In addition to showcasing many variations on the theme of scandal, Carolyn Jewel returns to historical romance with a deeply emotional story featuring two characters I liked very much. The Earl of Banallt and his beloved Sophie Evans have both lived through various scandals in their pasts and each carries the scars of their experiences. As Scandal develops, they learn to trust and allow for second chances in a love story that beautifully combines passionately steamy scenes with emotions that run deeply.
The construction of the plot reveals Jewel’s great craft as an author. The book jumps back and forth between the main action of the story and events transpiring several years before, a setup that allows the reader to get to know the characters and see the gradual revelation of scandals and secrets.
As the book opens, Banallt is returning to his country home when, as he approaches a neighboring home in the company of its owner, he spies a woman from his past sitting outside – Sophie Evans. The initial meeting does not go well, and it is immediately clear that neither Banallt nor Sophie thought to see the other again. In this brief encounter, we learn that Sophie is widowed and that Banallt was a friend to her late husband. While Sophie obviously does not welcome Banallt, his thoughts run along a different line – he intends to marry her.
So begins the journey between Sophie and Banallt’s earlier history and their current relationship. We quickly learn in flashbacks that Sophie suffered through an unhappy marriage. Her husband treated her with little regard and spent much of his time drinking and partying – sometimes with the scandalous Lord Banallt. Sophie meets Banallt through her husband and, though the nobleman definitely leads a wild life, he has another, more considerate, side. He allows Sophie to see this as they become friends.
Unfortunately, a series of events unravels the friendship. Sophie eventually finds herself widowed, destitute, and living with her brother, acting as his hostess as he attends to his career in Parliament. It is in these government circles that she again meets Banallt. Given the nobleman’s past, Sophie quickly decides that he hasn’t changed. Given her history, this attitude is more than understandable, even though it persists a bit too long in the face of evidence to the contrary.
The ensuing dance as the two befriend one another again and Sophie slowly starts to trust Banallt makes for beautiful reading. Though he seems to have always had his good side, Banallt has some hard-living in his past. He has reformed by the time the book opens, but rumor still plagues him wherever he goes. At times, Banallt has difficulty understanding Sophie, but he learns to appreciate her more and more as he realizes the great depth of his true feeling for her.
Though a few parts of the book ran a little slowly for me – largely because Sophie waited a little too long to see the truth – I still adored Scandal. Readers looking for a deeply emotional and very well-written book will love this one. I have a certain weakness for flawed but redeemable characters, and this tale very much hit the spot. I cannot wait to see more historicals from this author in the future.