Invitation to Scandal by Bronwen Evans

Posted May 3, 2012 by Lucy D in Book Reviews, Historical Romance, Mystery / 0 Comments

Invitation to Scandal

ORDER A COPY: Invitation to Scandal

Publisher: Brava
Publishing Date: May 1, 2012
Paperback: 310 pages

Rating: 4 stars

Plagued by scandalous rumors, Rheda Kerrich will stop at nothing to restore her reputation and make an honest living for herself—and she’s determined to do it without a husband. But times are hard, and smuggling is a risky though profitable trade. So when a dashing agent for the English government catches her in the act, she desperately resists his charms and conceals her illicit profession. Until she realizes he may be the key to her ultimate freedom—and unbridled passion…

Rufus Knight, Viscount Strathmore, has never had trouble beguiling the ladies of Kent. When his search for “Dark Shadow,” a cunningly elusive smuggler, leads him to alluring and headstrong Rhe, her objections to his amorous advances merely incite a tantalizing game of cat and mouse. Soon, they’ll find the very secrets driving them apart could ensnare them in a love they can’t escape.

Miss Rheda Kerrich is secretly known by the local villagers of Deal as the smuggler, Dark Shadow. Rhe gives the smuggled goods to the local widows to sell to support themselves since many of the men have died at sea. With her own smuggling profits, she has paid off all of her father’s massive debts and is managing to run of the estate. Now that her brother’s is old enough to step up as the head of the household, Rhe is hoping to end her life as a smuggler and concentrate on her horse breeding which will allow her to remain an independent woman.

After years of watching her mother’s unrequited love for her unfaithful father, a man who tossed away his fortune on mistresses and leaving nothing for his family, Rhe has vowed never to enter into matrimony, and the whispered scandal that surrounds her, keeps her away from those prospects anyway.

Rufus Knight, the Viscount Strathmore, is investigating the smuggler known as Dark Shadow. He believes Dark Shadow is a traitor who is smuggling more than just goods to France. If he can bring Dark Shadow to justice, he may be able to clear his father’s name. The Strathmore name has been stained since his own father was wrongly accused of treason, and it has been Rufus’s sole mission to clear the family honor.

When Rufus arrives in Deal and finds Rhe trapped by a barrel of smuggled brandy, he decides to seduce her for information to find the notorious smuggler.

The story itself was very exciting with several antagonists that we knew and several that we did not. There is even an intriguing set up for the next novel.

I liked the character of Rheda. She was smart, headstrong and determined to fulfill her dreams, no matter what she had to do. She even refused to use her neighbor and friend for his title and fortune after her father’s death when he proposed to her, refusing to taint his good name with her scandal. She opted for smuggling rather than the loveless marriage.

My hesitation on this story was the character of Rufus. Rufus is determined to clear his family name. He has a well-bred daughter of a friend picked out to be his future wife; a woman who is mousy and quiet and who could not possibly cause any further blemishes on his family honor. YET – Rufus is a well known womanizer, so much that even Rheda who never spends time in society and lives in the country knows exactly who he is and his well-earned notorious reputation. Soooo, I guess it is okay to be man-whore in regency England and still clear your family name, as long as you have a proper wife picked out?? Not only has Rufus been traumatized by his father’s scandal, but he also fell in love with a woman who turned out to be working for the wrong side, and who stabbed him and left him for dead.

When he first sees Rheda she is in an old dress so he assumes she is a local girl and since she looks in her early 20s, he assumes she must be willing to join him for a little “fun,” and he takes a lot of liberties with her, putting his hand up her dress to massage the feeling back into her legs, “oh and as long as I’m here” keeps reaching up; and even going as far as pulling the front of her dress down and playing with her breasts. Seems that that is okay to do when you’re a Lord, even though the local girl keeps saying “stop it!” When he finds out who Rheda really is, he quickly believes all the whispers around her, basically because he wants to get her in bed and he certainly doesn’t want to marry a woman surrounded by scandal. So to get what he wants, it is better for him to believe she a wanton woman so his behavior towards her is okay.

Whenever they take a step forward in the story, Rufus then takes two steps back constantly reminding himself of the last woman he trusted and no matter how much he appreciates Rheda’s spirit or her determination, he is still just looking to get under her skirt and he looks down on her and jumps quickly to the wrong conclusion.

I had high hopes for this story when I started, but the downfall in this story is the character of Rufus. He isn’t my idea of a hero. I would like a chance to read Invitation to Ruin and the next story due out in this series since the other characters were great and the mysteries of who was the real danger to Rheda and the Town was intriguing. Rufus’s attitude rubbed me the wrong way.

Received ARC from Kensington Books.

Favorite Scene:

“How is it that I find you in the middle of a field with a barrel, obviously full of something, brandy perhaps, and pinned against this oak tree?”

She struggled to form a reply that wouldn’t sink her deeper into trouble. “Just unlucky, I guess.” This time she could not hide her grimace.

“Don’t be flippant. I can see you are in considerable pain. I’m here to help you.”

Her mouth dried. Lord Strathmore’s considered gaze roamed her person before he lowered his eyes to study the heavy cask, obviously trying to work out how to move it without causing her additional harm.

He was very close. He smelled of sweat, leather, and dust, decidedly masculine. He glanced at her and caught her stare. Gloved fingertips gently brushed her hair off her cheek. She turned her head away, but not before a pleasant shiver swept down her back. He did own the most arresting eyes. They declared his interest was decidedly back on her. He was pressing his advantage. She held her breath and prayed his fingers would not roam elsewhere.

She blushed at the effect his proximity was having on her. She had thought him a big man when he sat upon his stallion, but standing next to her, she realized he was enormous, well over six feet and all muscle. He stood taller than Daniel, and her brother was considered a tall man.

He crouched down and gripped the barrel with two large hands. “I look forward to a reward for my services.”

“A ‘thank-you’ will suffice.”

His lips curved into a wicked grin. “Surely, rescuing a damsel in distress is worth more than mere words?”

She tried to calm her racing heart lest he see how his threat unsettled her. She needed to shift his thoughts in a different direction. “I do not have any coin on me.”

He looked up at her. “You have very succulent lips. A kiss from them would be worth any amount of coin.”

She pressed back against the tree. His eyes betrayed him. He was trying to distract her. He was purposely taking her mind off the pain to come.

“That is not funny.” She scowled at him.

His laugh was rich and deep. And infectious.

“You think I am jesting,” he replied.

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