Scandal And The Duchess by Jennifer Ashley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Scandal follows Rose Barclay, young widow of the Duke of Southdown, wherever she goes. It’s never her fault–honor bright–but newspapers love to write about the young woman from Scotland, and the much older duke she married, who died on their honeymoon. The duke left her with a large widow’s portion, now contested by his son, who kicks Rose out of the estate’s dower house and uses it to kennel his dogs.
Rose does *not* need to be found with a large, handsome Scot passed out at her feet, fueling gossips and giving her stepson more ammunition. The Scot is Steven McBride – a decorated soldier who is notorious for heavy gambling and womanizing during his leave time. Steven is happy to open his eyes and find the beautiful woman standing over him, and happy to help spirit her away. He comes up with a ruse to foil the journalists, but Rose will have to go along with his very scandalous proposal.
Rose, the Dowager Duchess of Southdown, and Steven, a officer in her majesty’s army, deserve each other. And I mean that in the best possible way.
Rose is the former Miss Barclay and has always had little use for convention. Amazingly enough, she ends up married to the Duke and it is a love match. Unfortunately, he dies shortly after their marriage and she is left destitute due to the machinations of her stepson.
Steven is an excellent officer, but when off duty, enjoys wine, women, and gambling far too much. Due to his drinking, he literally runs into Rose in the streets and gives the scandal mongers even more ammunition to write about her. Although not titled, Steven is a gentleman and knows he must help Rose with both her financial difficulties and her damaged reputation.
Steven enlists the help of both the Mackenzies and his own brother Simon to help Rose deal with her stepson’s efforts to keep her from her inheritance. Steven’s assistance is altruistic, but that does not mean there is not a strong attraction between he and Rose. From their first meeting, the heat is evident.
The ending of the book was different from what you would normally expect, but it was definitely the ending that fit the personalities of the characters. Rose and Steven are not the normal couple of the ton, so of course, their romance was not normal either. Don’t worry though. They definitely have their “happily ever after.”
I only had one problem with the book. Rose’s former husband was described as a kind and generous man. He was completely estranged from his son and that part of the story did not ring true. I felt that there should be more explanation of why the bad feeling between the father and son existed.
All in all, this is a strong addition to the Highland Pleasure series. It can be read as a stand alone, but I highly recommend the entire series. As I said, my favorite part was catching up with the Mackenzie family and friends.
Sensuality level: 3