Scandal in Venice
A man is sent to retrieve a runaway lady and ends up falling in love with her, each of them unaware of the secret the other is hiding. This sets up the main conflict in Scandal in Venice, a conflict born of desperate actions and many secrets.
Lady Elizabeth Everdean is in shock. She had dreamed of getting married to escape her stepbrother Peter’s household, but she could never have imagined what happened. Her lecherous fiancé deserved being hit on the head with a chamber pot, but now he is dead and Elizabeth sees no other solution than to flee to Italy and live with her artist friend Georgina. Two years later, her stepbrother Peter finally finds the one person who can help him get Elizabeth back. Nicholas Hollingsworth owes his very life to Peter, so he goes to Venice and manages to get himself hired as Elizabeth’s secretary.
Elizabeth has been living as an artist since she left England. She enjoys Venetian society, has the odd suitor, and loves her painting, but Nicholas sends her world into a tailspin. On one hand, he represents her home, and she readily embraces falling in love with him; on the other, she worries that he might know someone who is aware of her history. Since Nicholas is hiding his identity as well, he fears much the same, and his fears are realized when he runs into someone who knows him well, Evelyn Deake. It’s at this point that the plot suffers from some predictability. Despite Evelyn’s promise to Nicholas that she will not betray his identity, we know she will end up causing problems for him. Also, despite the fact that both Elizabeth and Nicholas agonize over telling the other the truth about their backgrounds, neither does until Nicholas’ identity is, of course, revealed and Elizabeth is forced to return home.
Back in England, amid the staidness and routine Elizabeth dreaded returning to, Peter declares that she is behaving like a spoiled child, and I tended to agree. Elizabeth feels very passionately and goes from extreme to extreme in her emotions. Even though he did not deserve too much sorrow, I did wish for a bit more guilt on Elizabeth’s part regarding the death of her fiancé. Nicholas is more temperate and goes through pro and con arguments for telling Elizabeth the truth, but of course, had he told her at the beginning we would not have this book. The secondary characters are all well done. Georgina is certainly the most flamboyant, but Peter is interesting in his own right and I was glad to see that he did not end the book as a villain.
I enjoyed the Venetian setting, which does in fact make society back in England seem a little lackluster, and despite the minor problems I had with the book, I see a lot of promise here and will look for Ms. McCabe’s next book.