Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover: A Book Review

“When given the opportunity, Society will happily cannibalize itself.”

Book: Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover (The Rules for Scoundrels #4)

Author: Sarah MacLean

Never Judge a Lady by Her Cover (The Rules of Scoundrels, #4)

Blurb:

She is the most powerful woman in Britain,
A queen of the London Underworld …
But no one can ever know.

He is the only man smart enough to uncover the truth,
Putting all she has at risk . . .
Including her heart.

The fourth book in New York Times bestselling author Sarah MacLean’s incredible Rule of Scoundrels/Fallen Angels series. These four dark heroes will steal the hearts of their heroines and the readers alike! This is the last in the Rules of Scoundrels series—Chase’s story

By day, she is Lady Georgiana, sister to a Duke, ruined before her first season in the worst kind of scandal. But the truth is far more shocking—in London’s darkest corners, she is Chase, the mysterious, unknown founder of the city’s most legendary gaming hell. For years, her double identity has gone undiscovered . . . until now.

Brilliant, driven, handsome-as-sin Duncan West is intrigued by the beautiful, ruined woman who is somehow connected to a world of darkness and sin. He knows she is more than she seems and he vows to uncover all of Georgiana’s secrets, laying bare her past, threatening her present, and risking all she holds dear . . . including her heart.

My thoughts:

See, when I think of Regency Era books (Or Victorian or Lady-and-Lord books or whatever you call them), it’s hard for me to think about women empowerment and girl power. It’s not like the times were conducive to women’s rights: Women belonged to their husbands and fathers; they had no legal recourse if their ‘guardians’ were abusive. Furthermore, Pride and Prejudice captured an important truth about society’s expectations for the fairer half of nobility: One, they would marry well and two, they would stay pure (read: chaste) until they married. Any women who didn’t comply with their rigid expectations of morality and frigidness were marked as “loose women” and “whores”.

“But it was Eve who was vilified, never the serpent. Just as it was the lady who was ruined, never the man.”

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre- the books we consider classics for the time- don’t tell us what happens to the girls who fall through the cracks. Sure, they allude to all the Lydia Bennet’s who were not married to Wickham, but only briefly and never in very much detail. The heroines of the classics are always modest and chaste with pristine reputations. We are told they deserve love and happy-ever-afters with rich, titled husbands. Not much has changed in the world of literature since then;  we (by we I mean society) still have a morbid fascination with virginity in our leading female characters.

But Lady Georgiana is not a virgin. She’s beautiful, young, the daughter of a Duke- and she goes and ruins it all when she ‘ruins’ herself. at age 16. 10 years later, she realizes she can give her daughter respectability (and more chances to be happy) by marrying a peer. Although, she may be irreparably damaged in the eyes of some of the ‘Ton’, she still has her family, a large dowry, the goodwill of a man who owns 5 major newspapers and influence which she brandishes in the form of her alter-egos.

“Violence and sex were two sides of the same coin, were they not?”

Over the years , Lady Georgiana has cultivated a notorious alter-identity as an infamous London courtesan, Anna. The next part is what I like most about the story: She also happens to be Chase,the owner of an important London club. Thus, she has access to information about the gentry’s vices and she’s not afraid to blackmail them.

That is the concept of the book and I’m willing to like this book just based on it, but it does have its weak points.

For one, I am disappointed that Georgiana is a courtesan only in name. Since she’s only had sex once and it resulted in her daughter Caroline, she’s able to use the “I’m a moral woman who’s a fierce tiger when protecting my child” shield. It’s a very obvious manipulation of modern-day reader sensibilities and I kind of resent it. Georgiana is an exemplary example of the “virgin who made a mistake, but paid for it and bettered herself” trope and sometimes, I think that trope is more slut-shaming than “I’m a virgin so I’m better than you”one.

Secondly, the romance in this book was tepid. The major flaw was the characterisation of the love interest. Duncan West is not the kind of alpha-male I expect from this genre. That’s not to say I disliked him; he seemed genuinely concerned for his sister and Georgiana. He was a moderate, untempremental man who respected the choice his lady love made. However, when the author tried to make him a’nice guy’ and ‘practical’, he often came across as ‘passive’ and ‘easy to guilt trip’.  He does have the secrets and sob-story background that seems to be a pre-requisite in the romance genre. As a reader, I am so fucking glad we didn’t spend too much time waiting for him to “conquer his demons”.

This is not the kind of book that I can easily put into a bad box or a good box. I liked Georgiana and the concept so when I closed the book I was happy.  I liked the fact that the story was comprehensible even though I hadn’t read the previous books. If I had gone into the book expecting a great work of literature or an epic romance, I would have been bitterly disappointed. This book is one that will cleanse your palate after something heavy and serious. It has enough material for contemplation that it won’t make you feel completely frivolous. At the same time, it’s a historical romance- which by definition, is light and breezy.

Overall Rating: 3.5/5

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