A Gentleman’s Guide to Scandal (Birch Hall Romance #2) by Kathleen Kimmel

A Gentleman's Guide to Scandal
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Even men of great certainty can be completely clueless when it comes to matters of the heart.

Colin Spenser, Marquess of Farleigh, is shocked when his feelings towards his best friend’s sister take a turn into the realm of helpless adoration. Unfortunately, Elinor is more inclined to ignore him than express her undying devotion, so Colin resolves to forget his troublesome feelings by entering a loveless marriage…

Elinor Hargrove has absolutely no interest in the infuriating and arrogant Marquess of Farleigh. That is, until he kisses her—twice—inspiring unexpected and inconvenient passions. Then Elinor finds out he’s engaged, and her desires are quickly surpassed by her outrage…

But when a ghost from their shared pasts resurfaces, Colin and Elinor must work together to puzzle out a complicated intrigue by attending an extremely exclusive party where secrets and lies flourish—and scandal is only a kiss away.

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Publisher and Release Date: Berkley, June 2016

Time and Setting: Regency England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 Stars

Review by: Heather C.

Colin Spenser has always had an interest in Elinor Hargrove, his best friend’s sister, but seeing as she isn’t interested in him, he resolves instead to make a marriage of convenience for the sake of his title. Elinor would never know that Colin has an interest in her, as he has always been stand-offish, and has resigned herself to being an old maid and content with escorting Colin’s younger sister through her first Season. They would have been comfortable to continue on this way had not some earth shattering information about the death of a Spenser family member forced Colin and Elinor into an awkward situation that means their having to work together to solve the puzzle. Will they come out of this quest the same way they went into it?

I loved both Colin and Elinor! They are both infuriating in their inability to share how they feel about each other and their obliviousness to how the other truly feels. They are not very good at judging character either, which makes for lots of confusion between them and in their attempts to solve the pseudo-mystery. Despite Colin coming off as cold and aloof, when reading the chapters from his perspective the reader sees that he uses it as a way of trying to protect himself from being hurt and that he isn’t the jerk he outwardly appears to be. Elinor is driven to help find out what happened to her friend and isn’t afraid to take a leap into a world that is shrouded in mystery to women of her station. It’s entertaining to watch her try to walk the walk on the other side of the tracks and I could admire her passion to right a wrong, even if there is no way I would have done what she did!

This is as much an adventure story as it is a romance novel. Elinor and Colin are both (separately and then together) trying to discover what happened to a Spenser family member once startling evidence of possible foul play is brought forward. This gets them into some quite dangerous situations as they try to work out who might have caused harm to this person, why, and how they will bring those involved to justice. I have read a few romance/adventure novels that lose traction in their ability to keep the sense of adventure going while introducing the romantic elements, and I’m happy to say that A Gentleman’s Guide to Scandal does not fall into that trap. Ms. Kimmel is able to balance the needs of the plot pacing of the mystery, constantly moving it forward, while introducing a whole new complication for the characters in the form of a romantic tryst. The evolution of the romance feels appropriate and in line with the motivations of the characters and the romantic elements (when we finally get to them) are hot, more so than in A Debutante’s Guide to Rebellion, but it feels right for the characters.

This is the second book in the Birch Hall series. It can certainly be read as a stand-alone; I have not yet read the first book and was able to pick right up with the story without missing a beat. It takes place a little bit after the events of book one, but is focused on a different set of characters. Elinor’s brother and his new wife are peripheral characters here, but they are the stars of A Lady’s Guide to Ruin, book 1. After reading this book, I was also able to place the novella, A Debutante’s Guide to Rebellion, into the cannon as well. Each book compliments the others, but is crafted well enough to tell the whole story on its own. I honestly did not want to put this book down at the end of the night, it was that compelling.

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