Douglas Bennet can’t resist a good wager, especially not one that involves a beautiful woman. When a friend proposes an audacious plan to expose the most notorious woman in England, Douglas agrees at once. After all, it would be quite a coup to discover the true identity of Lady Constance, author of the infamous erotic serial scandalizing the ton, 50 Ways to Sin.
Madeline Wilde is used to being pursued. For years she’s cultivated a reputation for being unattainable and mysterious, and for good reason: her livelihood depends on discretion. When Douglas turns his legendary charm on her, she dismisses him as just another rake. But he surprises her—instead of merely trying to seduce her, he becomes her friend…her confidant…and her lover. But can it really lead to happily-ever-after…or are they about to become the biggest scandal London has ever seen?
All’s Fair in Love and Scandal is a novella in Caroline Linden’s current Scandalous series. It sits between books two and three, and features Douglas Bennet, the brother of Joan, who was the heroine of the first book, Love and Other Scandals.
In that story, Douglas was introduced as a bit of a jack-the-lad, a womaniser and gambler frequently to be found hell-raising with his best mate, Tristan Burke. When Tristan unexpectedly marries Joan, Douglas finds himself at a bit of a loose end and returns to town to find it bereft of his usual cronies.
Mrs. Madeleine Wilde is a widow who regularly attends society events but who nonetheless maintains a distance from the other attendees. She never dances or engages in much conversation, and has a reputation for being somewhat cold and aloof. Never one for attending balls and routs, Douglas has not encountered Madeleine before, but is immediately struck by her beauty and wants to bed her. Knowing of Douglas’ penchant for a wager, one of his cronies, William Spence, bets Douglas that he won’t be able to secure a dance with her – and he immediately takes the bet, sure his good-looks and charm will win him more than a dance that night.
But Madeleine is no simpering miss to be won over by a handsome form and winsome charm. She knows exactly who Douglas Bennet is and what he wants, and rebuffs him in no uncertain terms. Smarting at her rejection, Douglas is prepared to listen to another of his friend’s proposals – not a wager this time, but an offer. A disgruntled member of the ton has offered a reward to the person who can find evidence of the identity of the infamous Lady Constance, author of the series of erotic pamphlets, 50 Ways to Sin. Spence suspects Madeleine and offers to share the bounty with Douglas if he can provide the necessary evidence.
The stage is set for a rather reluctant courtship, but Douglas is so delightful, and so clearly careful not to do anything which makes her uncomfortable, that Madeleine finds it hard to maintain her resistance. The development of the relationship between the couple is truly charming, and their interactions are full of warmth and genuine humour.
Novellas are notoriously difficult to do well, as it takes a very skilled author to invest something of around one hundred pages with the same quality of character and plot development as would normally be found in a full-length novel. Fortunately, Ms Linden IS one such author, and I found this to be as well put-together as the full-length books in the series.