Scandal - Carolyn Jewel The Earl of Banallt makes love like a pornstar...if pornstars were crafted with beautiful and provocative words, that is. That's not to say that this book is lurid - far from it, in fact. The love scenes are intimate and revealing. They're also so well-choreographed that I got the feeling that Banallt really knew what he was doing. Yes, it's pretty darn sexay.

I really enjoyed this book, and I loved reading about the Earl of Banallt's agonizing unrequited love for our heroine, Sophie. The story is passionate, emotional, and well-crafted with elegant writing. Our hero, Gwilym, Lord Banallt (yes, they call him "Banallt" in the book, thank GOD), has been attracted to Sophie ever since he first met her at his friend's country house. Sadly for Banallt, Sophie was the aforementioned friend's wife, however long-neglected. She's loyal to her wedding vows and refuses to have anything to do with Banallt in the physical sense. However, the two strike up an unusual friendship over the course of various visits Banallt makes to the country house with Sophie's wastrel husband, and Sophie and Banallt bond over their mutual love of books and Sophie's being the authoress of some of Banallt's favorite novels. They have a falling out, however, which leaves Sophie believing that Banallt is irredeemably as incorrigible a rake as her erstwhile husband. Don't get me wrong - Banallt IS a rake; Sophie just never expected him to be rakish with her.

Years pass, and we find that (a) Banallt has returned from Paris, where he has been since their falling out, and (b) Sophie has been widowed for almost that entire period of time, as well. The romance shows us Banallt's efforts to woo Sophie and, when she proves recalcitrant due to her belief in his rakishness, his efforts at least to rekindle their friendship. We all know where any such "friendship" will lead, of course.

I really liked this story and the way that the author tells it. Interspersed between the present-day telling of the tale are chapters that reveal Sophie and Banallt's past and their previous encounters with each other, including that fateful day when their friendship was ruined. Such back-and-forth initially took some time to digest, but I feel it really added to the depth of the story and our understanding of their relationship.

As I alluded to before, Banallt is really a wonderful hero. I love unrequited love stories, and this one is right up there with the best. He's pining after Sophie and wants to mend his ways. Since their quarrel, he's been away on the Continent all this time and has repented for his scandalous past. He wants to know what he can do to fix things and is not deterred when his confession of love for Sophie does not meet with reciprocal sentiments. Unfortunately for Banallt, despite his efforts at present, scandal and rumors have a way of following him after all of these years. Sophie will not look beyond his past and these blemishes to see the man that loves her.

Sophie's obstinacy is actually the reason I give this book 4 stars rather than a full 4.5 or 5. She steadfastly refuses to believe in Banallt and the evidence before her eyes. Rather than observe him as he is now (e.g., he is a trusted political adviser to a powerful duke), she instead insists on listening and giving weight to rumors about, e.g., his supposedly continued and numerous affairs with married women. I found her stubbornness very frustrating, and it actually made me doubt Banallt's conviction that Sophie is unusually intelligent. Banallt's patience with her, however, made me think he would qualify for sainthood (and made me love him all the more!).

The author balances the POV equally between Banallt and Sophie with great effect. The book actually opens with Banallt's POV (already obsessive from page one), which is an unusual choice, but which I loved. The writing voice reminded me of traditional Regencies of yesteryear, and I would highly recommend this story as a lovely romance with gripping and emotional love scenes and a passionately devoted hero.