A Lady’s Lesson in Scandal by Meredith Duran
July 5, 2011
Nell has grown up in Bethnel Green, a shabby town, working in a tobacco factory, living with her very sick mother and cruel stepbrother. Although she has a roof over her head, she lives in very poor conditions and is always worried where her next meal is going to come from. In a very sick and hazy state, her mother starts spouting off nonsense about Nell’s real father being Lord Rushden.
But then her mother dies. And her stepbrother wants her to go into whoring to bring more money in. In a fit of desperation, Nell writes to Lord Rushden asking for just five pounds. Not receiving it, Nell steals something, but her friend ends up with the blame and in jail. Feeling desperate and out of control, Nell ends up in Lord Rushden’s house, with a pistol. Thinking this will be justice.
But – who she finds is the new Lord Rushden. Simon was groomed from a young boy to overtake the Earl’s position after his demise. Although never being in his good graces, the Earl left him nothing – leaving all of this very wealthy sum to his daughter Katherine. But what Nell doesn’t realize is that Katherine had a twin sister who was stolen at the age of five. And one look from Simon to Nell, and Simon knows he has found the long lost twin. Which means, if he can prove to society this is actually the Lady Cornelia, and marry her, his money troubles will be over.
A Lady’s Lesson in Scandal is the first book I have read since Meredith Duran’s debut, The Duke of Shadows. Not sure why I haven’t picked up the several in between because I love Duran’s voice. Her writing is so descriptive and has a very full and unique tone to it. This book really showcases the hardship of not growing up with a title. Nell is poor. The ramifications of how she lives – her mother dying from the poor conditions in the factory, stealing for food and money. When she turns desperate and breaks into Simon’s house, you are there with her. You know she has reached the end of the line. But, Duran doesn’t make this book too dark. There are several humorous moments, as Nell goes from the dirty, stinky factory worker (really dirty and stinky), to the clean, well clothed Lady Rushden. You see I didn’t include graceful in her new description – Nell stays Nell throughout the book. Always in awe of the wealth surrounding her. In awe that a man actually wants her. And she stays pretty down to earth when it comes to manners and polite society – which gave me quite a chuckle.
The best thing about this book is the dialogue between Nell and Simon. They often have these battle of wits, and it is fun to see who wins.
He eyed her. “You must think me a terrible snob.”
“I know you’re a snob.” All his ilk were. “Why? Do you imagine you aren’t"?”
“No. I’ll admit to it.”
She grinned. “Seems like you’re willing to admit to a lot of things that other people might prefer to deny.”
His smile began slowly, then widened all at once. “You’re not slow witted.”
“Nobody ever said I was.” How peculiar that he’d even think it. It stung her foolish vanity. “Perhaps you’re misled by the fact that I’m still sitting here,” she said. “No doubt a smart woman would leave. By your own confession, you’re bad company.”
“Ah. No,” he said, his dimple flashing again. “You misunderstood me, Nell. I’m the best of company: I can promise that you’ll never be bored.”
It is interesting that Nell was stolen as a child, totally oblivious to this fact until she meets Simon. And then she must deal with the ramifications of this. However, Simon was easily given up as a child by his parents to be groomed to become the Earl. He was forced to live in a house where love was not present. So these two meet – and Simon brings his haunted past faced to Nell’s very uncertain future. I think it draws the two of them together, and pushes their attraction along.
As the story progresses, there are bumps along the way. Simon does want to marry Nell to have money again. although there is an attraction between them. And of course, debuting Nell to society is not easy. But the undercurrent of their relationship is true love. They stand by each other, and have a very romantic love for each other. Very cute story.