This is one that doesn’t stick with me quite as well as the other Wallflowers books, and I’m not sure why. We’re back at the Westcliff manor to marry off the last of the Wallflowers, Lillian’s impish sister Daisy. The story starts off with her getting pretty brutalised emotionally by her father, who calls her a parasite and dares her to explain how the world has benefited from her existence. Ouch. He informs her that she has till the end of the season to find an English aristocrat to marry (the reason they hopped the pond in the first place), or he’s taking her back to New York to marry Matthew Swift, his protegee. Daisy revolts at the idea; Matthew as she remembers him is scrawny, dull, and overbearing, with all of her father’s worst business faults wrapped up in an unattractive package.
Well, imagine her surprise when the man himself turns up at the manor, filled out and handsome and doing charming things like making wishes in the well and freeing geese from snares. We learn, from Matthew’s internal dialogue, that he’s been in love with Daisy for ages, but that he never let himself believe in a future with her because of some mysterious skeletons in his closet. But, as is so often the case, the attraction becomes too compelling to ignore, and though he attempts to help Daisy to an entirely different husband, it becomes apparent to everyone involved that he wants her for himself. Daisy, at first infuriated by his high-handed manner, finds herself amiably provoked by him and eventually developing deeper feelings. Along the way, Daisy also learns to stand up for herself a bit, and she makes it clear that she won’t stand for a husband who dismisses her as inconsequential. She also comes to realise — and this is an interesting point for a romance novel to make — that the kind of ideal husband she has in mind (someone a lot like herself, romantic and bookish and impractical), would not at all make a good match for her. Scandal in Spring stresses a more practical balance in matrimony than a lot of books in the genre do, which is an interesting approach.
Needless to say, as is nearly always the case with Kleypas, the sex scenes are everything you hope for when you pick up one of these books. Kleypas has a talent for melding the physical and the emotional in a way that’s quite satisfying, and her erotica is never paint-by-numbers. I also enjoy that, for all she’s a historically-appropriate virgin, Daisy is not a frail and wilting flower. She takes initiative and demonstrates real sexual hunger of her own, without any of the virtuous, apprehensive hemming and hawing about it that can get so old so fast.
I think I would like this book more if the skeletons in Matthew’s closet had packed more of a punch. As it is, you sort of forget about them for most of the book, and then when they do pop up at the end, it’s clearly only to provide that necessary last-minute peril to the Happy Ever After. The subplot doesn’t really end up affecting much. It gives Matthew a reason (sort of) not to jump at the chance to marry Daisy in the first place, and it provides the third-act twist, but other than that, it’s pretty blurry and useless. I would much rather Kleypas have spent that time and those pages showing us some of Daisy and Matthew’s marriage. This was one story that didn’t need to end at the altar; I feel like they could still have a lot to work out with balancing their different natures, and there could’ve been a more interesting conflict there than the slightly odd hard right turn the story takes with the revelation of Matthew’s background.
Overall, Scandal in Spring is a perfectly adequate historical romance. It serves its purpose, it tells a nice story, it entertains for a few hours. Ultimately, thought, it’s not one of the ones that makes a tremendous impression. It’s not one I’ll pick up unless I’m deliberately revisiting the whole series, but it’s certainly no hardship to get through when I decide that’s what I’m doing.