A Study in Scandal (Scandalous #2.5) by Caroline Linden

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After a youthful infatuation went terribly wrong, Lady Samantha Lennox gave up all thought of suitors and happily-ever-after. But when she angers her strict and demanding father, the Earl of Stratford, he retaliates by arranging a marriage for her to a man she could never admire, much less love. In a panic, Samantha flees to London, only to find herself lost, alone, and nearly kidnapped—until an unlikely hero saves her.

Lord George Churchill-Gray is an artist, not a knight in shining armor, but he doesn’t hesitate to rescue Samantha from disaster and offer her temporary sanctuary. He wouldn’t mind if she repaid him by modeling for his latest painting. He’s enchanted by her face… her smile… all of her, really. But with every study he sketches, he falls a little more in love with her, and Samantha begins to suspect her scandalous actions might lead to the sort of love she never thought to find…

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Publisher and Release Date: Caroline Linden, February 2016

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: England, 1822
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Caz

This novella falls between books two and three (It Takes a Scandal and Love in the Time of Scandal) in Caroline Linden’s Scandalous series, and tells the story of Lady Samantha Lennox, the sister of Benedict (hero of book three) and daughter of the cruel and dictatorial Earl of Stratford.

Ms Linden very quickly outlines Samantha’s backstory in the first chapter, but readers of the other books will know that when little more than a girl, she stole a large sum of money from her father in order to help a friend. Unfortunately, her plan backfired and Stratford accused Sebastian Vane of stealing it, and it’s only at the end of It Takes a Scandal that Samantha is eventually persuaded to put things right.

The earl is a harsh and unforgiving man, and intends to punish his daughter by marrying her to the depraved son of a marquess, a man many suspect to be mad. There is nothing her brother or mother can do to help her, and Samantha must resign herself to a life even more miserable to the one she has lived hitherto.

The author very quickly paints a picture of Samantha as a lonely and unhappy young woman, which is not surprising given that her father is unloving, dictatorial and downright nasty, and she has never been allowed to have any friends or, at the advanced (for the time) age of twenty three, any suitors.

When she next goes into Richmond to do some shopping, she impulsively boards the coach for London, intending to find her brother, Benedict, at his regiment’s quarters. When she arrives, she is almost immediately accosted by a couple of men who attempt to abduct her, but are thwarted by the intervention of a gentleman who saves her when she is pushed into the river. He takes her back to his lodgings and gives her into the care of his landlady, insisting on giving up his own rooms so that Samantha can stay the night.

The young man is George, Lord Churchill-Gray, the youngest son of the Duke of Rowland, known familiarly as Gray. He is a gifted artist, and hopes to soon have some of his paintings exhibited by the Royal Academy.

When she recovers from her ordeal, Samantha initially pretends not to know who she is or what she is doing in London, although Gray is sure she is pretending to amnesia simply because she doesn’t want to tell. After a couple of days, she is well enough to go home, and decides that is what she must do; she has no money and no friends to go to and thus no alternative but to return home.

But Gray sees how terrified she is, and eventually she tells him something of her story, although does not reveal her identity as a daughter of the Earl of Stratford, knowing that Gray’s father is one of the earl’s oldest enemies.

He arranges for her to remain at his lodgings and the time Samantha spends there is the happiest she’s ever known. Whether she’s helping with the housework or cataloguing Gray’s paintings, she has a degree of freedom and the friendship of a handsome young man – and even though she knows little of men, begins to wonder what it might be like to be kissed and held; and to dream of something more than friendship.

Samantha and Gray are attractive protagonists who are perfect for each other. There’s a lovely scene in Gray’s studio when he asks her to draw something (all well-bred young ladies learned to draw) and together they produce a cute little scene which tells Gray more than Samantha realises about her situation. He is a true gentleman, considerate, kind and honourable, who wants the best for Samantha and who is prepared to fight for her when the worst happens, and Stratford finds out where she is.

In spite of the relatively small page-count, the two protagonists are strongly characterised and undergo a good amount of character development. Samantha learns what it is to live rather than simply exist and gains the courage to stand up to her father; Gray is devoted to his art, but discovers that there are some things in life that are even more important. The romance is sweet and well-developed and I’d certainly recommend A Study in Scandal to fans of this series.

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