Book Review: Three Nights with a Scoundrel

Tessa Dare, winner of Romance Writers of America’s RITA award, and bestselling romance novelist brings her Regency era romance trilogy, The Stud Club, to an end with the novel Three Nights with a Scoundrel (2010, Ballantine Books).  However, it can also function as a standalone title.  Based around the men involved in joint ownership of a prestigious racehorse, the novel opens after the murder of the Stud Club’s founding member, Leo.  Leo’s best friend, Julian Bellamy is convinced the murders meant to kill him, and is on a destructive path to find them.  Leo’s “on the shelf” sister, Lady Lily Chatwick, a woman who lost her hearing eight years prior, is determined to stop Julian from finding an early grave as he searches for her brother’s murders.

Three Nights with a Scoundrel happily fits in with the major tropes in Regency area romances.  Lily and Julian have known each other for years, and with Leo’s death, Julian is determined to protect Lily.  Both our hero and heroine harbor feelings for one another, yet are kept apart by Julian’s honor.  He is from a low born background, a bastard son of a nobleman living a double life of a rake and a businessman.  Julian is also on a path that can only lead to his death, as he puts himself in increasingly dangerous situations, searching for the men who murdered Leo, men he believes also want to murder him.  Ultimately, the two manage to come together in a clash of emotions and turmoil.  In a twist ending, the two end up together, and while it might not be a “happily ever after” ending, it is certainly a happy ending that will leave most romance novel readers pleased.

However, Three Nights with a Scoundrel provides refreshing twists on the typical romance novel.  First, Lily is a deaf woman.  Unlike other romance novels featuring a deaf protagonist, Tessa Dare manages to handle the situation with surprising skill.   First, she manages to grasp the concept of lip reading.  Typically, a person who lip reads to follow a conversation can only pick up between 30 to 40% of what is said.  Dare manages to avoid this rather neatly, but having Lily state that she cannot always follow a conversation clearly.  In fact, Dare goes beyond this, and often illustrates some of the difficulties that a deaf person can have in following a conversation accurately.

Dare is also exceptionally careful about putting Lily in situations where she cannot see a person, and yet can still understand what is going on.  However, at several points in the novel, the readers are, in amusing detail, told just how much light is present.  Beyond lip reading, Dare accomplishes bringing Deaf Culture and British Sign Language (BSL) into her novel.  While the methods for this is contrived, it is refreshing to see that Lily haltingly learning a language that will allow her greater freedom of expression.  Particularly with Julian, who is already aware of BSL, and can converse with Lily using the language.

Three Nights with a Scoundrel adroitly, without making a large production over the issue, addresses some of the concerns that Lily faced from outsiders.  Concerns that people outside of the Deaf community may project on Deaf/deaf people, even today.  Consider Lily’s thoughts on discrimination she faced, compared to the more hostile discrimination Julian faced over being low born:

“Still, she faced subtler forms of prejudice and disdain.  And always, that backhanded “concern: from the imbecilic, self-righteous [people] of the world…If you cannot be like the rest of us, their subtle shaming implied, at least do not call attention to your differences.”

If readers are looking for an exceptional insight on Deaf Culture in England during the early 1800s, they will not find it with Three Nights with a Scoundrel.  The novel does, however, provide a bit of accurate history of what life was like for a deaf person in that time period.  The novel is also careful not to perpetuate any romantic and false stereotypes of what it is like to be deaf, or to become deaf after growing up as a hearing person.   Nor is Lily’s deafness used as a major plot point.  She is simply a woman who is deaf, and her identity within the novel does not center on her deafness.  This was a very smart move on Dare’s point, which allowed her to stay clear of misappropriating the life of a deaf person, when she herself admits no previous knowledge of deaf life before this novel (2011, September 22).  In regards to its portrayal of deafness and Deaf Culture a librarian should feel comfortable recommending this book to a Deaf person.

Ultimately, this novel would be ideal for any reader who loves Regency era romances.  It contains the beloved predictability of romances, with just enough twists and humor to keep the reader entertained.  This novel could be suggested to readers who are fans of Julia Quinn or Eloisa James, while not as witty as Quinn and James tend to be, it is a solid example of the genre.

 

References:

Dare, T. (2011, September 22).  Romances and Deaf Characters.  Dear Author. Retrieved October 10,

2012, http://dearauthor.com/features/essays/romances-and-deaf-characters/#comment-313532

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