A Most Scandalous Proposal
By Ashlyn Macnamara
Two childhood friends in Regency England discover love with the most unlikely of partners: each other. After watching her beloved sister, Sophia, pine over the ton’s golden boy for years, Miss Julia St. Claire has foresworn love and put herself firmly on the shelf. Unfortunately, her social-climbing mother and debt-ridden father have other ideas, and jump at the chance to marry Julia off to the newly named Earl of Clivesden . . . the man of Sophia’s dreams.
Since resigning his cavalry commission, Benedict Revelstoke has spent his time in London avoiding the marriage mart. But when he discovers that the Earl of Clivesden has his sights set on Julia, Benedict tries to protect his childhood best friend from the man’s advances—only to discover that more than friendship is driving his desire to defend her. He surprises them both with the force of his feelings, but when Julia refuses him, and her father announces her betrothal, Benedict fears he’s lost her forever—until Julia approaches him with a shocking scheme that will ruin her for all respectable society and lead them into an exquisite world of forbidden pleasures.
Julia and Sophia St. Claire have resisted suitors for their hands in marriage for the past few seasons, Julia because she doesn't believe that love matches are possible and Sophia because she's pined for gorgeous William Ludlowe the last five years. Julia's best friend since childhood, Benedict Revelstoke, wants to protect her from a nefarious plan devised by golden boy Ludlowe but her parents have different plans altogether.
This is actually two separate stories combined as one. It makes sense to do this because the sisters’ issues and stories were interconnected. However, the result was Julia’s character (our true heroine of the story) was not developed as fully as I thought it could and should be and she came across rather soulless and less sympathetic. Sophia, her older sister, was the more tragic of the two and her story ended up being the most interesting. Ludlowe, the man she’s wasted the last five years of her life over, is the character everyone gets to hate as he spurns her ruthlessly for Julia and it was fun seeing him eventually defeated. The real men in these women’s lives, Benedict and Rufus, are deliciously crafted and make the story work. Benedict is sexy and gorgeous; Rufus is scarred physically and emotionally but shares a past similar to Sophia’s current woes.
Despite not being able to connect really well with Julia, I enjoyed the story. The intimate scenes for both Julia and Sophia are extremely well done (picture a carriage ride for one and a cabin in the woods for the other). I recommend the book and look forward to the next one that is connected to this story.
(I received an ARC from NetGalley)