ARC-review: When Marrying a Scoundrel – Kathryn Smith

Digital ARC received from publisher via the author.

A lady must be prepared for anything . . . when marrying a scoundrel.

Sadie Moon once thought she was in love. Then her dashing husband left her to seek his fortune, and she had no choice but to transform herself from a heartbroken waif into London Society’s favorite fortune-teller. But even she could not have foreseen Jack’s return – until their paths cross in the last place either would have expected: London’s most exclusive house of pleasure.

Now wealthy and successful, Jack Friday has everything he’d ever dreamed of . . . except Sadie. He swears he will never trust the woman who broke her promise to wait for him, though his passion for her burns as hotly as ever before. But love, like the past, comes back to haunt them – drawing them into a web of intrigue and betrayal that could save or destroy them both.

Sadie O’Rourke is a simple Irish girl who has the gift to see the future in tea leaves. After a star-crossed marriage and a tragic loss she has made a living as the popular fortuneteller Sadie Moon. Then the husband who abandoned her comes back into her life after 10 long years and she is determined not fall for him again. Jack Farrington defied his family and married the girl he loved when he was only 18, disowned and disinherited by his family and sets out in the world to make his own fortune, not knowing that leaving behind Sadie will lead to tragedy that ends in Sadie leaving him without as much as a goodbye. Now he has changed his name to Jack Friday and finds himself unexpectedly reunited with the wife who wasn’t there anymore when he returned home. He is determined to find out what why she left him and a true reunion is the farthest thing from his mind.

Though I have several Kathryn Smith books (mainly paranormal) on my shelves WHEN MARRYING A SCOUNDREL was my first encounter with her writing and it was certainly a memorable one, both negatively and positively. The book started out very promising and I was pleasantly surprised by the agreeable writing style that made me float easily from page to page, engrossed in the story. However, after a few chapters something started bothering me and it had to do with the characters and the way the story was being set up. After the promising start I felt like a lot had happened prior to the first few chapters and the story was being disclosed little by little to me as the reader. How can this be problematic? Well, on its own it shouldn’t but because I was left with so many questions and so little explanations for a considerable part of the book, it became a problem for me. I was distracted by wondering why instead of enjoying the story. Why did Sadie leave Jack without a goodbye? Why didn’t Jack go after Sadie immediately when she’d left? What happened after Jack left? Who was Sadie’s mysterious benefactor?

Some parts were downright confusing me and if this was just it, I could have let it slip by, but next to this I also lost the connection with Jack and Sadie’s characters and motivation after the initial chapters. They were acting in ways that I didn’t like and that didn’t stroke with the way the story had been set up. There were quite some contradictory actions that were initiated but never seen through. I am a reader who likes consistency. The way Jack and Sadie were portrayed, as estranged spouses didn’t rhyme with their characters development for me. I couldn’t understand the amount of interest they kept showing in other perspective bed partners/lovers.

The worst thing is that I cannot clearly pinpoint what it was about Sadie and Jack and their characterization that was off for me, still I will try to explain as best as I can. I like the trope of reuniting estranges spouses and second chances and can’t say Kathryn Smith did a bad job of it, I just couldn’t relate to the characters enough to enjoy it fully. I didn’t understand Jack’s aversion to Sadie’s profession, which formed a major conflict between them. About halfway through both Jack and Sadie’s behavior towards each other changed drastically. Well, drastically may be overreacted but it did change abruptly and with little build-up to it. In my opinion the change of heart could’ve been set up better and to illustrate that I want to use the example of Jack’s aversion towards Sadie’s fortunetelling. It changes suddenly just by him wanting a reading from her and suddenly believing in it (even before he actually witnesses the truth in her predictions). This to me didn’t concur with his earlier behavior and was one of the things that didn’t work for me.

I just couldn’t click with them and missed intensity and genuine chemistry between them and that kept me from getting immersed in their romance. It went so far as to leading secondary characters to capture my attention more than the main couple did and though I can’t offer a clear explanation for the why of it this is not how it should be with a romance novel.

All of the above-mentioned things seriously prevented me from getting interested in their HEA. I am afraid that not even the love scenes, though very fitting, sensual and hot, could make Sadie and Jack work for me. My disconnection with them prevented me from utterly enjoying this book despite the wonderful premise, setting, writing and romance. Yet despite the disconnection I did enjoy the writing, which was to the point, unembellished and fluent. And despite the fact that the characterization was off for me I did enjoy most of Jack and Sadie’s dialogues and thoughts that were sharp and witty enough to make me smile quite a few times.

This all was until about 100 pages from the end. Around chapter 15 is when I finally, finally connected a bit with Jack and Sadie and I truly loved those last chapters of the book. They gave me the heartbreaking and emotional intensity I was looking for. After 200 pages of slow progress and my initial anticipation fizzling out there finally was the character development I wanted all along and I admire Kathryn Smith for making the end totally work for me and have me rooting for Sadie and Jack, even if it took a bit too long. Also it was a pity that Sadie’s caring and beautiful character only showed at the end of the book. Had it been shown earlier I could have liked the book considerably more.

In conclusion I really wanted to be blown away and love this book but in all honesty I have to admit I can’t say more than “I liked it” and “it absolutely wasn’t a bad book.”
WHEN MARRYING A SCOUNDREL is a good historical romance that unfortunately didn’t work for me because I couldn’t connect with the main couple’s characterization and their motivations for most of the book. However, despite my inability to love this book completely, the amazing ending contributes to the fact that it’s a book that can be enjoyed and valued by readers who love historical romance. And despite the disconnect with Sadie and Jack I am very curious about the story of what’s going to happen with their friends Vienne and Trystan. So I’m declaring this one an unfortunate mismatch and looking forward to that book.

6.5 out of 10

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5 thoughts on “ARC-review: When Marrying a Scoundrel – Kathryn Smith

  1. Read it as well, I did not have the same problems as you did with the story, but I did connect with Sadie and Jack, I liked it and I love to know more about Vienne and Tristan.

  2. Thank you for the lovely review! I appreciate that you took the time to mention positive aspects even though the story didn't quite do it for you. Just one thing — and this is where my obsessive compulsive behavior comes out — The book is called When Marrying a Scoundrel. I think Never Marry a Scoundrel was a title for someone else. ;-) But again, thanks for such a fair review. bestKathryn Smith

  3. OMG Kathryn, I am so sorry! I don't know where I came up with that title. (Where's that hole so I can sink into it!) Thank you for commenting and I am going to change that title right now and hide in my cave of embarrasment…

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