Format: .mobi (provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review)
Release Date: September 16, 2014
Scandal follows Rose Barclay, young widow of the Duke of Southdown, wherever she goes. It’s never her fault, but newspapers love to write about the young woman from Scotland, and the much older duke she married, who died on their honeymoon. The duke left her with a large widow’s portion, now contested by his son, who kicks Rose out of the estate’s dower house and uses it to kennel his dogs.
Rose does not need to be found with a large, handsome Scot passed out at her feet, fueling gossips and giving her son-in-law more ammunition. The Scot is Steven McBride–a decorated soldier who is notorious for heavy gambling and womanizing during his leave time. Steven is happy to open his eyes and find the beautiful woman standing over him, and happy to help spirit her away. He comes up with a ruse to foil the journalists, but Rose will have to go along with his very scandalous proposal.
Poor Rose Barclay, she just can’t seem to avoid causing a scandal no matter how much she tries. It seems like her everyday activities are fodder for the gossip. She married a much older Duke who then died on their honeymoon, her stepson is contesting the widow’s portion Rose was left and has kicked her out of the estate’s dower home. The last thing she needs is a fresh scandal, but that’s exactly what she gets when drunken Scotsman Steven McBride passes out at her feet. A soldier who carries a heavy burden, Steven is more known for his gambling and womanizing than being a gallant savior, but when he realizes Rose needs is in trouble, he effortlessly steps in to help.
The Mackenzies and the McBrides have been around for quite some time. I haven’t caught up with the last few books (Having left off at The Duke’s Perfect Wife) so I didn’t immediately identify who Steven was in terms of the Mackenzies, a family tree would have been perfect right about then. Aside from not being able to tell how he was connected to the Mackenzies, I didn’t connect with Steven in the beginning. He went from being a drunken fool to a chivalrous knight in a matter of pages yet there was nothing said about who he was as a man. It wasn’t until he revealed to Rose the emotional burden he carried that I really clicked with him, that was the moment I felt he stepped out of the pages of Scandal and the Duchess and became a character rather than just words on a page.
Rose was spectacularly clumsy. That’s the only way I can describe how she seems to find herself in the middle of scandal after scandal. When she meets Steven, she doesn’t react horrified or missish, she simply accepts that this is yet another mess she’s stumbled into and she made me smile with her acceptance of the situation. She’s endearing in the way she doesn’t turn down someone in need even if it means she’s going to be the talk of the town gossips. As a young widow, I’m surprised and glad that author Jennifer Ashley didn’t take the more traveled road by making her deceased husband a villain in order to make Steven look like a large than life hero. Rose’s late husband seemed like a genuinely kind man and I could feel how much Rose cared about and missed him every time she spoke of him. The author also showed how highly he thought of her and how much he loved her.
Scandal and the Duchess is a great filler story for the series, it gives diehard fans a chance to reconnect with the series all while giving new fans a chance to see what it is that readers love about this world that Jennifer Ashley has created. I enjoyed the story overall, especially the fact that it is a novella instead of a full length novel. I’m beginning to appreciate those more and more.
A side benefit of this novella is that readers get to revisit with a few of the Mackenzies and see Steven interact with his brother Sinclair, which also sets up the next full length novel in the series, Rules for a Proper Governess.
Final Verdict: Pick this one up even if you're new to Jennifer Ashley. There are no major spoilers for previous books and Scandal and the Duchess will give you a good idea of the author's style.