Scandalizing the Ton
2008, European Historical Romance (Regency England)
Harl Historical #916, $5.99, 288 pages, Amazon ASIN 0373295162
Part of a series
Scandalizing the Ton is the third book in series of intertwining characters. It was the first Diane Gaston book I have read and I was pleasantly surprised. The story was well written and I was drawn into it quickly. I did raise an eyebrow having the first sex scene on page 17 but it turned out to be reasonable given the plot.
Lady Lydia Wexin is trying to get home after having pawned her jewelry when a newspaper reporter who wants to question her about her murderous dead husband accosts her. Adrian Pomroy, a neighbor, sees her being accosted by the journalist and comes to her aid. After sending the man away, he accompanies her home and sees to the ankle she has injured trying to escape the journalist. As this is the first act of kindness she has seen in a while, she repays him by asking him to make love to her. Afterwards, though an exceptional experience, she tells him not to come calling again.
Adrian learns that Lydia is barely getting by. Her husband had run up great debts, her parents are out of the country and her sister refuses to see her because of the scandal created by the late Lord Wexin. Adrian secretly arranges to restore her finances, so that she no longer is in such dire straights. Since Lydia refuses to see him, he decides to take off for Paris for a while. Upon his return he learns that Lydia is pregnant and there is speculation as to who the father is and if the baby will be born within the legal time period to make it the late husband's heir. Knowing the child must be his, he asks Lydia to marry him and she refuses.
Lydia is trapped, physically and mentally. The reporters outside her home make her a virtual prisoner inside, but she is also trapped by the notoriety, lack of funds and isolation from the friends and family who deserted her. Her world has shrunk to her home and three loyal servants. She is trying to protect Adrian from enduring the same fate, of having censorious and malicious gossip destroy his life. Her attempts to keep him and her feelings for him at bay are re-enforced by the constant stress of having every move and action reported in the newspapers.
Adrian is bored with his existence. He wants something more tangible to do with his time, and thinks a property to manage would do the trick but his father is proud of his rakish ways and gambling success, and wishes his son to sow as many wild oats as possible before settling down. Adrian needs a project, and he sees restoring Lydia to her rightful place in society as a goal to be accomplished.
Adrian is more than willing to court and romance Lydia - he is attracted to her from the start - however, Lydia cannot overcome her fears of rejection. He tries to surround her with friends and family, to restore some order to world but his scheme backfires and the gossip becomes even more vicious, driving them apart.
I wish the author had included more details about the crime committed by her husband, how heinous it was and how he perished. For those of us who had not read the previous works, it would have helped to explain the reasons the press remained fixated on Lydia months after the crime had been committed and also explain her actions in the aftermath of the murder.
The media is the true villain of the story. Scandal titillates the public, and sells newspapers, but the editors and reporters do not recognize or care about the devastation it may cause to an innocent party to be caught up in the gossip.
I enjoyed reading Scandalizing the Ton and look forward to reading other books by this author. I like how she showed that people do not really change over the course of history. People all still interested in scandal and probably always will be.
-- Carolyn Esau
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