. MacLean is a lock for everyone’s best of the year lists.
Juliana is a decent woman driven to prove how bad she is by the low expectations of others. Simon is a man afraid of imperfection, a man who holds himself (and therefore everyone) to impossibly high standards. Between her rebellion and his disdain Eleven Scandals comes alive. Keeping the focus on conflict between the characters (as opposed to external plot forces) is a smart choice by MacLean. Adding the irony of the Perfect Simon being unacceptable to her scandalous family, the couple find themselves with no supporters. (The only unrealistic note would be part of a subplot involving Simon’s sister. It doesn’t quite work in the context of Ten Ways).
Eleven Scandals is a gossipy treat with well considered character motivations and plausible actions. The coincidences are kept to a minimum and the cliches barely present themselves. Overall the story is a fresh and original take on the Boy From Society and the Girl Who Doesn’t Fit In. Sarah MacLean just hit my auto buy list, even with the Oprah ending. You know, where they pass out babies like Oprah does cars. And YOU get a baby, and YOU get a baby, and… I never find those endings that happy. Given the infant mortality and childbirth death rates, it worries me. Really, when Regencyland is taken to task for so many small errors I’m glad that big one gets to slide. Happily Ever After needs all the help it can get.