This month, I chose Scandalizing the Ton by Diana Gaston, an author I have read and enjoyed before. Events from a previous book, The Vanishing Viscountess set up the plot, but it’s not necessary to have read it as an early explanation is made.
Lydia, Lady Wexin is very recently widowed and due to the scandalous circumstances surrounding her husband’s death, she is hounded by the press, and Samuel Reed in particular. Reed is the publisher of the New Observer, a tabloid paper, and he intends to use Lydia to make his name.
He is questioning Lydia as she is returning home by way of the back entrance, and in her haste to get away, she twists her ankle. She has just sold all of her jewelry, and is attempting to avoid the reporters camped at her front door. Adrian, Viscount Cavanley, witnesses the commotion and rescues Lydia, carrying her through her empty townhouse to her bedroom and binding her ankle.
Lydia and Adrian give in to their mutual attraction and have sex. Afterwards, Lydia wants Adrian to leave before anyone can see him and not come back. Adrian goes to his club where he meets up with his father and Lord Wexin’s heir, where he discovers that Lydia is penniless and Wexin left everything mortgaged, including the house, a gift from her parents.
Lydia’s parents and brother are out of the country and have yet to respond to any of her letters, and due to the scandal of Wexin’s death, her sister has been forbidden by her husband to have any contact with Lydia. Adrian arranges to anonymously restore Lydia’s jointure and the deed to the house. His father refuses to give him any real responsibility, instead encouraging him to live the life of a libertine, and Lydia continues to rebuff him, so a bored and frustrated Adrian leaves for France. Upon his return, he finds the tabloids speculating that Lydia is increasing and implying that the child is not her dead husband’s.
Overall, I liked this book, and it could be a keeper. Gaston manages the post-France conflict well, making the actions of the characters believable. They are very honest in their interactions as a couple that doesn’t know each other very well. Their courtship is two-steps-forward-one-step-back, because they do make progress, but it is slow, coming primarily in the last third of the book.
Adrian’s attitude towards Lydia’s well-founded fears for her reputation was the one sour note for me. In every other novel I’ve read, a couple can weather any scandal if the couple has friends in high enough places and waits for it to blow over. That doesn’t happen here.
The number of royal dukes called friend or the length of time doesn’t matter because Samuel Reed is determined to discover the truth about Lydia and her child, no matter how he does it. The refusal of Lydia’s family to support her also feeds into the scandal. Adrian’s prolonged inability to see the how the scandal and harassment affected Lydia should have led to a great grovel, but it didn’t and they lived happily ever after anyway. Grade: B-
This review was written by fellow reader, Senetra for the TBR 2010 Challenge. Please make sure to visit the other readers who are participating this month! Thanks.