When Julian Delane, the Earl of Parkhurst, sees the scandalous painting of a nude, but anonymous, lady of the ton, he knows precisely who the model is. He recognizes the giant red heart-shaped diamond around her neck as the one worn by Rebecca Leland. He is especially interested in this diamond, the Scandalous Lady, because it had been a gift to his father from a grateful maharaja and it had disappeared ten years ago. In a great scandal his father had fallen into despair and ruin before committing suicide and leaving Julian to clean up his messes, take care of the family, and bring up the Earldom's finances. He is determined to get the diamond back and after making a wager with his friends that he can reveal who the model of the painting is, he begins to randomly show up at the same events that Rebecca attends. Rebecca is tired of living a secluded life after having been sick for most of her childhood and she wants a grand adventure out of life. She saw posing for the painting as just one step in her journey.
When Rebecca is accosted by ruffians demanding she hand over the necklace she decides that the best course of action is for her to head out to the country by herself- both disappearing from them and diverting their attention from her family. Julian sees Rebecca as she is escaping and hops on the train with her where he decides that the best thing would be for him to accompany her. She is adamant that she be an equal partner in their agreement, and plays quite a few tricks on him when he doesn't consult her. They need to discover what happened to the necklace and it is a dangerous journey as people are murdered, villains threaten people, and they are forced to assume identities as commoners to hide in plain sight. Living in such close quarters with each other really allows them to learn a lot about each other and although she has decided never to marry, Rebecca's resolve is severely tested. When the truth about the Scandalous Lady his close to home, Rebecca and Julian work together to put everything to rights and allow them to forge a future for themselves.
I really wanted to sympathize with Rebecca as the over protected proper lady who really wanted to let loose, but the method that she chose was both unbelievable and not really something I could appreciate. She'd never been in society and yet she posed nude for a well known artist? That does not seem likely. And for much of their harrowing journey she continues to view the whole thing as part of her grand adventure even as it becomes more and more obvious that the people after them are very dangerous. However, the tricks she played on Julian were quite funny and it was obvious she could hold her own against him without resorting to arguments or annoying-ness. Julian was completely mouth watering- strong and tough and protective while still being able to give up a little control and share some responsibility. Supposedly this was a major point of contention between them, yet he seemed to accomplish it admirably. I really liked him and loved the way he treated Rebecca.
It took me a long time to really get into the Scandalous Lady plot as I really am not really much for diamonds and big mysteries unless they're very well done. This one was just adequate really and near the middle-ish I did start to enjoy it a little bit more. It served as a great way to get our two protagonists together for a long period of time and it was really great reading about them interacting together in a completely different setting then the one they normally occupied. However, I will say that I felt the mystery part of this story really overwhelmed the story and took up more room than I would have preferred, even if it did serve as a vehicle for their relationship. The sex between them was really crammed into about 25 pages near the end even if there was some nice buildup and I would have preferred it more spread out, especially since they were in such close quarters. This book did set up some sequels very nicely and I do plan on reading them when they come out as the characters seem like they'll be fun.
Rating: A fairly enjoyable book with a yummy hero and great time together, however I did not really get into the mystery plot.