|I really had fun reading Scandal of the Season, but it really stretches the bounds of believability. If the reader can just take things at face value, the story will pull you in and keep you reading. Kelley has written two characters who are definitely a good pair.
Anthony Westfield, Viscount Somerton was thrown for a loop 10 years ago and did something he regrets to this day…he raped a woman. And not just any woman – but a young girl who he had flirted with as she sold oranges to make money outside his club. Anthony grew up thinking his mother was dead. But on his 18th birthday, his friends decided to take him to a brothel and help him lose his virginity. The madam of the house turned out to be none other than…his mother!
It seems that his mother, known now as Lady Whitely, left her husband when he kept mistresses, and even had a child with one. She loved her husband but could not live the lie. So he kicked her out and she started a brothel. She does not participate in the activities but it is a way of earning her living. She took in a young girl one night and helped that girl by setting up the house next to the brothel as a home of children who had no families. This girl was none other than the orange seller, Anne Smith. She took a new name, Victoria Seaton, and has thrived in her role. She loves the children especially one child named Bronwyn, who is tied to Anthony in a surprising way. Victoria never thought of her interaction with Anthony as rape, since she felt like she consented. And she has remained pure ever since, despite a lot of opportunities for otherwise.
Anthony is now over his shock and anger, or at least able to move on. He has not told his real sister any of this. But he has found his half-sister Sophie Reynard, who is somewhat of a psychic and has even played matchmaker with three of Anthony’s friends. Victoria too has met the wives of those friends and the four women, along with Sophie, have all become close. Anthony meets Victoria and almost doesn’t recognize her. She makes the mistake of picking his pocket and walking away with a pendant that Anthony’s mother had given him for his sister. Anthony sets out to find Victoria and blackmails her into attending a house party in the country at the home of an ex- prostitute and young Earl, where he intends to spy on another peer, Lord Hardy, who is suspected of a plot to kill the heir to the throne. Anthony decides that Victoria will travel with him as Anne Smith, a widow and his mistress. Of course, Anne stipulates that this is strictly a charade and in name only.
Much of the story takes place during this house party. It is at times convoluted with a wide cast of characters and it is up to the reader to determine the good guys from the bad. But the story between Anne/Victoria and Anthony is anything but tame. They argue, they plot both for and against each other, and they love, even though they both deny it. When Hardy starts lusting after Anne, Tony is stricken with a major case of jealousy that he wraps up in anger. This creates tension between the two of them and leads to many more complications in their relationship.
I enjoyed the pacing of the story and there were whole chapters that grabbed me. But there were so many distractions and just too much unusual behavior for a story set in 1817. There appeared to be no stigma (or at least minimal stigma) for the situations with the prostitutes, Anthony’s mother’s situation and even Anne’s entry into society for a woman who is clearly not even gentry, let alone titled. Much of this backstory must have been written into previous volumes of the series, but it just did not ring true.
Scandal of the Season was actually a series of a multitude of scandals both current and past. It definitely had some good moments, but had a few too many distractions and improbabilities to rate a full recommendation.