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Lady Maggie’s Secret Scandal
by Grace Burrowes
(Sourcebooks, $7.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-1402263774
***
On the plus side, Lady Maggie’s Secret Scandal features an atypical heroine, one who is the illegitimate daughter of a duke but who has been adopted by the Duke and Duchess and raised as one of their own. The hero is a decent fellow and the characters are intelligent and likable.

On the downside, the book drags, the romance feels lukewarm and a bit forced, and the eventual scandal is only a scandal because the heroine apparently has never had a decent conversation with the woman who raised her.

Lady Maggie Windham is nearing thirty and has set up her own household. Her large family of siblings dote on her, but she has always felt a little like an outsider in the large family of the Duke of Windham. Her stepmother, the Duchess, is sweet and kind, but Maggie holds her at arm’s length. Never mind that Maggie has been a part of the Windham family for more than twenty years and was raised as a true Windham.

Enter Mr. Benjamin Hazlit, who is a discreet private investigator of sorts. It’s rumored that Benjamin is of the nobility, but when the ton needs to find out if a potential suitor is nearly bankrupt or if a countess is cheating on her earl with a groom, they call on Benjamin to find out. Maggie’s own family hired Benjamin to make discreet inquiries on some matter, and now Maggie proposes to hire his services for herself – to find her lost reticule.

Something important was in the reticule, but whatever it was, Maggie isn’t saying. It’s obvious she’s desperate to find it, though, and Benjamin takes on the task, intrigued. He also finds Maggie to be rather intriguing herself. In short order, Benjamin establishes that someone in Maggie’s own household must be involved. But why? And Maggie, who is somewhat of a financial whiz, certainly isn’t living the luxurious life that she could be. Where does she spend her money?

Benjamin and Maggie spend a lot of time together, but their romance never catches fire. It all seemed very placid – the author tries hard to sell it as a passionate affair, but it’s lukewarm at best, and rather businesslike at worst. This is no red-hot couple losing all reason over each other, not even momentarily. Even the sex is rather careful and matter-of-fact, with Benjamin taking matters into his own hands, so to speak.

While I liked both Benjamin and Maggie for being mature and intelligent, the story dragged. Maggie won’t share her secret and she and Benjamin aren’t exactly mad with lust for one another, which leaves the story going in circles for a while. The mystery of the reticule is revealed in dribs and drabs, and when it all comes to light, it would appear that Maggie has caused herself ten years of heartache by simply not having a good, heart-to-heart talk with her parents, especially the Duchess who longs to be a true mother to her. Not to mention an obvious flaw in her reasoning that is pointed out within five minutes of the big scandal being revealed. In the meantime, Benjamin and Maggie slip into a tepid affair. It’s not enough to tell a reader they’re falling in love. This book needs more showing for the romance to feel authentic.

That said, kudos to the author for coloring outside the lines when it comes to her leads. An illegitimate noblewoman and a might-be nobleman make for an interesting couple. And I enjoyed the fact that they were a bit older than the standard hero and heroine.

This is apparently the latest in a series of books about the Windham family, and at times it was a bit hard to keep the members of the family straight. Since there were several unmarried siblings in the pack, one can assume there will be more Windham novels in the future.

Lady Maggie’s Secret Scandal is a bit light on the romance, but offers a somewhat unusual premise that many readers should fine entertaining. Those who have read previous books in the series will want to check this one out.

--Cathy Sova


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