Desert Isle Keeper
A Breath of Scandal
Antigone Preston’s father has barely been laid to rest when her mother announces Antigone’s betrothal to their older and creepy neighbor, Lord Aldridge. This will offer the chance for Antigone’s stunningly beautiful older sister to move in more rarefied circles and snare a financially secure husband. But as to what Aldridge gets out of the bargain? She can only believe it’s because, despite Antigone being the younger, tomboyish, less beautiful sister, he wants the glorious thoroughbred that’s part of her dowry. Antigone stalls for time, hoping that if Cassandra can get engaged, she can reject Aldridge’s suit. A bad reputation can only help her – as long as she doesn’t hurt Cassandra’s chances.
Meanwhile, Napoleon’s exile on Elba has left Commander Will Jellicoe on indefinite shore leave. When he attends a ball and sees Antigone Preston lay out a young lord notorious for his wandering hands with a single punch to the face, he has to find out more. In the library, where Antigone has been exiled, the two meet and discover kinship in their sense of mischief and desire for adventure. But do a sailor with an uncertain future and a young woman with a certain future she’s desperate to avoid have any kind of future together?
I never, never thought I’d love a heroine who is shown punching a man on a dance floor, because usually that’s code for ‘I, the author, am going to write a Feisty Type, and damn history and logic around it.’ Here, hallelujah, it is not. Antigone is shown as a misfit in the section of society her mother wants her to inhabit – especially the narrower, less forgiving circles of the older Lord Aldridge and his sister, and more conservative country society. Will finds her attractive because he, too, is an oddball in society, not because the author wants to portray scrappy girls as just so irresistible.
The plot around Lord Aldridge is very well executed, but it’s hard to talk about what is really behind his desire to marry Antigone without giving spoilers. The best I can say is that it comes together neatly with other elements of the story, such as Antigone’s behavior, and in a way that does not feel dated and full of villain stereotypes (for her mother as well as Lord Aldridge) as happens in other books that start down similar roads. And if you love horses, you’ll love Antigone’s Velocity and the way she puts caring for her first. (You’ll also be amused by Will’s lack of horsemanship, caused by being at sea since the age of twelve – just one of many ways the author gets details right).
My biggest complaint about this book is that I felt like the option for Antigone to marry Will was never addressed or contemplated by the characters, which seemed unrealistic. I’d also have liked Antigone to be a little less go-it-alone, especially late in the book after she and Will have become so close.
Still, this is a great historical romance that didn’t feel like anything else I’ve read, and that’s especially impressive given that the author pulled it off it in a society-set romance. I truly enjoyed the first book in this series (Almost a Scandal, which I gave a DIK), but it had the benefit of a unique shipboard setting. A Breath of Scandal shows that the author can offer that uniqueness on land as well.