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Olivia Townsend is in trouble and out of options. Pursued by a dangerous man in search of a lost treasure she doesn’t possess, she’s got only two things in her favor: her late husband’s diary, which she was never meant to see… and the man who was her first—and only—love. Losing him broke her heart, though she’s been careful to hide it for the last ten years. But when he comes to her aid and vows to stand by her, no matter what, she can’t help but hope things will be different for them this time.
James Weston has blamed himself for letting Olivia down when she needed him years ago, and now he’ll do whatever it takes to keep her safe—and to win her trust again. He’s confident he can outwit the villain chasing Olivia. But being so near her again threatens to expose every secret in his heart … even those that he swore would stay hidden forever.
James pulled off his boots, and then his stockings, and then—to Olivia’s shock—he climbed up and stood on the highest rock, letting the water foam over his feet and wet his breeches. “Don’t you want to climb up?”
She looked longingly at the rocks. The thought of water running over her feet and ankles was tempting, but not worth it. “I’d get wet, and my mother would be displeased.”
“Pity that. It’s great fun.”
Slowly she looked down at her shoes and stockings. Maybe if she held up her skirts, very high . . . But that would also be improper. “I’d better not.”
“Oh,” he said in disappointment. “You’re a coward.”
Olivia’s eyes widened. “How rude!”
He shrugged, kicking at the water and sending a spray over the grass. “I can tell you want to get up here but you won’t.”
“I’d get all wet . . .”
“So walk around until your feet and skirt dry. That’s what my sisters do.”
Olivia stole another look at the frothing stream. “Your sisters climb up there?”
“And they’re even younger than you. But if you’re too scared . . .” He started to climb down.
Her mouth firmed. She was not scared. “Those rocks are slippery. I don’t want to fall.”
He grinned as if he knew he’d won. “I’ll hold your hand.”
And he did. Olivia peeled off her stockings and slippers, folded up her skirts as high as she dared—all the way above her knees—and carefully stepped into the water. She gasped at the cold initially, but it was a hot day and soon the water felt blissful. James held her hand as promised and coaxed her to stand on the topmost rock at the edge of the waterfall. She balanced on the wide flat stone and a grin spread across her face. The water rushed over her toes and ankles and she thought she’d never done anything this daring in her whole life. “How did I never discover this?”
Still holding her hand, James laughed. “Good girls stay at home.”
“So I’m a bad girl for coming out here?”
“No,” he said. “A curious girl. I like that kind.”
That allayed Olivia’s moment of worry. Curious didn’t sound so terrible. She exchanged a tentative smile with James.
When their feet had gone numb, he helped her climb down and back onto the grass.
“Do you play dolls still?” he asked as he put his boots back on.
Olivia shook out her skirts, relieved to see that she had kept dry except for a small spot on one side.
“Good. Follow me.” He started off.
He turned at her indignant cry. “Call me Jamie. James if you must. You might as well come meet my sisters, who drove me from the house today with begging me to play dolls. My mother said I had to entertain them but they don’t like the way I play dolls.” He made an aggrieved expression. “Why can’t a doll put on a fine dress and then have a sword fight with another doll? What else have dolls got to do all day?” He shrugged. “You probably know better how to do it the way they want.”
“I can’t go into town without permission,” Olivia finally said. Privately she was curious to meet the Westons. Her parents didn’t view most of the local families as their equal, and Olivia and Daphne weren’t allowed much contact with other children. And even though she didn’t spend as much time with dolls as Daphne did, she wasn’t immune to wanting to see the Weston girls’ dolls, which were sure to be much finer than anything at Kellan Hall. But if Mother saw her, she’d be in such trouble.
He grinned as if sensing another victory. “We don’t live in town anymore. We took possession of Haverstock House this week, right over the hill.”
Her eyes popped open. Haverstock House was the finest house in the county, and lay between Kellan Hall and town. It belonged to the elderly Earl of Malke, who rarely visited since his wife’s death. Now the Westons owned it?
“I expect my mother will call on your mother soon, now we’re neighbors,” he went on. “Will she let you come visit then?”
Olivia doubted it. “Perhaps.”
Jamie Weston flashed his confident grin once more. “I’ll wager a copper penny she will.”
Publisher and Release Date: Avon, April 2016
Time and Setting: 1822, England
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 2
Reviewer Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by Lady Wesley
In the exciting, romantic conclusion to her engaging Scandalous series, Caroline Linden presents the story of Olivia Herbert and James (Jamie) Weston, who grew up on neighboring estates in Kent. The two families did not socialize, however, as Jamie’s father was an (immensely wealthy) attorney and Olivia was the daughter of a (spendthrift) baronet. Lady Herbert, adhering to the rigid class distinctions of the day, considered the “upstart Westons” to be beneath her notice. As the Herberts’ fortunes decline though, and when Jamie appears to show an interest in Olivia, Sir Alfred and Lady Herbert’s prejudices began to crumble.
Unbeknownst to them, Jamie and Olivia have fallen madly in love and given in to their passion, expecting that parental approval of their betrothal would be forthcoming. Eager to prove himself to his father and not realizing how precarious the Herberts’ finances have become, Jamie leaves on a business trip before formally asking for Olivia’s hand – a decision that proves disastrous for Olivia when her parents insist that she marry Henry Townsend, a man she doesn’t even know. Henry’s wealthy father has agreed to pay all of Lord Herbert’s debts to order to obtain a sensible wife for his frivolous son. When Olivia’s frantic letters to Jamie go unanswered, she sees no choice but to marry Henry; Jamie returns to find that Olivia has been married for four days. Olivia is furious and broken-hearted but she treats him with cool civility, as she wants to maintain her friendship with his sisters.
Ten years pass, and while Olivia remains close to Abigail and Penelope Weston, Jamie sees to it that he rarely crosses Olivia’s path. Olivia’s marriage is not a happy one but neither is it a horror. When Henry suddenly dies, however, Olivia finds that he has spent his inherited fortune and left her penniless. Henry’s friend, Viscount Clary, repeatedly visits Olivia, initially expressing sympathy but ultimately demanding that she return an item that belongs to him. Olivia has no idea what he is talking about, but his manner becomes increasingly threatening. After Clary tries to force Penelope Weston to tell him Olivia’s whereabouts, almost killing her (see Love in the Time of Scandal), Olivia flees London in search of Henry’s solicitor. He had sent Olivia a record-book that she believes may shed some light on Henry’s business, and she is beginning to suspect that that business was possibly illegal and that Clary was involved.
After visiting the solicitor and getting nowhere, Olivia is walking home near dark and is followed by a shadowy figure. Fearing that it is Clary, she grabs a nearby shovel and wallops the stranger – who turns out to be Jamie. He has followed her to Gravesend to protect and help her, and thus begins a beautiful second-chance romance mixed with a road-trip aimed at resolving a puzzling mystery.
The unwinding of Henry Townsend’s schemes is very well done and kept me turning the pages far past my bedtime. But the beauty of this book is in Olivia and Jamie finding the happiness that eluded them a decade earlier. Jamie has never stopped loving Olivia, and he bitterly regrets his failure to be there when she needed him.
This time, he wasn’t going to let her down. This time, he wasn’t leaving her until Lord Clary was in prison and every nasty, dirty secret of Henry’s had been exposed and burned, and Olivia lost that worn, tense expression. And if she could be persuaded to give him another chance, he wasn’t going to let her go, either.
For her part, Olivia has spent ten years feeling like a fool for giving Jamie her love and trust, but with his return to her life, she realizes what she has forfeited by refusing his friendship.
Suddenly she wished she hadn’t done it. It had protected her wounded young heart, but at the cost of a friendship that had sustained her since she was a child. If she hadn’t pushed him away, Jamie might have helped her endure her lonely, loveless marriage. Henry wouldn’t have cared. And Olivia knew that, if she had asked, Jamie would have advised her when Clary started hounding her.
Olivia is an admirable heroine; she is strong and determined to solve her own problems. When Jamie offers his help, however, she is not too proud to accept and to forgive him. Jamie is utterly lovable and perhaps a little too good to be true, but I don’t object to that in my romance heroes. All of the main characters from the earlier books put in an appearance, but I was particularly struck by lovely vignette of one of the minor characters, a charming old fisherman/smuggler who helps them even though he does not have to. ‘A man’s oath is his bond,’ he said quietly, ‘but when a fellow dies . . .’ He shrugged. ‘I allow some duty is owed to the chap’s widow.’
All in all, Six Degrees of Scandal is a most enjoyable book, and I believe that the author has so deftly woven in details from the other books that this one works quite well as a stand-alone. If you have read those books, however, you may be wondering about Lady Constance, the courtesan whose supposedly true stories of her erotic adventures, 50 Ways to Sin, have consumed the ton with speculation about the author’s true identity. Her identity is indeed revealed here and I can almost guarantee that you will be surprised. Well done, Caroline Linden.
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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