Time and Setting: London, 1923 / Los Angeles, 1924
Genre: Historical Romance novellas
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars / 4 stars
Reviews by Maria Almaguer
Stage actress Daisy Edwards goes looking for escape at a wild party. Instead she finds reckless passion with a total stranger. Like Daisy, Dominic Harrington is reeling from the Great War, desperate to feel again. But the erotic force of their encounter leaves Daisy unsure whether to run or succumb….
Even if he hadn’t met her in a police cell, Dominic would have no doubt that Daisy is trouble. For the first time in years, he feels intrigued, aroused and vibrantly alive. Both insist there will be no promises, only the rapture of the moment. Pleasure is its own reward—but when it’s this addictive, how can they ever walk away?
Los Angeles, 1924
Broadway producer Lewis Cartsdyke has come to Hollywood with a business proposition for starlet Poppy Edwards. But as he’s watching her sing in a downtown club, dressed in a man’s suit that skims her lush curves, a much more wicked proposal comes to mind.
Poppy has fame, wealth and an aversion to love. Lewis offers the kind of passion she craves—delicious, sensual heat without complications. Night after night she abandons herself to sensation, promising she won’t lose her heart the way her sister did. But for Lewis, uncomplicated is no longer enough—and soon he won’t be satisfied until he’s claimed all of Poppy in blissful surrender.
The bewilderment, sadness, and devastation of the Lost Generation is beautifully evoked in Marguerite Kaye’s dual novellas in her A Time for Scandal series: The Undoing of Daisy Edwards and The Awakening of Poppy Edwards. Like Let’s Misbehave by Rae Summers (which I reviewed last year), both of these stories have a dark and melancholy tone yet, since they are romances, there are hopeful and happy endings.
In The Undoing of Daisy Edwards, Daisy and Dominic are merely going through the motions of life, both simply trying to cope day by day with the aftermath of loss and grief from the Great War. Daisy is a widow and a stage actress who loses herself in drinking and partying while Dominic, an aviator, is the second son and heir to a neglected and unwanted title. When they meet, they are two terribly lonely hearts whose passion ignites into an explosive affair. And both are content for just that; it helps them forget their mutual pain in mindless pleasure.
Of course, it develops into much more and it’s interesting that it’s Dominic who initiates the emotional part of their relationship while Daisy fights it all the way. Their conversations are lovely to read and are written from both characters’ points of view, in the uncommon first person voice, a unique and effective device here. I feel it makes the story all the more compelling, especially since it is essentially a short story (only seven chapters long).
Marguerite Kaye’s style is direct, concise, and very powerful. The tone is quiet and reflective throughout and I really felt Daisy’s and Dominic’s pain at the same time as there is a joy and hope in their newfound relationship.
The Awakening of Poppy Edwards is Daisy’s sister’s story. Poppy escaped London and the pain of the war’s devastation for a career in the exciting and new motion picture industry in sunny Los Angeles. She couldn’t bear to witness Daisy’s pain and so she escapes into moviemaking, creating a financially successful (but emotionally empty) life for herself.
Lewis Cartsdyke is a confident and handsome producer who has his eye on Poppy’s stardom and is hoping to make her a star in the upcoming talkies. When he first meets her in her guise as Vera, a singer in a nightclub, dressed à la Marlene Dietrich in a man’s suit, he knows who she is and is captivated by her. He breaks his own rule about mixing business with pleasure and a one night stand turns into something more. When she learns the truth behind his career motives for her, Poppy is reluctant to engage in an affair, but she can’t stay away from Lewis.
Lewis holds his own pain deep inside; he was an ambulance driver in the Great War who, like Ernest Hemingway, saw great horror and death. But he is determined to survive and move on with his life. Poppy just wants a business arrangement with sex on the side, until Lewis pushes her for more, much like Dominic in the first story. I like that it is the men in both of these stories who want more from the women in their lives.
I really enjoyed the descriptions of Poppy’s beautiful house, especially her kitchen, plants, and pool – it creates a very nice domestic feel and brings normalcy to an otherwise somber story, an apt reflection of her calm and orderly home life devoid of emotional feeling.
The complicated and loving relationship between the two sisters is told from their respective points of view in each story, but its spare detail (and the satisfying ending in the second novella) is a beautiful footnote toward healing.
These are two graceful stories (that should be read together) by an author I’d love to read more of.