Kirstin Blair has spent seven years trying to forget brooding Cameron Dunbar. Now self-made man Cameron needs her help to recover his missing niece, and Kirstin must face the truth: seeing him again sparks the same irresistible attraction that first brought them together! She must decide… Resist, or give in to temptation and risk Cameron discovering everything she’s fought so hard to protect…
The novels in Marguerite Kaye’s Matches Made in Scandal series have all been linked by the presence of the mysterious Procurer, a woman whose business is matching people with seemingly insoluble problems with someone who stands a very good chance of helping them to resolve them – and that person is usually a woman to whom life has not been kind and who deserves a second chance.
In A Scandalous Winter Wedding, readers are finally given more than a glimpse of the Procurer and we learn more of her backstory as she decides to undertake the search for two missing girls herself rather than finding someone else to take it on. The two girls – a young lady visiting London with her mother, and her maid – went missing from their hotel one night and have not been seen since, and the Procurer – otherwise, Miss Kirstin Blair – knows that she has the requisite skills and contacts most likely to ensure a happy outcome. But that’s not the only reason she finds herself compelled to take on this particular case. She’s been contacted by the girl’s uncle, Mr. Cameron Dunbar, a wealthy merchant from Glasgow – and the man with whom Kirstin spent one gloriously passionate night six years earlier when she was making her way to London after the death of her father, intending to make a new life for herself. She has never forgotten either the man or their night together, and, in spite of herself, can’t help wanting to know what has become of him since. After reading his letter, she decides to meet him in person as the Procurer, engineering their meeting in such a way as he won’t be able to see her face properly; and after hearing him out, agrees to help him track down the missing girls, fully intending to follow her usual procedure and find someone else to assist him. Which, in a way, she does – sending Kirstin Blair to him while leaving her long-time assistant to oversee the Procurer’s business.
Ms. Kaye does a splendid job here of showing just how well suited to each other Kristin and Cameron are; he very clearly admires her intelligence, her perspicacity and her pragmatism and respects her for who she is, while Kristin appreciates similar qualities in Cameron and admires his determination to do the right thing no matter the personal cost. They work together seamlessly, each playing to their strengths and recognising each other’s, and there’s no attempt on either part to exclude the other for their own protection. This is very much a relationship based on mutual understanding and intellectual equality, which is one of the things that makes this second-chance romance work so very well. Another thing, of course, is the chemistry between the couple that bubbles and sizzles nicely as the author allows the attraction that has never really diminished to build gradually until it becomes impossible for either character to deny it any longer.
The one thing that didn’t really work for me is something that happens towards the end – I’ll try to avoid spoilers, but put simply, Kirstin reacts to something in a way that seemed totally out of character for a woman who has, up until this point, been level-headed and clear-sighted about everything. She suddenly turns into this over-emotional woman I didn’t recognise – and I understand that it’s partly a knee-jerk reaction to something she had hoped Cameron wouldn’t find out (and her big secret is fairly easy to guess even before its revealed), but it was such a huge character reversal that I felt almost as though I had whiplash! And the way she attributed motivations to Cameron while knowing perfectly well what sort of man he was felt really off.
Fortunately, Ms. Kaye doesn’t draw out this point for too long, and effects a reconciliation swiftly and with Kirsten’s full acknowledgement of her error, showing her to be exactly the sort of woman I’d believed her out to be – someone with great personal integrity and the ability to weigh up a situation and come to a considered conclusion, as well as someone strong enough to be able to admit when she was wrong. Cameron is a similarly appealing character – a successful businessman who has become so by dint of his own hard work and who, in spite of his illegitimacy, knows who he is and is comfortable in his own skin. He sees Kirstin for exactly who she is and loves her for it, never for one moment wanting to change her or for her to be someone she is not.
A Scandalous Winter Wedding provides a fitting conclusion to what has been a very strong series from one of my favourite authors of historical romance. Ms. Kaye always writes with intelligence and insight, her research is detailed and she rounds-out her characters so that they feel like real people with real dilemmas and real emotions rather than cardboard cut-outs. If you’ve been following the Matches Made in Scandal series, you’ll need no urging from me to pick up this final volume, and if you haven’t, each book works as a standalone, so this is as good a place to start as any. And if you’re just a wee bit tired of all those titled folks waltzing their way around ballrooms, this book will make a refreshing change.