House of Cads by Elizabeth Kingston (Ladies of Scandal #2)
Released: April 26, 2018
Reviewed by Mandi
Favorite Quote: “Oh Mr. Mason,” she murmured, a sweet but faint note of compassion in her voice. “Of course it is very unfair to you, that so many women have let you believe this puppy dog look will always work.” She clucked her tongue consolingly. “You poor man.”
Oh, he liked her.
Adorable book alert!! New-to-me author Elizabeth Kingston has written such a cute book, that made me smile and swoon. Marie-Anne de Vauteuil, a french woman, fell in love with an englishman. They got engaged, then she got pregnant, then he died. This caused a great scandal, and her fiance’s parents shunned her for bringing disgrace to their family. Embarrassed, and in pain from her fiance dying and soon after that, losing the baby, Marie-Anne retreats to a small village where she heals and finds friends.
Marie-Anne lives by this wonderful bread and pastry philosophy:
Bread was for lonely and despairing times, and pastries or cakes were for happy times. This was Marie-Anne’s philosophy, and she was fully aware that she called it a philosophy even though it was only the well-known preference of her mouth and belly. If her friends could see her now, walking through the village street at twilight with a mouth full of bread, they would ask what had happened. Alas, her friends were not here, and so she took another bite of the bun.
Can’t we all relate to this? *hugs bread*
Now years have passed, and much to Marie-Anne’s surprise, she receives a letter from her late fiance’s family, asking her to come for a visit. Marie-Anne still harbors ill-will towards his parents, but her late fiance also had siblings, who Marie-Anne used to be close with. She hears that these siblings have entered into engagements and relationships that may not be the best for them, so she travels to London to sort things out and reunite with her former “almost” family.
While in London, she meets a dashing American man, Mason at a ball, who has traveled to England from Kentucky, and is presenting himself as a wealthy businessman in the timber industry. When Mason meets Marie-Anne, they have great chemistry. They flirt and banter and they smile at each other:
He smiled back at her, because it was impossible not to – and because he had a very similar dimple deep in his left cheek. He saw her notice it and widen her own smile even further. They stood there gazing at each other like a couple of sapheads, mirror-image smiles of delight plastered on their faces.
Coup de foudre, he thought out of nowhere. It was one of the very few bits of French he knew: lightning strike. That’s what it felt like, standing there smiling with her.
Lord almighty, this was not good. And lord almighty, he did not care.
It’s all so lovely and adorable. But then we learn that Mason has secrets. He isn’t actually a businessman, or wealthy – he draws portraits and pictures for a gossip pamphlet, which is how he is making his money and why he is hanging around the gossipy ton. He is actually an amazing artist, something Marie-Anne discovers as the book goes on. And surprise – he is engaged so he really shouldn’t be flirting with Marie-Anne. But don’t fret – Mason isn’t a creeper. He truly is a good guy – just in need of money and had an unfortunate conversation with a young woman and accidentally got engaged to her. Oopsie. Mason isn’t skilled in the art of London society conversation. Just wanting to learn facts about courtship, he accidentally encourages a young woman to be “his.”
Marie-Anne and Mason start this slow burning romance as they head to a summer estate party, and a lovely courtship develops. And don’t worry – he gets out of the engagement and comes clean about who he really is, before the halfway point of the book. Thank goodness! I hate when secrets like that are dragged out. And I really liked that when everything does come to light, it’s not overly dramatic or used as a plot point to split up Mason and Anne-Marie. It’s dealt with maturely and then we can move on to the sexy kisses and stolen moments together. Although I will say that Marie-Anne was the victim of horrible gossip when her fiance died, so the fact that Mason is selling gossip papers, doesn’t sit all that right with her. And she is very honest about her feelings.
“I think about you too much,” she said quietly. “From the first time we met, you know? Always I am hoping to make you laugh. I am too happy when you look at me, and too sad when you do not. You walk in the room and I forget a little how to breathe. Already you make me a little foolish, Mason. Please do not lie and make me a fool.”
It was like a punch to the gut. The truth. It was the perfect card to play, except for the fact that she wasn’t playing.
Mason doesn’t know all the rules of London society, and Marie-Anne tends to find them tiresome – so they bond over that. Although Marie-Anne had fallen into disgrace years ago, her relationship with a woman who used to live in her small village, who is now married to an Earl, has slowly brought her back to being accepted.
They also have such great banter! They joke, and give each other a hard time and always have a topic of conversation at hand. It’s a really well done courtship with a sexy romance. The supporting characters also bring a lot to this book.
I loved this author’s voice. I’m going to have to go pick up book one and see if I like it as well.