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Wanted: A countess for the most feared lord in London
With a family legacy tainted by murder and madness, Phineas Brand, the Earl of Holstoke, is having a devil of a time securing a proper wife—or even an improper one. Society misses faint at the sight of him. Matchmaking mamas scurry to avoid him. Only one woman is bold enough to keep drawing near, and she’s more scandalous than he is.
Caution: A lady’s brazen ways may lead to ruin
Lady Eugenia Huxley knows all about running aground in the marriage mart, thanks to a scandal involving a footman and too much drink. No matter. She’ll gladly pursue millinery over matrimony. But when her sister’s spurned suitor returns to London in search of a wife, she can’t resist offering him a bit of courtship advice, even if the chilly, brilliant, honorable Lord Holstoke does give her shivers—heated, head-to-toe shivers that are anything but fearful.
Danger: This match may be combustible
After a series of vicious murders brings suspicion to Holstoke’s door, Eugenia risks everything to be his alibi. The only rational remedy is to marry the minx before she generates another scandal. Yet, the dangers don’t end at the altar. A poisonous enemy coils ever closer, threatening the woman who awakens his soul. How far will he go to protect her? That may be the greatest danger of all.
This ninth book in Elisa Braden’s Rescued from Ruin takes place around six years after book seven, (Confessions of a Dangerous Lord), and revisits the members of the Huxley family. A number of events that took place in that book are referenced here – principally the crimes committed by the hero’s mother and the resultant fallout – so this probably isn’t the ideal book to pick up if you haven’t read any of the other books in the series. A Marriage Made in Scandal is a very readable novel that combines a friends-to-lovers romance with an intriguing mystery, but even though I liked quite a few things about it, there are things I didn’t that prevent me from recommending it.
One of those things is the way the story opens. Lady Eugenia Huxley is the daughter of an earl, but when we first encounter her she is working in a far from exclusive hat shop in one of the less salubrious areas of London. Anyone who reads historicals regularly will immediately recognise the incongruity of the idea of an earl’s daughter working for a living. As I read on I learned that a couple of years previously Eugenia – Genie – had caused a massive scandal by being caught in flagrante delicto with a footman and so I thought, “okay, so she disgraced herself and her family threw her out. That makes more sense.” Except – no. Not only did her family not disown her, she still lives at the family home in Mayfair! It’s said early on that Genie’s disgrace has naturally affected her younger sister’s marital prospects, that Genie no longer goes out in society and that she is still whispered about – but she lives at home? And goes to work every day? I didn’t buy it. There are occasions when I can roll my eyes at a set up and move on, but not this time. Ms. Braden is a good writer and I’m sure she could have come up with another way to have Genie be the family scandal without resorting to something so implausible.
Anyway. While working in said downmarket hat shop, Genie runs in to Phineas Brand, Lord Holstoke, who, years earlier, had been courting her sister Maureen. Phineas is a rigidly controlled young man whose mother (this isn’t a spoiler, as it happened in a previous book) was revealed to have been a murderess, having killed Phineas’ father and numerous others. That was six years ago, and society still views Phineas with caution, which is making his search for a suitable bride difficult, to say the least. And it’s made even more difficult when a young woman is murdered – poisoned using methods and poisons known to have been favoured by Phineas’ mother – and several more killings ensue in quick succession. It seems someone is out to implicate Phineas in the murders, and when Genie impulsively steps in to provide him with an alibi, it’s the last straw for her father, who makes it clear he expects Phineas to marry her. And in the meantime, the murder sub-plot picks up steam. The deaths seem random and there’s no way of knowing how, where or whom the poisoner will strike next, and Phineas greatly fears that by marrying Genie, he has placed her firmly in the killer’s sights.
You can read the rest of this review at All About Romance.