Penelope Weston does not like Benedict Lennox, Lord Atherton. He may be the suave and charming heir to an earl, as well as the most handsome man on earth, but she can’t forget how he abandoned a friend in need— nor how he once courted her sister, Abigail. He’s the last man she would ever marry. If only she didn’t feel so attracted to the arrogant scoundrel . . . .
Once upon a time, Benedict thought he and Penelope got along rather well. Though he needs a wealthy bride to escape his cruel father’s control, spirited Penelope just doesn’t suit his plans for a model marriage—until a good deed goes awry, and scandalous rumors link his name to Penelope’s. She might not be the quiet, sensible wife he thought he wanted, but she is beautiful . . . beguiling . . . and far more passionate than he ever imagined. Can a marriage begun in scandal become a love match, too.
She repressed the urge to walk the other way. She hadn’t seen him since they last parted, when he’d reluctantly helped solve a years-old mystery that had tarred the name of the man Abigail loved. Sebastian Vane had stood accused of stealing a large sum of money from Lord Atherton’s father, and Atherton himself had done nothing to disprove it—even though he’d once been Sebastian’s dearest friend. Penelope grudgingly admitted that Atherton had been fairly decent after that, but she still thought he was insincere and always had an eye out for his own interest, whatever truth or justice demanded.
It wasn’t until Atherton turned and looked toward them that Penelope realized she was staring at him. She quickly averted her gaze and turned her body slightly, hoping he hadn’t actually noticed her. However, that only gave her a good view of Frances’s face, which was glowing with joy.
Because … Penelope closed her eyes, praying she was wrong. Because her brain was fitting together details, just moments too late, and they were adding up to one dreadful conclusion. Atherton was heir to the Earl of Stratford, who was a very wealthy man. He was appallingly handsome, which Penelope only acknowledged with deep disgust. And when she stole a quick glance under her eyelashes, she saw that he was heading directly for the pair of them.
Oh Lord. What could she say now?
“Miss Lockwood.” Penelope gritted her teeth as he bowed. His voice was smooth and rich, the sort of voice a woman wanted to hear whispering naughty things in her ear. “How delightful to see you this evening.”
“I am the one delighted, my lord.” Blushing and beaming, Frances dipped a curtsy. “May I present to you my good friend, Miss Penelope Weston?”
His gaze moved to her without a flicker of surprise. He’d seen her, and was obviously more prepared for the meeting than she was. “Of course. But Miss Weston and I are already acquainted.”
Penelope curtsied as Frances gaped. “Indeed, my lord.”
“I—I didn’t know that,” stammered Frances, looking anxious again. “Are you very good friends? Oh dear, I wish I had known!”
“No, we hardly know each other,” said Penelope before he could answer. “It was a passing acquaintance, really.”
Atherton’s brilliant blue eyes lingered on her a moment before returning to Frances. “The Westons own property near Stratford Court.”
“Then you’re merely neighbors?” asked Frances hopefully. “In Richmond?”
“A river divides us,” Penelope assured her. “A very wide river.”
Atherton glanced at her sharply, but thankfully didn’t argue. “Yes, in Richmond. Unfortunately I’m kept here in London most of the year. I believe my sister Samantha is better acquainted with Miss Weston.”
“Indeed,” said Penelope with a pointed smile. “I hope Lady Samantha is well.”
“Yes,” said Lord Atherton after a moment’s pause. “She is.”
Too late Penelope remembered about Samantha. In their zeal to clear Sebastian Vane’s name so Abigail could marry him, the Weston girls had inadvertently resurrected a dark secret of Samantha’s, one her brother had claimed would lead to dire consequences for her. Penelope hadn’t wanted to cause trouble for Samantha, but Sebastian had been accused of murder and thievery; Abigail’s happiness depended on exonerating him, and Samantha was the only person who could help. Penelope cringed to have brought it up, but Atherton did say she was well, so the consequences must not have been as bad as he’d predicted. Still, she did truly like Samantha—far more than the lady’s brother—and she was sorry to have been so cavalier with her name.
Publisher and Release Date: Avon, May 26 2015
Time and Setting: London, England
Genre: Regency Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4 stars
Review by Lady Wesley
This is the third full-length title in Caroline Linden’s excellent Scandalous series, featuring secondary characters from the earlier books, but it works quite well as a standalone read.
Although Penelope Weston is an heiress with an immense dowry, she remains unwed after several seasons mixing with the ton. For one thing, she is not an aristocrat but simply the daughter of a successful attorney who made a fortune in the coal business. For another thing, she is far too spirited and outspoken to appeal to those young gentlemen who are looking for sweet, biddable wives. And now, Penelope is feeling rather lonely. Her best friend has married a rakish viscount (Love and Other Scandals), and her dear sister Abigail has recently wed Sebastian Vane, the Weston’s neighbor in Richmond (It Takes a Scandal).
A sweet, biddable wife with a fortune is exactly what Benedict Lennox, Lord Atherton, heir to the Earl of Stratford, is looking for. To that end, he courted Abigail (in the previous book) but lost her to his childhood best friend, Sebastian. It never occurred to him to court Penelope, as she was not at all the kind of lady he sought. Benedict is desperate for a wealthy wife, however, in order to escape from under the financial control of his abusive, sadistic father. Penelope took Benedict in dislike, convinced that he never loved her sister. Moreover, Penelope thought that Benedict was cruel to Sebastian and responsible, along with the earl, for Sebastian’s loss of his property and for being accused of thievery.
Benedict is now courting Penelope’s shy young friend, Frances Lockwood. When Frances asks Penelope whether she should accept the expected offer from Benedict, Penelope tells her to follow her own heart, with the result that Frances rejects Benedict – who is furiously certain that Penelope had something to do with it.
At a rout one evening, Penelope goes to the aid of her childhood friend, Olivia Townsend, and inadvertently becomes the object of her attacker’s unwanted attentions. Fortunately for Penelope, Benedict walks in and fights off the irate Lord Clary. Despite their enmity, Benedict is nothing but kind and solicitous toward Penelope, but unfortunately, Frances Lockwood and her mother find the couple in this suggestive situation, and Mrs. Lockwood angrily accuses Penelope of merely pretending to be Frances’s friend and scheming to get Benedict for herself.
Penelope is prepared to endure the gossip if Mrs. Lockwood spreads her story, but what develops is a vile, ugly rumor that Penelope is a loose woman who has consorted with many men. Benedict realizes that Clary is getting his revenge, and the only way he can see to protect Penelope is to marry her, a prospect that Benedict is surprised to find somewhat appealing. Seeing no other choice, Penelope reluctantly agrees. Like Benedict, there is something appealing about this marriage idea.
It’s great fun watching Benedict and Penelope figure out how they’re going to go about building a marriage. One thing helps: they have sizzling chemistry between the sheets, something that rather surprises them both. Ms. Linden has written great banter between them, and even their arguments have a certain charm. The story is long on talk and short on action during the first half, but this is not a criticism. It was fascinating to “listen” to them get to know each other, and Ms. Linden has a real talent for writing engaging, believable dialogue.
The drama comes later in the book – from Benedict’s horrible father, who makes it clear that he does not approve of their marriage. Benedict is finally free of the old man, however, and little by little he reveals the misery of his early years to Penelope, whose close, loving family stands in blunt contrast. Indeed, it’s fairly difficult to figure out how Benedict became such a charming, honorable man, given his father’s cruelty. I have to say that the earl is slightly over the top; the lengths he is willing to go are horrifying, and thus the book becomes a bit too melodramatic for my taste toward the end.
There is also a mystery involving Penelope’s friend Olivia Townsend, but this plot line is left unresolved a the end of the book, so I’m assuming that another volume in the series is planned. If so, I’ll definitely be reading it.
For a chance to win a journal to keep track of all your own scandals, plus print copies of the first two books in Caroline Linden’s Scandalous series, LOVE AND OTHER SCANDALS, and IT TAKES A SCANDAL, enter at Rafflecopter. The runner up will win print copies of the books.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Caroline Linden was born a reader, not a writer. She earned a math degree from Harvard University and wrote computer software before turning to writing fiction. Ten years, twelve books, three Red Sox championships, and one dog later, she has never been happier with her decision. Her books have won the NEC Reader’s Choice Beanpot Award, the Daphne du Maurier Award, and RWA’s RITA Award. Since she never won any prizes in math, she takes this as a sign that her decision was also a smart one. Visit her online at www.carolinelinden.com * ~ * ~ * Facebook * ~ * ~ * Twitter * ~ * ~ * Goodreads