Reviewed by Tori
Favorite Quote: “People believe what they wish to believe.”
Lady Georgiana, our heroine, fell from her lofty social pedestal when she bore a child out of wedlock and was forced to disappear from Society. She has come to terms with this and found her own way to get back at those who snubbed her while cheering her demise. For years, Georgiana has played the London ton for the fools they are by offering them a jewel encrusted rope with which they could hang themselves. But now the time has come for her to take her place in Society again; opening herself back up to the scorn and ridicule she knows will be heaped upon her in order to secure her child’s future.
Our hero, Duncan West, is an interesting choice in a hero for the Lady Georgiana. Not because he’s a tradesman or a secret partner in the gaming hall, but because one of his gossip rags is what has forced her back into the public eye. Duncan, a newspaper magnate, owns several publications, one of which published a nasty little cartoon that not only mocked Georgiana, but also her daughter. Meeting Lady Georgiana places him in a perplexing and somewhat uncomfortable position. He is intrigued by her beauty, intelligence, and strength while ashamed of what his paper has said about her over the years. When he learns of one of her secrets; he offers to help her secure her desire of a proper marriage if she helps him obtain some information from Chase that he needs to get out from under an unscrupulous enemy’s thumb.
The last installment of Maclean’s The Rules of Scoundrels series gives readers the story they have been waiting on; the unmasking of the infamous Chase. The most mysterious of the four founders of the popular and decadent gaming hall, the Fallen Angel. Those who’ve read the whole series have been given little clues throughout to Chase’s identity but it’s only here that MacLean announces her well kept secret.
I found Don’t Judge a Lady by Her Cover to be more light than the previous installments. While our hero and heroine follow the prescribed premise of the series by having suffered in the past, they are not as emotionally or mentally damaged as we have seen in previous characters. The storyline is more internal based; focusing on Lady Georgiana’s internal conflicts and secrets. MacLean’s smooth verse and witty dialogue glides readers easily through the story, taking us back in time and then slowly leading us to the present, making sure we understand exactly what is at stake. Dynamic characterization provides us with easy recognizable friends and foes. Lush physical and emotional descriptions keep us firmly engaged as we follow our hero and heroine down the rocky path that leads them to their destiny.
‘He laughed low and deep, the sound rippling through her. She did not like that, either, the way he seemed to catch her off guard when she was her most guarded. ‘
I have enjoyed Lady Georgiana since first meeting her but in here my admiration skyrocketed. She is a fabulous strong lead, especially for a historical. As a young lady of this era, even being the daughter of a duke, she has no real power. The choices in her life would have been at the commands of her father and then her brother. Yet she shows remarkable initiative and strength as she plots and triumphs on her own path of empowerment. She not only broke the rules, but she redefined them to make them work for her. By aligning herself with three others who had also been disgraced and hurt by Society only showcases her deep compassion.
‘She had partnered with three fallen aristocrats, each stronger and more intelligent than the rest of Society, each ruined without question.’
Duncan is an enigma. He is remarkably astute in some areas yet as clueless as those around him. A sexy alpha male whose ability to make or break someone socially contrasts beautifully with his need to protect the one person whose actions make him money. I was disappointed at times when he would fall back too often on the prescribed notion that Georgiana has little options and is being forced into certain situations even though Georgiana reassured him often she is fine. His anger and jealousy at her secrets impeded his judgement at times.
As the story unfolds, the chemistry between our hero and heroine simmers with playful flirting, steamy glances, and faint touches filled with longing. It’s a slow emerging romance due to the original plans of Georgiana and her issues from the past. Love, she has learned is not real but an illusion some use for their own gains; often at the expense of others. Their chemistry is a solid presence, slipping into your subconscious from the start. No petty games are played not are we inundated with overly dramatic misconstrued events that take forever to clear up. The sexual tension builds admirably as they banter and fence around their attraction.
“No doubt our contretemps will be in the papers tomorrow, she said, letting the accusation into the words.
“I see my reputation precedes me.”
“Should mine be the only one?”
Vibrant secondary characters are bursting from the seams of the book yet you never feel overwhelmed. We see various characters from previous books and meet a few new ones. I enjoyed seeing where the other “scoundrels” are at in their lives and learning even more about ‘Chase’s sometimes unscrupulous deeds and deals that are made even more astounding now that readers know who Chase really is. Caroline was a dream and quite humorous in her questioning of her mother’s views and actions. The inclusion of additional subplots is well done and blends well with the main storyline.
The ending is a mixture of suspense and surprise as MacLean ties up all the loose threads and ends the series on an original and beautiful note that assures us the last ‘scoundrel’ has finally found the happiness they so richly deserved.