Secrets of a Scandalous Heiress by Theresa Romain

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ONE GOOD PROPOSITION DESERVES ANOTHER . . .

Heiress Augusta Meredith can’t help herself—she stirs up gossip wherever she goes. A stranger to Bath society, she pretends to be a charming young widow, until sardonic, darkly handsome Joss Everett arrives from London and uncovers her charade.

Now they’ll weave their way through the pitfalls of the polite world only if they’re willing to be true to themselves . . . and to each other . . . .

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Publisher and Release Date: Sourcebooks Casablanca, January 2015

Time and Setting: Bath, England
Genre: Regency Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 5 Stars

Review by Lady Wesley

Theresa Romain is a new-to-me-author, but based upon this book, I will definitely be reading her other titles. I picked this one because it sounded different from so many other Regency romances, and I was not disappointed.

Hero without title or fortune. Check. Joss Everett is an Anglo-Indian with no fortune who toils as secretary to cousin, the indolent Lord Sutcliffe.

Heroine without title or prospects. Check. Augusta Meredith is wealthy, yes, but as heiress to her father’s beauty products company, she is not accepted as a member of the ton.

Setting outside London. Check. When Augusta’s friend Lady Tallant needs to take the waters of Bath, Augusta goes along as her companion. For reasons not entirely clear at first, Augusta decides to masquerade as “Mrs. Flowers,” a respectable widow, and since practically nobody in Bath knows her, she can get away with it.

We soon learn that Augusta has decided that she needs to take a lover, one who does not know that she is fabulously wealthy. She is finding the task challenging, however, until she encounters Joss Everett. He knows who she really is, but he agrees not to reveal her identity.

Joss is an intriguing character. He has worked for many years as a man of business to his cousin Lord Sutcliffe. Sutcliffe, who is being blackmailed, promises Joss one hundred pounds if he finds the blackmailer. Joss has followed the trail to Bath, where one of the blackmail notes was posted. He desperately wants the money so he can leave his cousin’s employ. Sutcliffe is utterly self-centered and treats his cousin abominably, but we don’t quite hate him because he is so clueless about his behavior. At times, he is almost funny.

Joss reluctantly accepts Augusta’s help in searching for the blackmailer, and she arranges for him to meet several gentlemen who might have knowledge that would help. At the same time, Joss and Augusta are becoming closer to one another and moving from flirtation to attraction to intimacy, where they finally can show their true selves.

The progress of their romance is beautifully revealed through long conversations between them. Although there is a mystery, there is not a lot of action, but the dialogue and the introduction of several secondary characters keeps the air of suspense alive.

Theresa Romain excels at creating interesting, complex characters – not just the hero and heroine but the supporting players as well. Augusta’s friend, Emily, Lady Tallant, has a small but heart-breaking role. Lord Sutcliffe is a typical wealthy, spoiled aristocrat, but he has a few redeeming qualities. Lord Chatfield, who helps Joss with his investigation, is charming but rather intimidating in his vast power.

Ms Romain’s talent for dialogue stands out, from witty banter to heartfelt confessions between Joss and Augusta, and her characters’ voices are true to the period. She also paints a vivid picture of Bath – from the climate to the geography to the familiar sites such as the Pump Room.

Even though I occasionally became impatient with conversations that lasted longer than I would have liked, I truly cannot criticize anything about this book. It was a pleasure to read from start to finish.

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