SCANDAL AND THE DUCHESS
Book 6.5: The Mackenzies & McBrides Series
by Jennifer Ashley
Published: September 2014
E-Book 160 pages
Also available as an Unabridged audiobook
Narrator: Angela Dawe Time: 4:40
E-Galley provided by publisher for review purposes. No remuneration was exchanged and all opinion presented herein is my own except as noted.
Scandal follows Rose Barclay, young widow of the Duke of Southdown, wherever she goes. It’s never her fault, 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 son-in-law 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. http://www.jenniferashley.com/jennifer-ashley-books/highland-pleasures/scandal-and-the-duchess/
I imagine that falling for the drunken soldier who passes out in your cleavage shows a remarkably easy-going and charitable personality. Such is the case for Rose, Dowager Duchess of Southdown, the main female character in SCANDAL AND THE DUCHESS by Jennifer Ashley. This is one of those romances which are engaging, lovely and leave you with a sigh over a pleasant, sexy and highly unlikely plot.
If you are looking for a realistic romance, this is not going to fill the bill. The ending felt a bit as if Ashley wrote herself into a corner and her character into a real pickle requiring a deus ex machina and an even less likely outcome.
I had listened to book seven in this series, RULES FOR A PROPER GOVERNESS in January and, mostly due to the narration, had mixed feelings about it. I found it to have about the same lack of realism in the story line and I did not enjoy the narration. I enjoyed reading this one more than I had enjoyed the audiobook.
Ashley plays into all our feminine fantasies about love, romance, sex and history. This story even has a Simon Legree of a villainous son-in-law. But I don’t think that is bad as long as we know that’s where we’re going. I do have to love the idea of falling for the drunken soldier who turns out to be a gentleman of noble intent. He doesn’t need to be changed by Rose, he just needs to be buoyed up by her love and saved from drowning in his own emotional morass. She just needs physical, legal and financial rescue.
I find these late Victorian romances to be more florid than their Regency counterparts; it makes sense they would be more reflective of the turmoil and passion hidden all those layers; all those rules. A couple of modern conveniences of the time play into the story: hotels and trains.
That Regency-Victorian contrast highlights another feature of the story: the opposites attracting trope. He is bold, daring and unafraid and she is meek, deferential, and obedient. It could have just been the difference between the social norms for women and men, but I think it goes deeper into the fundamental nature of the characters. These contrasts are highlighted by Ashley throughout the book so much that I see it as a theme.
If you are seeing a short and sweet historical romance fantasy, an afternoon escape then don’t hesitate to pick up SCANDAL AND THE DUCHESS!