Saturday, 4 February 2017

"Scandalous Lady" - a romance novel set in historic Istanbul with a good story that managed to get the location right

Written by a lady who married someone in Turkey and lived and worked there for years this story is coloured with a lot of the real landmarks in and around Istanbul. The story is set in 1811.

When Olivia travels to Turkey to join her historian brother in the days of Napoleon, there is not much left in England to return to: victim of a huge scandal and her soon to be sister in law insisting she will not live in the family manor. While in Troy she is saved from an attack by a viper by a mysterious man. She sees him again in Constantinople sometimes looking like a Turkish noble sometimes as an European. Olivia feels strongly fascinated by this stranger.

The novel is a good story in which a lot happens and where logical decisions are made even when some might be very modern for a lady in those days. It is also nice to read when you have been in Istanbul.

While a lot of the romance novels set in Ottoman time even manage to have deserts around Istanbul the things described in this book are easily recognisable for one like me who spent weeks there for a course. The cysterns, the boating on the Bosporus, the view from the high cliffs near the Black Sea, the paradise of the Princes Isles (although now the sea is quite polluted.).

The one thing I do not understand is the need to make the hero part French. It is a habit seen in old romances like The Sheikh. As if a European woman and a Muslim non-European could not fall in love. I am sure it would not have been socially acceptable in early 19th century Britain but at that time the Turkish Sultan mother was rumoured to be a captured French woman and cousin of Napoleon's wife. And many haremgirls were. In this book the Sultan mother is mentioned but not her European roots. What I mean is if the writer wanted to make the lovematch not to have to cross too many cultural gaps she could have given Selim a Western slave as a mother or grandmother. The Sultan, the leader of the believers, marrying his sister to a Christian French nobleman sounds too far fetched to me.

I also doubt nobility living in France under Napoleon. Did the ones who survived the revolution not flee abroad and return after Napoleon lost? But jf they stayed working against France would be treason and Selim seems too honourable for that.

And I thought Constantinople as a name for the town ceased when the Ottomans conquered the Byzantine capital and renamed it Istanbul? Or kept the English using the old name?

So although the geographical backdrop is correct to the dot I have doubts about the historical accuracy.

But aside from those historical things the book is interesting, fast paced, shows a lot of cultural colour and has a hero you would like to have yourself : witty caring, smart, strong but vulnerable and good-looking.

5 stars out of 5


This is how Amazon describes it:

 Turkey, 1811

All in the name of love…


For as long as Richard Hartford can remember he has wanted to see Turkey, and explore the antiquities of the once mighty Ottoman Empire.

Now, he is fulfilling that dream alongside his sister, Olivia.

Since their parents died in a carriage accident when she was 16, the siblings have been very close. Now 23, Olivia is a strong woman who knows her own mind.

Before Richard left their family estate for Turkey, he sent Olivia to London for the season, hoping she would find herself a husband. But scandal erupted when Lord Craybook, a gambler with huge debts who knew he could not win her hand any other way, set out to compromise her, keeping Olivia away from home overnight.

Olivia’s aunt, who she was staying with in London, insists she marry Lord Craybrook, but Olivia refuses and is shipped off to Turkey to avoid the inevitable scandal.

Yet Olivia soon falls in love with the magical land of Turkey and she soon meets a number of interesting people, like Lady Hester Stanhope, niece of the prime minister of England, and intrepid world traveller.

And then there is the handsome Selim, cousin to the Sultan.

Selim works as an ambassador for the Sultan and Olivia quickly falls irrevocably in love with him. Things are looking quite promising for Olivia, until Lord Crayrook shows up, determined to win her hand.

Is Olivia destined to live a life of solitude and regret?

Or will her past stay buried long enough for her to have her happy ending?

Filled with the rich detail of the sunset of the Ottoman Empire, Scandalous Lady is a love story that crosses cultures and boundaries, showing what is possible when love is at stake.




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