Friday, 4 February 2011

10. "Scandal of the Year" by Laura Lee Guhrke

Publisher: Avon
Page count: 384 pages
Date begun: February 4th, 2011
Date finished: February 4th, 2011

Scandal of the Year is a sequel of sorts to Wedding of the Season, and in it, the man jilted in the previous book, Aidan Carr, the Duke of Thathen, finally finds his Duchess, but only after yet another broken engagement. While his first engagement was broken once he found Lady Beatrix Danbury in the arms of her childhood sweetheart, in a particularly passionate snog, his second attempt at matrimony was ruined about a year later, when he was found naked in bed with Lady Julia Yeardley (Beatrix' cousin, a supporting character in the previous book) by her husband.

Having tried to get a divorce from her beastly husband for years, Julia finally managed it by getting Aidan incredibly drunk on champagne and seducing him, knowing her husband would find them in bed together, and the public scandal wouldn't allow him to stay married to her any longer. She knows that Aidan probably hates her afterwards, and that his previously perfect reputation was rather tarnished by the incident. So she's surprised when he not only acknowledges her at social functions, but seems quite pleased to see her. Deeply in debt, as her husband made sure she had no money of her own for most of their marriage, Julia is in desperate need for gainful employment, not something easy to find for a woman of rank, and a notorious divorcee to boot. When Aidan offers to make her his social secretary, she gladly accepts, even though her primary role will be to help him find a suitable wife, and she'll have to spend lots of time in close proximity to the only man who's ever really made her feel passionate.

Aidan seen from Julia's perspective is rather a different man than the one presented in Wedding of the Season, and as it's clear that he's always fancied her cousin since the first time he met her, it's probably a good thing he didn't end up marrying Beatrix. He's still a perfect gentleman, kind, honourable, protective and chivalrous, but instead of coming across as a bit of a boring prig here, it's clear that he keeps his true emotions tightly shackled, for fear of repeating his father's mistakes. He knows that unless he keeps his desires reigned in, he'll hurt the people around him, who depend on him, and he strives to do the right thing always. Like Beatrix, he thinks he knows exactly what he wants in a life partner, only to have his mind changed for him. When he realizes what he does want, however, he doesn't hesitate as long as she did, he pursues it with a singleminded determination.

While Wedding of the Season was a nice bit of escapist fluff which I wouldn't necessarily remember a year from now, I'm glad I read it, as it set up the scene for the protagonists of this book. Scandal of the Year was a great romance and a much more satisfying read, more so because Aidan and Julia, who seemingly couldn't stand each other in the previous book, are clearly meant for each other. Having met at chance encounters throughout the years, the first time shortly before Julia was about to make her disastrous marriage, they've got a much more interesting backstory than Beatrix and Will, and Julia's vulnerability and vehement unwillingness to ever commit to a man are very understandable. Both protagonists seem like much more complex characters, and their sufferings and struggles make their happy ending so much more rewarding. This book reminded me in turns of Blue Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas and His at Night by Sherry Thomas, and stood up well in comparison to both books. There is apparently a third book in this series coming out, and I now can't wait to read it.

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