Nothing But Scandal by Allegra Gray
When Elizabeth Medford's father dies in a freak carriage accident he leaves his family absolutely penniless and heir-less. Her uncle and mother decide the best way to save the family is to marry her off to the social climbing, and moderately wealthy, Harold Wetherby, who is also quite repulsive. To save herself she decides to ruin herself and propositions a man she has secretly admired from afar, Alex Bainbridge, the Duke of Beaufort. Although Alex quite likes Elizabeth he knows he cannot have anything to do with her because of his past history with her father. Apparently her father had gambled fairly heavily and he had offered to pay off his debts by giving Elizabeth to him as his mistress. Humiliated and with nowhere else to turn she goes to her friend, the widowed Beatrice Pullington, who hooks her up with a governess job for Lady Grumsby, who just happens to be Alex's sister. Alex is at first quite upset to know that the woman he has not been able to get out of his head is suddenly being thrust upon him, but he realizes it could lead to some interesting circumstances.
Elizabeth is determined not to succumb to Alex even though he makes it clear he is more than willing to set her up in quite a comfortable life. However, when Alex comes to her rescue when a jeweler discovers her father had replaced her brooch with paste, she knows that he could be her knight in shining armor. Their relationship progresses into intimacy and, although she comes to crave their weekly meetings she still refuses to become his mistress. Alex is called away on important business and when his sister discovers that their are rumors about the two of them she fires Elizabeth. Alex is distraught and goes racing after Elizabeth as soon as he finds out, but it may already be too late as her uncle has conspired with Harold Weatherby. She has been kidnapped and taken to the countryside in the hopes that she will eventually give in and marry him. Alex goes racing to save the woman he knows he cannot live without. Unfortunately saving her is only half of what stands in their way as even when the two have been successfully married and it appears they are headed for marital bliss, a figure from Elizabeth's father's past comes forward with news that could ruin their marriage if Alex and Elizabeth can't manage to trust each other.
I have to start my review off by mentioning that this is Allegra Gray's debut novel and then state that it was easy to forget this as I read because it was just so well done. Elizabeth is simply amazing- she is beautiful and lost and headstrong and idealistic and scared all at once and she is depicted so realistically it's impossible not to love her. She's not childish or sassy, but she does stick up for herself, even while moments of weakness sometimes threaten to get the better of her. Alex is amazing as well as he is the typical rake, but from the beginning the reader is aware that he can be incredibly sweet and protective of those he loves. He is also not afraid of his emotions as he admits his love about halfway through the book and the scenes where he worries that he could be losing her (as she investigates what happened to her father) are also incredibly emotional. These two are certainly attracted to each other and, while we did get some of them, they were short and not very frequent, so I could have used with some more steamy scenes.
There is so much going on in this book, from the romance to the kidnap plot to the issues surrounding Elizabeth's father's very mysterious death and yet Gray manages to very skillfully keep everything focused on the romance. It was really quite brilliant and absolutely amazing considering this is her debut novel! The Harold Weatherby plot was quite engrossing and very interesting- he was certainly painted as quite the monster, although he may have gotten more comeuppance than he deserved at the end (and I found Elizabeth's relish at his demise quite out of character really). The plot involving Elizabeth's father's death could easily have taken over the story or really gotten in the way of what happened, but it really ended up just contributing to the story and to the development of their relationship. In addition it lead to some really quite beautifully written and heart breaking emotional scenes, both in the internal monologues of each character and a couple scenes between the two of them. The writing really did this plot proud.
Rating: Absolutely loved this book. Really almost quite perfect, although it could have been a little more fun and had some more sex. All in all quite amazing, and not just for a debut novel.