Oct 30 2017 8:30am

First Look: Olivia Drake’s The Scandalous Flirt (October 31, 2017)

The Scandalous Flirt by Olivia DrakeOlivia Drake 
The Scandalous Flirt
(Cinderella Sisterhood)
St. Martin’s Press / October, 31 2017 / $7.99 print, $7.99 digital

I’ve always prefered my romance novels with a side of social commentary. To those unfamiliar with the genre, romance may seem like an unexpected platform for social discourse. But those of us who cut our reading eyeteeth on the genre know that in fact the opposite is true. In the last year alone we’ve seen authors, both independent of and through their novels, take a stand against the increasing bleakness of the world around us.

The story which Olivia Drake presents to readers in The Scandalous Flirt - her newest fairy tale retelling in the Cinderella Sisterhood series, this time of Sleeping Beauty - is unfortunately an all too familiar one. The heroine, Aurora “Rory” Paxton, has been banished from society for becoming entangled in a love affair, however unconsummated. And though we are told that the lover involved was ousted from England entirely and sent home to his country, still it seems unjustly imbalanced. He was sent home, but Aurora was sent away from home, and everything she was and had ever known.

The book is, despite the above, rather light of tone. It got a chuckle out of me more than once! But no matter how light hearted the story of Rory’s re-entry to society, or her slow winning over of the stiffly proper hero, Lucas Vale, Drake doesn’t lose sight of her message. In fact, the moment of Rory’s epiphany - in which she realizes that all her guilt during her exile was misplaced - is because of her budding affection for Lucas. When he strikes out at her about her past she is finally spurred to the realization that:

“Lucas was wrong to condemn her for that one mistake. She had been young and gullible, ripe for an expert seducer [...] But she refused to hang her head in shame any longer. It was time to face her demons.”

Rory is not wrong when she later claims that, in keeping with the novel’s Sleeping Beauty theme, “it was as if she’d been asleep” and Lucas alone could wake her. After all, that’s exactly what he did. But I’d disagree with Rory when she goes on to say only Lucas could restore her to her life - because once she realize that she’s been punished for eight years for something that she should never have been faulted for, Rory does a pretty good job of saving herself.

What is more, Rory is not the only strong woman that Drake features in The Scandalous Flirt. Each of Drake’s female characters (except maybe the “quintessential stepmother”, Kitty, though even she can’t be faulted for the fierce ambition she holds for her daughter) shows some backbone over the course of the novel.

My particular favorites were Lucas’ mother Prudence, the fearsome Dowager Marchioness, who is an absolute battleaxe - and regardless of the usually pejorative meaning of that phrase I intend it lovingly, and she definitely earned it—and Rory’s slightly odd, absolutely fearless Aunt Bernice. While they don’t quite make it to full “Meddling Matron” status, having little overall effect on the plot except perhaps to serve as Rory’s “good fairies”, these two old friends are endlessly entertaining. And then of course there’s the Cinderella-turned-Fairy-Godmother, Lady Milford, who definitely qualifies as a Meddling Matron as she twists her fingers and makes the plot turn.

If your romance jam (and peanut butter) is fairy tale retellings, social commentary, and/or women who take their lives back by strength of will, The Scandalous Flirt should be your next read. Drake was a new author for me, and while her style isn’t my usual sandwich, I was left thoroughly impressed by her ability to write a novel that felt light and airy, while still packing such a wallop. 

Learn more about or order a copy of The Scandalous Flirt by Olivia Drake, available October 31, 2017:

Buy at Amazon

Buy at B&N



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Read an excerpt from The Scandalous Flirt by Olivia Drake

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Jessica Avery grew up in the frosty, but not quite frozen, woods of Western Maine, where for seven or so chilly months of the year there’s not much to do but read. She got her start with romance novels early and in the last few years has set out to make a career of it, but in blogging about and pursuing the academic study of Popular Romance. You think she would have moved somewhere warm by now, but those Maine roots grow deep.


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