VIRTUAL TOUR: Scandal Takes the Stage (Wicked Quills of London #2) by Eva Leigh

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Successful playwright Maggie Delamere has no interest in the flirtations of noblemen like Cameron, Viscount Marwood. She once paid dearly for a moment of weakness… and vows to rebuff the wildly persistent-and irritatingly handsome-scoundrel at every turn. But when pressure to deliver a new play hampers her creativity, an invitation to use his country estate as a writer’s retreat is too tempting to resist…

For years, Cam has admired Maggie’s brilliant work and he can’t pass up the opportunity to discover if the beautiful, mysterious playwright is as passionate and clever as the words that flow from her quill. He’s never offered a lady his bed without being in it, but if it means loosening Maggie’s pen-and her inhibitions-he’ll do exactly that.

But soon Cam’s plans for seduction become a fight for Maggie’s heart. He’s more than the scandalous, carefree rake society believes him to be… and she’s the only woman who has ever noticed.

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EXCERPT

Both Ashford and his wife were elegantly attired for a night out. Lady Ashford, in particular, glowed in blue. Though she was a countess, she prided herself on being a working woman. Yet Cam felt certain that the substantial sapphires around her neck and hanging from her earlobes were placating gestures to her husband. Ashford tried to spoil her at every turn.

The couple stood unfashionably close. Ashford had his hand on the small of his wife’s back.

After kissing Lady Ashford’s gloved knuckles and giving his old friend’s hand a shake, Cam said wryly, “I’m older than I thought, since I’m certain that my eyes are failing. This can’t be Lord and Lady Ashford actually leaving their home. Joining those of us who haven’t found wedded bliss.”

“It’s not our fault that the female population of London considers you an irredeemable rogue,” Ashford said.

His wife smiled warmly. “To women, his reputation acts as a lure, not a deterrent.”

“And yet they’ll find themselves sorely disappointed,” Cam noted, clasping his hands behind his back. “Because this piece of beefsteak is not for sale at Smithfield market.”

Ashford shook his head. “Don’t tell your father. He comes to me almost once a fortnight, despairing of you ever finding a wife.”

Cam rolled his eyes. His father was also Ashford’s godfather, and ever since his friend had married, the efforts to see Cam settled and applying himself to the business of getting an heir had redoubled.

“So much labor,” Cam said with mock sorrow, “and for so little an outcome.”

“You are determined to remain a dedicated bachelor, then?” Lady Ashford pressed, ever the journalist. She used her matching blue fan to cool herself against the oppressive heat in the theater.

“I have a younger brother,” Cam noted. “He has three qualities in his favor that I do not.” Holding up his hand, he enumerated each aspect on his fingers. “One: he has already taken a bride of suitable lineage and fortune. Two: they have produced a child. And third: he has no compunction about assuming the role of Marquess of Allam should anything happen to me.”

Shrugging, Cam said, “There are no obstacles to me continuing to live my life as I so desire it. Free of entanglements.” Free of disappointment.

His parents had a remarkably happy marriage. While they didn’t show affection in public the way the Ashfords did, at home, it was another matter. His mother and father were devoted to each other, brushing hands, exchanging looks, even—God help him—sequestering themselves in the middle of the day in the bedchamber.

It hadn’t been a love match, but it had become one, and Cam knew things like that occurred rarely. What had happened with a seasoned rake like Ashford was the exception, about as common as finding a pearl in an apple.

The only place where love happened consistently was on the stage. It wasn’t meant for the real world. Not meant for him. He’d only find disenchantment if he tried for what couldn’t be.

Which is why he always kept his amorous encounters temporary.

OUR REVIEW

Publisher and Release Date: Avon, November 2015

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: London, 1816
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars

Review by Sara

All the world may be a stage but very rarely do things happen according to script. It is these deviations from the expected that create compelling stories and entertaining characters for us to enjoy. Author Eva Leigh directs her characters through the pitfalls of duty, love and classism with a backdrop of the London theater scene in her newest book Scandal Takes the Stage.

Viscount Marwood is a man led by his passions. He is attentive to the lands he manages for his father, he is a fine lover to the ingénues on stage and he greatly enjoys the burlettas he watches each night at the Imperial Theater. Swept away by the music and drama unfolding on the stage, Cameron Chalton has a great admiration for the playwright Mrs. Delamere and her works. Finding her backstage on the closing night of her latest burletta, Cam is star-struck and immediately wants to know the reclusive woman who stirs such emotions from him with her words. Her response to him is a cold dismissal. Desperte to know when her next work will be staged, and quite a bit attracted to her, Cam is unperturbed by her disregard and actively seeks her out at the theater days later.

A second visit by Lord Marwood is the last thing Margaret Delamere needs at the moment. Under pressure from the theater’s board and the public to produce a sequel to her most successful burletta The Shattered Heart, Maggie is fighting a severe case of writers block. Lacking inspiration and having to write contrary to her own established style, Maggie constantly feels the weight of her responsibilities to the actors and her patrons pressing down on her. Her block has become worse and worse to the point she cannot even think of putting quill to paper. Knowing of Marwood’s reputation, Maggie has no plans on becoming another of his conquests. To her, Cam epitomizes the excess and idleness of the ton which in her mind makes him the least likely candidate for a relationship. Unwilling to give Cam an opening into her life or her heart, Maggie keeps him at a distance while she continues to struggle for the words to make her characters sing on stage.

Cam’s campaign to win Maggie over reveals her problems with writer’s block and the threats from the theater board to pull their funding. Feeling that the Imperial is an important part of his life, Cam doesn’t hesitate to offer his financial support to stage Maggie’s sequel The Hidden Daughter’s Return. He also offers Maggie the use of his country house as way to escape from London so that she can write undisturbed. There, Maggie begins to really talk with Cam and seeing the pride he takes in his lands and feeling the love he has for her work chips away at the icy façade she has put in place to protect herself. Slowly, they begin to uncover who they really are away from their social stations of “Peer” and “Working Class Playwright.” Through the development of the burletta, Cam and Maggie come together in their passions and open themselves up to a love they both thought only existed on the stage.

I greatly enjoyed this story, but I would have expected nothing less from this author. I’ve been a long-time fan of Eva Leigh in her previous writing life as Zoe Archer. Her stories focus more on the people just outside the hallowed halls of a London townhome; the kinds who work for their living and have real challenges in their lives that readers can relate to. With Maggie Delamere, she continues her trend of creating strong female protagonists. Maggie’s fear of a relationship with Cam comes not from the typical heroine rulebook of wanting unconditional love or simple stubbornness. She has been down the road of romancing a rake before, and it cost her everything she had at the time. To take such a risk now would jeopardize her employment and the livelihoods of dozens of workers at the Imperial. Maggie understands responsibility and shoulders that burden with a great inner strength that her friends admire. I appreciated the progression of her feelings for Cam and that they aren’t rushed or simply driven by lust. Maggie has to learn much about him and herself before she is willing to take a risk and let go of the damaged young woman who lost so much and embrace the empowered older woman she is now.

This story is driven completely by the characters which adds a touch of drama and creates a tone similar to a stage production itself. Long scenes of Maggie and Cam actually taking to one another draw out who they are rather than the author having to spell everything out to the reader. There are no real villains to the piece so every conflict comes straight from Maggie and Cam themselves. How they resolve those conflicts and then grow as both individuals and as a couple keep the story interesting, as some of their beliefs were so ingrained that finding a solution seemed impossible.

I haven’t read the first book of the series but I don’t feel that was necessary in order to enjoy Scandal Takes the Stage. In fact, having read and enjoyed book two so much it made me very eager to go back and see the earliest introductions of Maggie and Cam into the greater story. I’m also quite curious to know more about Cam’s cousin and which Wicked Quill will write her name on his heart. I even learned something reading this book, having to discover exactly what a “burletta” is in comparison to the plays and musicals I’m familiar with today. Overall Scandal Takes the Stage is a great read and one I am happy to recommend.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eva LeighEVA LEIGH is the pen name of a RITA® Award-nominated romance author who writes novels chock-full of smart women and sexy men. She enjoys baking, Tweeting about boots, and listening to music from the ‘80s. Eva and her husband live in Central California.

You can connect with Eva at: Website * ~ * ~ * Facebook * ~ * ~ * Twitter * ~ * ~ * GoodReads

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