Sin and Scandal in England
Despite its horrible title (Sin and Scandal in England) and cover (a shirtless man and a dress-falling-off-her-bare-back woman standing in the snow!) this is a good historical romantic suspense novel.
Bethany Munroe is a science teacher’s assistant at the London Conservatory for Young Ladies. While women are still barred from attending University, this higher education academy is funded by Lord Whitley, a political radical who espouses equality among the sexes and classes. He is also rumored to be an anarchist and responsible for the assassination of the Home Secretary and his family. Bethany is at Whitley’s house party as the guest of his daughter, a friend from the school, trying to ascertain information about the fate of the school’s former science teacher, who disappeared while visiting Whitley Court several months ago. Bethany fears she is dead and indeed, there are several shady characters at this party, including an Italian arms dealer. Could the rumors about Lord Whitley be true? She becomes even more concerned when Ian Rockwell shows up.
Sir Ian Rockwell was the agent charged with the protection of the Home Secretary, but was dismissed when he failed to foil the assassination plot. That failure haunts him, as does the knowledge that his wife, who has escaped the asylum where she was put several years ago after having committed treason, was probably involved in the plot. He is sure that Lord Whitley is the man pulling all the strings. Ian is there as Whitley’s sister’s new lover and acting the disaffected agent, ready to be wooed, all the while still trying to solve the case.
Ian was charged with Bethany’s protection when she was 17 (see Wild and Wicked in Scotland, another execrable title). She fell hard for him, and something in her called to him enough that they shared a sweet kiss. But Ian was married and, after seeing Bethany to safety, hasn’t seen her in the years since. Now the attraction is back and exacerbated by danger. Their independent investigations yield interesting results and sharing their information seems a logical step. There are sinister doings afoot and when it appears that Bethany is being slowly poisoned, Ian takes drastic steps that will bring events to a head in ways no one could have foreseen.
There was plenty of chemistry between Bethany and Ian though the obstacles to the HEA seem insurmountable. They are both strong characters with firm convictions and stubborn streaks a mile wide. Bethany is coming into her own, finding new abilities and strengths she hadn’t guessed at before and it’s fun to see her discover her own daring. Ian is a more tortured soul, troubled by his past actions and failures. He is both appalled by and attracted to Bethany’s idealism, and while he knows he should stay far, far away from her, he cannot.
There is a lot of plot going on here – lots of twists and turns, lots of danger, lots of intrigue, lots of death and destruction. It really did read like a romantic suspense novel. This is one of the book’s strengths, as well as its weakness, as at times the love story seemed overwhelmed by all the “stuff” going on around it. For the most part, it was a good ride with some welcome surprises. On the other hand, it also seemed oddly slow in places, especially after Ian rescued Bethany from being poisoned.
But the good far outweighs bad in Sin and Scandal in England. This is the sixth Melody Thomas review at AAR to receive a grade of B. Sounds like someone has entered Buried Treasure territory.