Love and Other Scandals
By Caroline Linden
Release Date: July 30, 2013
Joan Bennet is twenty-four, and after seven seasons, she has not has even one proposal of marriage. Joan is too tall and too curvy, her hair is too straight, and she is too unconventional in every way to meet current standards of beauty. Even her mother seems to have accepted that Joan will be a spinster. Joan and two of her friends have managed to secure copies of a most scandalous serial entitled 50 Ways to Sin. If only half of the amorous activities described in its pages are true, Joan is sure that she regrets her spinsterhood.
Tristan, Viscount Burke, is wealthy, handsome, and one of the most infamous rakes in London, known for is gambling and womanizing. He is also a close friend of Joan’s brother, Douglas, and has been since the two were schoolboys. Tristan is sharing Douglas’s bachelor quarters while his own London house is being remodeled. Thus, when Joan arrives at her brother’s quarters, charged by her mother with securing his promise that he will attend a certain ball to dance with a particular young lady, she finds Tristan, a half-naked Tristan at that. She is fascinated by what she sees, and Tristan is fascinated by the sharp-tongued, unsuitably dressed young woman who gets her brother’s promise in writing.
The two are equally matched in the battle of wits that begins with Joan’s visit and continues in a bookstore and at a ball. Joan emerges the victor in early skirmishes, but Tristan leaves her speechless after a waltz, a kiss, and a promise of more to come. When circumstances leave Joan alone in London with her scandalous Aunt Evangeline as her chaperone and Douglas asks his friend Tristan to keep an eye on Joan, things get really interesting. A visit to Aunt Evangeline’s dressmaker has Joan wearing colors and styles suited to her figure and coloring and Tristan thinking of more waltzes and more kisses and more . . . Battling verbally most of the way, the two soar, literally, and fall (for each other), and find their way to a deliciously satisfying HEA.
Love and Other Scandals is Caroline Linden’s first book since The Way to a Duke’s Heart (August 2012), the conclusion to her well-received Truth about the Duke series. Linden doesn’t break new ground or shatter any conventions in the new novel. What she does do, and superbly well, is give readers the kind of story that made so many fall in love with the Regency-set historical. Joan is a heroine who is a misfit in tonnish circles but who has more intelligence, originality, and true beauty than the belles who are winning hearts and proposals; Tristan is the kind of rake parents warn their daughters about but one who is a lost boy at heart. Their romance is a delightful story—amusing, sweet, sexy, and just great fun. I loved it!
Adding to the charms of the heroine and hero is a cast of memorably interesting secondary characters. Joan’s mother may be a managing mama, but she is a loving one nonetheless, one who sincerely wants her children’s happiness. Her father is a reformed rake with a sense of humor and a strong commitment to his family. Their love story foreshadows Joan and Tristan’s. Douglas is a scamp, clearly due for some seasoning. Even Joan’s friends Abigail and Penelope Weston are distinct personalities, and Joan’s aunt, Evangeline of Courtenay, is a likeable, interesting character with an intriguing story of her own. I don’t know if this is the first book in a new series, but I hope it is. I really want to see more of Douglas and Aunt Evangeline.
If you have a fondness for historical romance without spies or secret codes or looming villains, stories where the focus is solidly on the hero and heroine whose journey to their HEA is a joyful ride troubled only by the threat of scandal, I highly recommend this book. I’m ready for the next one from Linden, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that she stays true to this pattern.
Some readers complain about sequel bait. I confess I belong to a different group, one that looks at secondary characters I like with a sincere hope that they will get their own stories. To which group do you belong?