Her Scandalous Affair
Richard, Viscount Mallory and heir to his grandfather’s earldom, is home from the Peninsular War answering a summons from his grandmother. She wishes him to recover a lost family heirloom, the Mallory Heart, a magnificent ruby brooch given to the family by Queen Elizabeth. The earl’s health is quickly fading and Grandmother believes he is fretting over the disappearance of the jewel fifty years ago, and that her husband will rest easier if he knows it is back in the family. A friend in London has recently written that a woman was spotted wearing the brooch at a ton affair, and she sends Richard off to procure it.
Richard is a reluctant viscount, having inherited the position after the recent death of his brother. He enjoyed the life, sense of purpose and adventure he found as a captain in the cavalry, and is not looking forward to his eventual earldom and its responsibilities. Initially annoyed with his grandmother’s request, he begins to look upon it as one last adventure before settling down to do his duty. The task takes on more pleasant overtones when he sees how very beautiful the brooch-wearer is.
The widowed Lady Isabel Weymouth is looking for a rich man to keep her in the style to which she is accustomed to living. It was a shock after her husband died to find that their lavish lifestyle was lived on credit. She has sold most all of her possessions and is just barely managing to keep up appearances, though if she doesn’t marry this Season the truth is sure to get out. She also helps support her grandmother, cousin and ne’er-do-well younger brother. Her grandmother keeps a relic from her past, a fabulous ruby brooch which Isabel borrows and wears for good luck.
Richard is immediately smitten with Isabel’s charms but his offer to buy the Mallory Heart is turned down. Paying a call the next day, he goes snooping around her house and sees from the state of the private rooms that she’s obviously in need of funds. Her refusal to sell the brooch puzzles him even more, but he proceeds to find her bedroom and steal the jewel in question.
Isabel quickly figures out what happened to the brooch and just as quickly steals it back from him the next day with the help of her stable boy, a former pickpocket. She does not escape unscathed however, as she and Richard share a quite surprising kiss. Richard is charmed by her chutzpah and they begin a furious round of who-has-the-jewel as it is “liberated” a total of seven – or was it eight? – times in rapid succession using various deceptive techniques. Richard and Isabel both enjoy the adventure and become more attracted to the other, even though both believe the other to be a professional thief.
There is a lot of gamesmanship, plenty of lusting and physical compatibility between Richard and Isabel, but I’m afraid that I did not see any real connection otherwise, until near the end. There seems to be no mutual interests, but that is hard to judge when there is very little substantive conversation going on. This is particularly frustrating when they so obviously have something to talk about – if not discussion as to who actually owns the jewel, then the simple question of why they keep stealing the brooch begs to be asked. The only time they spend together is when they are in the process of yet again stealing the jewel, or kissing, which is often a prelude for stealing the jewel. And while one can admire the canniness each displays, that is hardly a basis for love.
Both also had brothers who were entirely superfluous; both could easily have been left out without affecting the story. I also found the ending to be frustrating, with Richard doing Something Stupid leading to a misunderstanding which served only to draw out the ending unnecessarily.
Candice Hern is a very talented writer and I have enjoyed her previous novels a great deal. She has a sure hand, and an easy and comfortable style; I read Her Scandalous Affair very quickly and found the characters of Richard and Isabel likable. However, the repetition of the jewel thefts, the lack of impetus for a deeper attraction, and the extraneous characters and plotlines read like nothing more than filler to reach a page count.