Desperately Seeking Scandal
Desperately Seeking Scandal is a charming fake-relationship story that originally appeared in the novella duo, The Duke’s Bridal Path. I have a sneaking fondness for the faux-couple trope, and Ms. Romain makes very good use of it here, creating a believable emotional connection between her principals within the confines of the shorter format, while telling a story about the importance of being true to oneself and doing the right thing.
Lady Ada Ellis, spinster sister of the Duke of Lavalle, has sequestered herself at the family’s country estate since she was jilted four years earlier by the stuffy Lord Wrotham following the scandalous rumours surrounding the death of her elder brother. She is happy at the family home, and her head for business and facility with numbers has led to her acting as de facto steward for her brother, the new duke. On a visit to the local village, she becomes aware that someone is watching and following her; suspecting he might be a journalist out to dig up more dirt on the family – her brother recently married the daughter of his stable master – she confronts the man, who introduces himself as Colin Goddard and is, indeed, a journalist.
Except that he’s not there to gather material for a story about her brother, and suggests that perhaps it’s her he’s interested in. Ada isn’t swallowing that for one minute, but her curiosity is piqued and after a razor-sharp back-and-forth with the (admittedly) attractive young man, she tells him he can call on her the next day in order to explain what he has in mind.
Colin Goddard has worked hard to keep a roof over his and his brother Samuel’s head ever since their father bankrupted their family a decade or so earlier. He’s making a living now as a jobbing writer for the Gentleman’s Periodical (a down-market version of the established Gentlemen’s Magazine), writing satirical, sometimes scandalous gossip pieces – some of which, he discovers later, may well have contributed to Lady Ada’s being jilted. He has sold his editor on a short series of articles on the subject of How to Catch a Wealthy Spouse which will guarantee him a regular job and an editorship, and outlines his proposal to Lady Ada, but she wants something in exchange for her help. Her former betrothed will be staying in the area for a couple of weeks with his new wife, and as she will have to host the couple at least once, she wants Colin to pretend to be madly in love with her for the duration of Wrotham’s visit.
Desperately Seeking Scandal is a delightful read that’s light on conflict and low on angst – which isn’t a bad thing, as it means the author hasn’t set up plotlines and situations that will need lightning-fast and unbelievable resolutions. Instead, she concentrates on giving her characters solid backstories and personalities and keeps the focus on the romance; the dialogue sparkles with wit and intelligence, and the sexual tension between Ada and Colin crackles right from the start.
If you’re in the mood for a quick, but satisfying dose of historical romance, this is bound to fit the bill.