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The Scandalous Countess:
A Novel of the Malloren World

by Jo Beverley
(Signet, $7.99, PG) ISBN 978-11015-74867
Jo Beverley has written a long series about the Mallorens and now the books are notated with the "Malloren World" tagline. There is one Malloren brother that makes an appearance but beyond that, this is just a book set in the timeline of Victorian England. Unfortunately for this reader, the tale was satisfactory but barely so.

Georgia Maybury is a widow whose husband was killed in a duel. Known in the fashionable beau monde as Lady May, Georgia was a young frivolous bride who at sixteen, acted the part of the teenager. She and her only slightly older husband flirted their way into the hearts of the ton, but were truly committed to each other. However, after the duel, rumors of infidelity blossomed. Georgia was swept to her family's home and there she stayed for 18 months; first in mourning for her husband and then in mourning for her mother-in-law. At barely twenty, she is a woman who loves the glamour of the balls in London, but who is clearly seen as much more outrageous than she ever was. Her father, in an attempt to protect her against the more malicious, offers her to a baron as a substitute for a horse that he lost in a race.

Baron Humphrey Dracy, known simply as Dracy, is a retired seaman who inherited the barony from a cousin he barely knew. He is a man out of his depths in society, yet who is able to adapt fairly well. His goal is to rebuild his home back into one that will sustain him and bring pride to the Dracy name once more. The first step is to rebuild his stables. He has a wonderful mare but needs a stallion to go with it. His plan was to race Georgia's father's horse and then offer to trade the mare for a stallion. But his plans go awry and despite winning the race, his choice is now to accept Georgia, without her being aware of the deal.

Obviously relationships built on deceit are tenuous, but even more so when Georgia is convinced she can never settle for a baron, but must move up from her previous title of Countess. She befriends Dracy at the request of her parents, thinking her task is to tutor him in the ways of the ton. What she discovers is a man who tempts her beyond her wildest and almost naive understanding of love and a man who is an anchor when confronted with a succession of scandals that she is completely innocent of making. Thrown into the mix is a plot that seems to now be more sinister and may involve murder.

I liked Dracy. He is a hero with scars and depth. He is strong, although at times, he is led around for a loop by Georgia. Meanwhile, Georgia believes she is strong, but really she has convinced herself that she could take care of herself in an era when woman had no power. She is really the puppet of first her father, then her husband and now of society along with her father and brother. She is immature at times and totally oblivious that how she acts is how people see her, which in part, led to the men around her acting like imbeciles.

This story dragged at times with little happening. Then it picked up when the first clues led the cast to believe there was danger. However, all of the danger was talked about. There was little action beyond talk and this lent the book the aura of a story being told but not lived. While I ultimately enjoyed the ending, there was much of the book that was almost boring. Jo Beverley has written better stories than The Scandalous Countess.

--Shirley Lyons

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