28 May 2015

Love in the Time of Scandal by Caroline Linden (Scandalous #3)

Summary from Goodreads:
USA Today bestselling author Caroline Linden's third novel in her Scandalous series brings together a feisty heiress, a notorious rake, and a shocking book that could bring one woman the utmost despair—or the greatest pleasure...

Penelope Weston does not like Benedict Lennox, Lord Atherton. He may be the suave and charming heir to an earl, as well as the most handsome man on earth, but she can't forget how he abandoned a friend in need—nor how he once courted her sister, Abigail. He's the last man she would ever marry. If only she didn't feel so attracted to the arrogant scoundrel...

Once upon a time, Benedict thought he and Penelope got along rather well. Though he needs a wealthy bride to escape his cruel father's control, spirited Penelope just doesn't suit his plans for a model marriage—until a good deed goes awry, and scandalous rumors link his name to Penelope's. She might not be the quiet, sensible wife he thought he wanted, but she is beautiful . . . beguiling . . . and far more passionate than he ever imagined. Can a marriage begun in scandal become a love match, too?

Fair warning: if you haven't read the second book in Caroline Linden's Scandalous series - It Takes a Scandal - you may want to read that before reading Love in the Time of Scandal because the conflict between the hero and heroine is introduced in the earlier book.

Love in the Time of Scandal contains what is possibly my favorite romance trope: the socially-demanded marriage of convenience between two people who think they are completely wrong for each other but turn out to be exactly each what the other needs.  Penelope thinks that Benedict Lennox is an ass for not helping his friend and only courted her sister for her money while Benedict thinks Penelope Weston, for all her pounds sterling, is far too loud and unconventional to ever join the aristocratic classes of Society.  When Penelope inadvertently causes Benedict's chosen fiancee to reject him, he is righteously angry.  However, when he goes to confront her, he finds her at the mercy of a cruel member of the ton, Lord Clary, because she is protecting her friend Olivia Townsend.  Benedict rescues Penelope, but the two are seen - at that point they are alone and Penelope is in a, shall we say, less than composed appearance...they must marry.

This is when everything starts to get fun.  Penelope's dowry - which her father has not withheld - allows the new couple to form their own household.  Penelope also has possession of the scandalous pamphlets 50 Ways to Sin (despite her mother's attempts to ban them) and Benedict gets some marvelous use out of scarlet ribbon.  The two of them begin to, very warily, build a life together, one that might even include happiness, warmth, safety, and even love.  Then Benedict's sociopathic, abusive father pops up during a dinner party simply to discompose everyone and invite the new Lady Lennox to visit....Linden serves up such a delicious plot turn here.

I loved this installment in the Scandalous series and had there not been an announcement of a fourth book I might have rioted.  The plotting is excellent, the details fleshing out both Penelope's and Benedict's characters are so on point, and I love how Caroline Linden uses examples from literature to give her virgin heroines sexual agency (if you don't listen to the DBSA podcast, Caro gives some amazing examples of period erotic literature in a recent episode).  I almost cried - almost - at one point.  And if I cry out of happiness at a romance novel, you are doing it right!

Love in the Time of Scandal is out now, wherever books are sold.

Dear FTC: I received a digital advance copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss...and then I bought a copy.

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