Something Scandalous
by Christie Kelley
(Zebra, $6.99, PG)  ISBN 978-14201-0876-7
Here is a story that delights at times. It also frustrates, enchants, and brings a smile. The mix of emotion elicits a rating of acceptable, even though I wanted to like this book more.  Something Scandalous has so much going for it, but a lot that distracts.

The Duke of Kendal is dead. His heir is a distant nephew who is in America and everyone is waiting to see if he will come to claim the title. There has been no word for eight months. Elizabeth, the Duke’s youngest daughter, is waiting patiently.  The ton has been speculating about her; while she has always been acknowledged, the Duke left her a very small dowry and rumors abound that she is not legitimate. Elizabeth knows that for a fact, having been told by her dying mother and her father. What she doesn’t know is who her father really is. This is so troublesome for her that she has avoided marriage and is currently trying to search all of the estates to find a diary she is certain exists which will reveal her true parentage.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth waits. She must fend off her cousin Richard and his wife Caroline, who would like nothing better than to assume the title and role, sending Elizabeth off to live with her married and much older sisters or with a dear friend, who has sworn off men and marriage.

When the heir appears, he is none other than William Atherton, the son of the supposed heir. He is very American, having lived there for most of his life with his father, who was a diplomat in both America and Canada. William has a woman who he considers his betrothed, even though he has not really seen her for five years and she continually turns down his proposals saying her father would not approve. He has placed Abigail on a pedestal and really isn’t sure if he is in love with her or with the idea of loving her. William brings with him an entourage including his three brothers and three sisters, two of whom are of an age that they could be presented to court and enter the marriage mart. Elizabeth convinces William that he needs her to provide the girls guidance. What she really wants is access to the family’s London townhouse so she can continue her search.

William is rather ignorant of the strictures of a title and of society. He wants to sell off everything he can and return to America. He soon realizes that he cannot. He also realizes he is attracted to Elizabeth and she to him. The story follows these two as they discover their bond and figure out their futures.

I liked Elizabeth and her pluck. However, she was a little bit of a martyr, a little bit of a self-absorbed girl and a little bit of prude. Underneath, she is a girl who is frightened of being alone and this leads her to make several choices and decisions that keep her in William’s household even though she knows it is not “done.”  Her friends, who are all members of the “spinster club” formed when they all made their debut, are her support system. Two of them are married and two are still unattached. They were integral to some of these decisions, yet they were a distraction in the story. 

William is also one of those heroes who the reader likes one minute and questions the next. He is English by birth and remembers parts of his childhood. He is all man and at times, is independent, funny, humorous and filled with the self-confidence to snub his nose at London society. Then he will turn and find that he must conform. The whole plot with his “betrothed” was easy to predict and even though it was supposed to provide some drama at the end, it fell flat for me. There are some men who help William whose presence is never really explained; even though there is innuendo that something else is going on. It felt like a set up for the next book, although I am still not certain if that is the case.

Something Scandalous was a real mixed bag of good romance, poor plotting, interesting  interactions and inane circumstances thrown in. 

--Shirley Lyons

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