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ittakesascandalindexThe introduction of a risqué novel or pamphlet to link books in series is a well-used literary device and one that’s been employed to varying degrees of success. Caroline Linden utilises it to great effect in It takes a Scandal, her newest book and the second title in the ’50 ways to sin’ series, named after the pamphlet of the same name.

The eager young misses of the ton are, by turn, scandalised, entertained and educated by the erotic encounters between the mysterious Lady Constance and young aristocratic men. With each new issue, young ladies like protagonist Abigail Weston, along with her younger sister Penelope, find increasingly more ingenious ways to purchase and read about Lady Constance’s latest exploits – without their parents’ knowledge, of course.

Abigail is a delightful heroine, who made her first appearance as Joan Bennet’s friend in Love and Other Scandals. She is a kind and devoted (if long suffering) sister with just enough humour and wit to make her interesting. She is also just a little bit jaded by a society that looks down on her ‘nouveau riche’ family, particularly her beloved father, who has made his fortune in trade. While titled families might be desirous of the Westons’ fortune, they don’t necessarily want their company, something both Abigail and her brother James recognise.

After a frustrating time in London, trying to find his attractive daughters appropriately positioned husbands, Mr Weston buys Hart House in Richmond, much to the chagrin of his wife, who loves their London home.

London is London,’ he admonishes. ‘A country estate is what sets a man apart and makes him a gentleman.’ When that doesn’t work, he buys her a puppy (who becomes the comic foil to the male protagonist’s extremely large dog).

Abigail, like her father, loves the house and its environs, and sets out to discover its secrets, not least the whereabouts of a grotto. At the same time, Penelope is bored and dreams up all kinds of mischief, which drives her sister to distraction. Enter Sebastian Vane, a reclusive war hero neighbour, with a scandalous past –and the owner of the aforementioned huge dog – and Abigail is smitten. Throw in Sebastian’s former friend, Benedict Lennox, the heir to an earldom, as a rival suitor and the plot, as they say, thickens.

As Abigail tries to discover why Sebastian is persona non grata in local society, he, in turn, is worn down by her constant efforts to persuade him that he is a suitable husband. When Sebastian falls in love with her, he makes the transition from a man with no hope – no reputation, prospects nor fortune – to one who finally believes that he may just be able to have a future with the woman he loves and this is perhaps where the plot stutters a little. At the end of the book, while Sebastian’s name may have been cleared by certain revelations, it does beg the question – is this really enough to restore him to his former position in society? Is he now a suitable husband for Abigail?

While It Takes a Scandal is, without a doubt, an enjoyable book, a vehicle that allows Linden not just to showcase her charismatic style as a writer, but also her attractive, spirited female characters, there are certain elements that I feel could have been developed further. The various ‘mysteries’ that turn this book into more than just a normal historical romance are really strong plot strands. We’re interested in finding out if Sebastian is responsible for his mad father’s disappearance. We want to know if he really did steal money from Benedict’s father. We’re invested in him as a leading man and want to know that our faith is justified and that he is deserving of Abigail. Yet, the answers to these questions, which Linden presents to us admittedly very neatly at the end of the book, feel somewhat rushed. This is just my opinion and I write this as a huge fan of mystery/crime fiction, as is the author herself. This also, to be fair, could be intentional on Linden’s part, leaving us, the reader, wanting more, and perhaps there will be further resolution or explanation in the later ‘50 ways’ titles. I hope so.

Anyway, this much I know: I look forward to reading the next book in the series. Or any other Linden book come to that.

 

It Takes a Scandal is released on 29 April 2014 in both the UK and US.

AVON READER OFFER: Order It Takes a Scandal by 6 May 2014, and get three issues of ’50 Ways to Sin’, including the two issues so carefully scrutinised in Love and Other Scandals. Just submit proof of purchase here.

 

’50 ways to sin’ series

Love and Other Scandals (Book 1), published 2013; a RITA 2014 finalist in the ‘Historical romance’ category.

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See:  Caroline Linden – ‘50 ways to write a Regency’

Also of interest:Anne Gracie – an Australian Dream come true‘; ‘Anne Gracie’s The Autumn Bride – take a chance on the ‘Chance Sisters‘, both in The Literary Lounge

 

Photographs in article: It Takes a Scandal (US edition cover) and Love and Other Scandals (US edition cover), both from the author’s website.

Notice: Please note the above images and quotations are intended to be for promotional purposes only. In no way, have we have intentionally breached anyone’s copyright.

This review is ©The Literary Shed, 2014. All opinions expressed are our own. It can only be reproduced with our permission. Please contact us if you wish to do so. We must be fully credited.

 

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