Saturday, August 13, 2011
A Lady's Lesson in Scandal
Nell Whitby is willing to do anything to save her mother; as a factory girl working with cigars she does not make enough money to pay for a doctor and on her mother's death bed she makes the odd confession that the Earl of Rushden is Nell's father. When her mother dies she breaks into Rushden's house, determined to kill him for not helping her mother, but the man she runs into is far too young to be her father and far too attractive. Simon St. Mauer recently inherited the Earldom from the man who raised him, the man who never liked him and treated him like Simon didn't belong. When he sees Nell he immediately realizes that she is the missing daughter of the last Earl who was kidnapped by the maid because she looks exactly like her twin sister, Kitty. He decides that the best thing for both of them is to transform Nell into a proper lady and marry her so that he can inherit the money that the last Earl left to her. Despite his title Simon is nearly penniless and this is a desperate ploy that could benefit them both if he can convince the lawyer who is in charge of their trust; a lawyer who does not like Simon.
Simon hires tutors to help turn Nell into the society miss that everyone expects her to be and to make it easier for the courts to accept her. Nell does not like what is happening and feels like Simon is pushing the street out of her and like he is ashamed or embarrassed of who she is. However, she knows it is what she needs to do in order to get her inheritance which she plans to spend making life better for people who grew up like her. No matter how much she changes Simon still sees the underlying strength and determination of the woman who survived London's most dangerous environment and even though he knows he could seek an annulment if the courts decide she is not really the old Lord Rushden's daughter, he does not want to lose her. While she was determined not to fall in love with Simon or to feel too comfortable with this life, Nell does find herself needing Simon and she is heartbroken when she finds out he always had a backup plan. But there are people out there who don't want Nell or Simon to get that money and they both must admit they love each other to work through their differences and find their happily ever after.
I immediately liked both Simon and Nell because they were genuine and smart and determined and they were both survivors who took the hard punches and made the best of them and were unapologetic in what they did and what they accomplished. Nell was perfect as the woman who grew up on the streets because she so obviously wanted a change but was desperate to be happy with what she had and didn't want to be disappointed. It was what made her reactions to Simon's declarations later in the book and her decisions so in character and so meaningful. I also love that she recognized what truly needed to be done for the poor in London and her experience made her altruism so much more genuine than the do-gooder rich women who populate romance novels. Simon was also great because he had the troubled past the the hero has to have, and it was especially important in him because if he had had a perfect childhood he wouldn't have meshed well with Nell, and this past was what made him into the charming man who was able to navigate the waters of the ton and work hard to ease Nell's introduction into society.
The key to this book is that Duran made two characters who were completely different and have so little in common and yet they work so well together, they make each other happy, and they make each other better. There were a couple of really wrenching scenes between them about love and life and they were just beautiful. There was a decent amount of sex between them and much of it was very hot and I liked that it really worked as an emotional outlet for both of them. The first part of the book was slow, the part that was working up to Simon and Nell meeting and deciding what to do, but once they realized who Nell was the book was engrossing and hard to put down. The lawyer was the absolute perfect villain because he showed up to make things more exciting and the threat that he represented, to have Nell be declared illegitimate and thus take all her money, created the tension in the plot making it very important and yet not detracting from the romance between the characters. I also enjoyed the miniature plot between Kitty and Nell as sister's just getting to know each other.
Rating: A very great read with two wonderful characters who enjoyed a very emotional relationship that required a lot of development and trust on both their parts.