(Scandalous Seasons, #2)
Genre: Historical Romance (Regency)
Christopher Ansley, Earl of Waxham, has constructed a perfect image for the ton—the ladies love him and his company is desired by all. Only two people know the truth about Waxham’s secret. Unfortunately, one of them is Miss Sophie Winters.
Sophie Winters has known Christopher since she was in leading strings. As children, they delighted in tormenting each other. Now at one and twenty, she still has a tendency to find herself in scrapes, and her marital prospects are slim.
When his father threatens to expose his shame to the ton, unless he weds Sophie for her dowry, Christopher concocts a plan to remain a bachelor. What he didn’t plan on, was falling in love with the lively, impetuous Sophie. As secrets are exposed, will Christopher’s love be enough when she discovers his role in his father’s scheme?
This is the second book in Christi Caldwell’s “Scandalous Seasons” and, once again, she enchanted me with her delightful characters and captivating love story.
God, how he loathed the written word. The constant reminder of his failings; a secret shame he carried.
My heart ached for the young Christopher, struggling academically because he had difficulty reading (what we would now recognise as dyslexia) and trying desperately to win his father’s approval, only to be treated with scorn and physical abuse. Over the years he has acquired some of the finest horses and his wit and charm have made him the darling of the ton and popular with the ladies. However, ever present is the knowledge that one day Society will discover his shameful secret.
Christopher’s father, the Marquess of Milford, is a thoroughly detestable man. Not only does he constantly remind Christopher of his shortcomings but, facing financial ruin because of poor investments and his gambling habits, he is intent on forcing Christopher into marrying Sophie for her fortune. He threatens to expose his son to Society as a “penniless simpleton” and even have him committed to Bedlam if Christopher refuses to agree his demands. Christopher hates the idea of being a fortune hunter and is determined to come up with a scheme to thwart his father’s plans. He has no wish to marry the hoyden who made his early years a misery and who, in Christopher’s eyes, has come to ‘represent an extension of his father’s cruelty’
Society had their diamonds of the first water. In Sophie’s case, she’d never been considered a paste gem on the muddy Thames.
I love Sophie because I can so easily relate to this unconventional heroine. She is short, plump and, at the age of 22, fast approaching spinsterhood but also bold and spirited. She is regarded as a social oddity and her unfortunate tendency towards clumsiness makes her fodder for Lady Ackerly’s Tattle Sheet. Her mother and brother are pushing her to find a husband and, although she longs for a loving husband and a family of her own, she is practical enough to realise that she is unlikely to make a match of her own choosing.
When her brother, Geoffrey, proposes Christopher as a good match, Sophie refuses point blank to marry him. At the time Sophie made her come-out, she had hoped that their childhood animosity was a thing of the past and she could rely on Christopher’s friendship and support to ease her way into society. But he had pointedly ignored her and his flawless image among the ton only served to highlight her own imperfections.
I love the scene in the library when the masked Sophie and Christopher are unaware of each other’s identity. They are just two strangers meeting for the first time and sharing an instant attraction. I enjoyed the irony of the situation and the fact that a certain item in this scene becomes important towards the end of the book in bringing about Sophie and Christopher’s Happy Ever After.
They are such an endearing couple and their romance is heart-warming, funny, emotional and romantic. As always I’m sharing some of my favourite moments which I hope will provide a taster for this delightful romance.
He wiped away a lone tear from her cheek, and then froze. It was as though a bolt of lightning had jolted him right there amidst Hyde Park’s lush greenery. Emerald green and turquoise flecks dotted her irises, a shade of blue to rival the purest ocean waters. They were the kind of eyes a man could lose himself in.
All along she’d thought him no better than the fanged monsters of the Red Parlor. In actuality, he’d been a kind of Lancelot, intending to slay her demons.
Only Christopher had come to appreciate her wit , intelligence, and …the candlelight bathed her face in a soft glow— the depth of her beauty.
There had also been a niggling of something deep and dark that he didn’t recognize . Something green and ugly that had festered inside him the moment Sophie’s bow-shaped lips had tipped up in a smile for Mallen. An emotion that felt like… jealousy.
“He loves you.” He glanced back out the window.
“How do you know?” The question tumbled from her lips , exposing the hope and dream in her heart.
A slight smile pulled at his lips. “How do I know?”
She nodded . “Yes,” she said, remembering he couldn’t see her.
“Because it looks as though he’s been dragged through hell without his valet.”
Her brow wrinkled. “What?”
Mallen nodded toward the window. “Your husband has arrived, my lady.”
The secondary characters add an extra layer to the story. Ms Caldwell succeeds in making Christopher’s father a truly hateful character which makes me all the more sympathetic to Christopher’s dilemma. I wanted to cheer from the rooftops when Sophie confronts him:
“It pains me to know the abuse Christopher endured at your hands. Hopefully, at some point, in these late years of your life, you reconcile the harm you did to your son… and search for peace, because if not, I’m certain there is a dark place in hell reserved for the soulless cowards like yourself .”
Although he really cares for Sophie, her brother Geoffrey is the epitome of everything that is rigid and proper and it will be interesting to see him paired with the highly unconventional and bold American, Abigail in “Always Proper, Suddenly Scandalous”.
Emmeline and Drake (Forever Betrothed, Never the Bride) make a welcome appearance offering support to Sophie when she is in desperate need of a friend.
I must mention Sophie’s partner in crime, her dog, Duke, and this exchange between Sophie and the Duke of Mallen was particularly amusing.
“You named your dog Duke?”
She nodded, hugging the dog close. “He is a commanding, arrogant little thing and so it seemed perfectly appropriate…” Sophie swallowed the remainder of her words as she realized the insult she’d dealt the powerful peer.
The final column Christopher puts in Lady Ackerly’s Tattle Sheet for Sophie is just so heart-warmingly romantic and the Epilogue left me with a lovely warm glow.
Overall, another enchanting addition to this delightful series. Definitely recommended.
REVIEW RATING: 5/5 STARS
SENSUALITY RATING: WARM
Read February 2015
Scandalous Seasons series (Click on book covers for more details):