EVERY SCANDALOUS SECRET – Gayle Callen
The Scandalous Lady Trilogy , Book 3
Hertfordshire , England – 1846
Quoted from my review of A MOST SCANDALOUS ENGAGEMENT:
A painting of a nude lady with her face in shadows was supposed to go to a collector in Europe . When Lady Elizabeth Cabot and her cousins, Susanna and Rebecca, learn that it hangs in a gentlemen's club in London instead, they dress up in men's clothes and sneak into the club to steal the portrait. But the club isn't empty and they are caught by three gentlemen, Peter Derby, Leo Wade, and Julian, Lord Parkhurst. The ladies' plan is foiled, and a wager ensues among the gentlemen as to which cousin the lady in the portrait might be.
Miss Susanna Leland, artist, bluestocking and spinster, deems her best course is to leave London , as do her sister and cousin. The three ladies set off in different directions; each followed by the gentleman who wagered on her being the portrait's model. Susanna had had a most disappointing introduction to Society—she found she had little in common with most everyone she met and was not a hit with the gentlemen—and had resigned herself to never marrying. But now, having finally been convinced by her family to open her self to the idea of marrying, she attends a house party of young people at the estate of the Marquess of Bramfield.
Mr. Leo Wade is a rake with a reputation as a gambler and womanizer. He's still accepted by most as the handsome younger brother of a viscount, but he's carefully watched by the parents of innocent young misses. Leo thinks he knows the identity of the lady in the portrait; he spied a tiny mole on her upper thigh in the painting and hopes to verify his opinion by following the lady and wooing her into showing him the proof. Leo's entrée in Society is good enough for him to be received when he appears uninvited at the Bramfield house party.
Susanna believes she may have found the comfortable sort of gentleman who might make her a good husband. Why, then, does Leo Wade, whom she'd hoped to escape, make her heart pound when he is near? As for Leo, wooing Susanna is turning out to be a challenge in many ways.
The growing relationship between two stubborn individuals takes up most of EVERY SCANDALOUS SECRET. Leo's character especially undergoes deep changes as the story progresses.
The three novels in the trilogy take place concurrently with a final meeting of the six protagonists in the end. The plot has an interesting premise with the wager over the scandalous lady's identity running throughout. The mystery of the diamond she wears fizzles out in this last book, however. I wish I had read the first volume, IN PURSUIT OF A SCANDALOUS LADY, as that appears to be an exciting tale centered on the diamond as well as on Lord Parkhurst and Rebecca's romance. While the second book, A MOST SCANDALOUS ENGAGEMENT, starring Lady Elizabeth and Peter Derby, is a fun tale that stands alone very well, I would highly recommend reading the trilogy in order to get the most out of EVERY SCANDALOUS SECRET.