A DARING EXPLORER
All of London is abuzz with the tale of Will Repton. The lone survivor of a massacre in Tibet has returned to England a hero, but the traumatized explorer has no time for glory. Another dangerous expedition awaits. Nothing will deter him from his quest, and no one will unearth his secret-until Will meets Charlotte Baker.
IS NO MATCH FOR AN ADVENTUROUS HEART
Vivacious Charlotte Baker also has a mission-to find a man whose bold spirit matches her own. When she meets Will Repton, she immediately recognizes him as her soul mate, and she’s naively willing to turn her back on the rules of propriety to ensnare him. Will is torn between his fascination with Charlotte and his vow to finish his quest. He knows what it is to risk life and limb-but what if his most perilous adventure doesn’t lie across an ocean, but within his own lost heart?
Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca, December 2015
Time and Setting: London, 1850
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 Stars
Review by Sara
My thoughts about In Search of Scandal are somewhat difficult to put into words. I enjoyed the book. There was definitely a romance that developed between the main characters William Repton and Charlotte Baker and I do feel that love became a foundation for Will to begin rebuilding his life after tragedy. Where I run into problems is that for a large portion of the story the actions of both Will and Charlotte towards one another are anything but loving.
It is 1850 and the English public is fascinated by the reports their countrymen send back about the mysterious Far East. Working for the East India Company, plant hunter William Repton has become a semi-celebrity back home and earns the nickname “Chinese Will” for his exploits while in this foreign land. Unfortunately for Will, what the public has read of his time in country is far different from the realities he faced. Tortured by the memories of his expedition’s grizzly demise at the hands of a hostile Tibetan tribe, Will returns to England a broken man with a desperate need to return to Tibet and finish one final task.
To Charlotte Baker, the adventures of Chinese Will have proved utterly enthralling. She has become infatuated with the man behind the stories and without ever meeting him, she feels that he would be the perfect husband for her. With her elder brother and sister currently out of the ton’s good graces, she is certain marriage to Will and his popularity could elevate them all back into society. Their chance meeting at her brother-in-law’s home seems like kismet to Charlotte who believes that William will fall madly at her feet just as so many other men in London have done since her debut. She is quickly thrown out of her fantasy when the William Repton she meets is reserved, uncomfortable about his experiences and definitely not interested in a relationship with her.
The attraction that Will feels for Charlotte is substantial; however he knows that at the moment he is in no position to offer her anything. Even the idea of a friendship with the beautiful and vivacious young woman would serve as a distraction to his goal of securing funds to return to Asia. Charlotte tries to give up her ideas of becoming Mrs. Repton, even encouraging the attentions of viscount, but the shadow Will casts in her mind is too big for any man to escape. She is also heartened by the little bit of attention Will pays her when he visits her brother-in-law. Their companionship leads to a forced marriage that requires both Will and Charlotte to sort through the murkiness of their feelings and expectations verses their realities.
The tone of the story is much darker than the pretty cover or description would have you believe. Will’s tortured memories of his friends’ deaths and the survivor’s guilt he feels trap him within his thoughts of returning to Tibet. His heart was so wounded by a single choice he made that it has closed him off from feeling anything but remorse and shame at being recognized for his accomplishments. Will’s pain distorts the fondness he begins to feel for Charlotte, making him feel it’s an anchor holding him back from accomplishing his mission. In truth, their relationship begins to heal his emotional wounds and allow him to move on with his life. As he slowly finds some peace while getting to know Charlotte his fears move past what has happened before and he focuses on where he needs to be for his future.
Charlotte is a harder character to empathize with. She has created such an expectation in her mind about Will that for a good portion of the story I didn’t feel like I could trust her whenever she said she was “in love.” Charlotte seemingly has blinders on when looking at Will, only seeing the man of reputation and not the true individual struggling to redefine himself after surviving tragedy. There are many instances where I feel Charlotte was manipulating the brittle friendship that she and Will had; creating castles in the air that she would be the social savior of her family, get the most sought after man in England, and be happy, with no compromise. It was only in the final beats of the story where I truly felt that Charlotte understood what true love was.
In Search of Scandal sometimes feels incomplete or in need of a prequel story to better flesh out Charlotte’s family dynamic and why she was so obsessed with Will. I was drawn into the struggles Will and Charlotte face in getting past their clouded perceptions and forming a real bond. Their story becomes an emotional roller-coaster with a few drops that made me ache for both of them. Being such a character driven story, I perhaps needed a bit more from both protagonists to convince me that their love was enduring. Overall however, In Search of Scandal is a good story and certainly enjoyable enough for me to keep my eye out for the next book of the series.