When a man on a mission takes on a beautiful but unlikely ally, seduction and adventure are inevitable…
The dust of the Cabot sisters’ shocking plans to rescue their family from certain ruin may have settled, but Prudence Cabot is left standing in the rubble of scandal. Now regarded as an unsuitable bride, she’s tainted among the ton. Yet this unwilling wallflower is ripe for her own adventure. And when an irresistibly sexy American stranger on a desperate mission enlists her help, she simply can’t deny the temptation.
The fate of Roan Matheson’s family depends on how quickly he can find his runaway sister and persuade her to return to her betrothed. Scouring the rustic English countryside with the sensually wicked Prudence at his side—and in his bed—he’s out of his element. But once Roan has a taste of the sizzling passion that can lead to forever, he must choose between his heart’s obligations and its forbidden desires.
This third book in Julia London’s Cabot Sisters series is set around four years after the first two. In those, the eldest two of the four sisters – Honor and Grace – found love (and husbands) in rather unconventional ways which led to much scandal and gossip, leaving their younger sisters, Prudence and Mercy, rather tarred with the same brush.
For her part, Mercy is not particularly bothered, being focused on making a career as an artist and caught up with all the excitement of getting ready for her first term at a prestigious art school. But for Prudence, the third sister, her sisters’ escapades have proved almost ruinous. Now twenty-two she has no suitors, nor the prospect of any. Thanks to Grace’s husband, the Earl of Merryton, she has a suitable dowry, but even after four years, the name “Cabot” is besmirched and Prudence is resentful and thoroughly fed up.
In fact, at the beginning of the book, she is not an especially likeable character. She is petulant and whiny, blaming her poor prospects entirely on her older sisters – both of whom, incidentally, bear very little resemblance to the women who proposed to a known rake in a seedy gambling den (Honor) and who trapped the wrong man into marriage (Grace). Prudence has more than lived up to her name over the years; she has done exactly as she should all her life, protected her reputation, been circumspect in her actions and acted as the perfect young lady. But because of the actions of others, her prospects of having a husband and family of her own have been dashed, so her unhappiness is, at least, well-founded.
When the chance comes for her to make a short stay with a friend, she grabs it, willing to do anything – even visit someone who is happily married and in expectation of a child – to get away from home. While she is waiting for the coach, she encounters a handsome, somewhat irascible stranger, and Prudence is immediately smitten. Being the pattern card of propriety hasn’t done her any good, so she decides to live dangerously for once, and on impulse, decides to abandon her plans and accompany him to his destination – just to make sure he gets there safely, of course.
Roan Matheson has recently arrived in England from America in search of his wayward, scatterbrained sister, Aurora. That young lady had been visiting relatives in England but has not yet returned home, having informed her brother that she had been invited to stay for longer by some other, newly-acquired friends. Roan is furious with her – not just because she has failed to stick to her original plans without a thought for how that might affect anyone else, but also because she has a fiancé waiting at home, a young man who is key to cementing the alliance between his father’s company and the Matheson’s successful building and lumber business. Faulty directions have delayed Roan in his pursuit, and his frustration is only adding to his impatience to be off to find Aurora so he can go back home to his business and, possibly, to make an advantageous match of his own.
The Scoundrel and the Debutante (although to be completely honest, Roan is no scoundrel, and as Prudence is a couple of years past her come-out, she is no longer a debutante!) is a road-trip romance, the bulk of the story taken up with Roan and Prudence’s journey and the various mishaps that befall them on the way. As they travel, they come to know and understand each other better, but heartbreak looms when they realise that they really are an ocean apart. Prudence can’t envisage leaving the world she knows in order to be with him, and Roan has commitments which he can’t, in all honour, ignore or abandon.
Roan is a handsome, honourable and devoted hero and I liked Prudence’s determination to break the mould and do something unexpected. Even though she is not very engaging to start with, she does grow up a bit during the course of the story and come to realise that not everything is about her.
The Scoundrel and the Debutante is as well-written as the two previous entries in this series, but I can’t say that it’s particularly gripping or memorable. The romance isn’t completely convincing, the conflict later in the story is contrived and the story lacks a certain deftness of touch and humour which makes it feel a little on the stodgy side. If you’re following the series, then you might want to pick this up for completeness, but if not, then I’d suggest the earlier books would be a better introduction to the Cabot sisters.