Desert Isle Keeper
The Scoundrel & I
A delightful twist on the Cinderella fairytale (with a nod to My Fair Lady), The Scoundrel & I is the story of down on her luck Gabrielle Flood and the dashing (and handsome) Captain Anthony Masinter. The novella works as a standalone, but features characters from both the Falcon Club and Prince Catchers series.
Gabrielle Flood (Elle) barely makes ends meet as a printer’s assistant for Brittle & Sons, Printers. Her only happy moments in life come via evenings at home with her beloved grandmother, and when she works on printed pamphlets for the famous journalist known as Lady Justice. When her employers go on a vacation – and leave Elle to work alone over a fortnight, she risks her livelihood to secretly bring home the printer type for Lady Justice’s most recent pamphlet to share with her grandmother. The first night she bundles up the type, departs Brittle & Sons and is nearly run over by a horse and rider. In a frightened panic, Elle drops her bundle and watches the type scatter across the road and down a nearby drain. When the handsome rider asks her, arrogantly, if she’s unhurt, she can barely nod her head and confirm she’s unharmed.
Captain Anthony Masinter (Tony) is in a hurry and nearly runs down a woman walking in the street. He’s on his way to the funeral of his (former) first lieutenant, John Park. Tony blames himself for Park’s death, and holds himself responsible for the now destitute wife and three children he left behind. He’s returned to London a celebrated and wealthy war hero; while at sea, he also inherited an estate from a great-aunt. Tony planned to remain a bachelor – but with the death of Park, he feels obligated to offer for the widow and become a father to her children. All of these things are on his mind when he nearly collides with Elle. Confused and upset by his thoughts, Tony rudely rushes off after he confirms his near victim is unhurt.
Parting from this first, less than auspicious beginning, Elle (Cinderella) and Tony (the prince – oh reader! he is!) would seemingly have no reason to ever see one another again. But fortunately, fate has other plans. The next day Elle is surprised when Tony, again on horseback, passes by as she’s frantically searching the road for pieces of the missing type. Desperate and angry, she calls him a scoundrel; Tony, caught off guard by her fury and beauty, follows her to Brittle & Sons after she storms away. She’s shocked when he enters the shop, but he soothes her and tells her he will help her replace the type. Handsome, charming and relentless, Tony is impossible for Elle to resist. His plan to replace the type fortuitously allows them multiple occasions to spend time together – and ultimately, to fall in love.
The road to ‘and they lived happily ever after’ in this fairytale is riddled with potholes and romantic tropes – class differences, a big Misunderstanding, and a secret… but these only draw out this wonderful love story. Tony, handsome, sweet and charming, is the perfect foil to lovely, serious and wary Elle.
I sighed (more than once) reading this romantic novella. The Scoundrel & I is Ms. Ashe writing at the top of her game.