THE PERKS OF LOVING A SCOUNDREL by Jennifer McQuiston
The Seduction Diaries , Book 3
Miss Mary Channing has never left her home in Yorkshire even though, at six and twenty, she should have made her come-out years ago. Instead, she constantly reads one book after another, often gothic romances in which the heroes are villains and the heroines most often end up dead. However, her twin sister Eleanor, whose husband is away for weeks, needs her in London to keep her company while expecting their baby. Of course she answers her sister's call, but refuses to enter into Society. On a warm morning, as dawn is breaking, she takes a book out to the garden. But what should she see but a man on the other side of the fence, urinating on the roses.
Mr. Geoffrey Westmore, a viscount's son informally called West and a one time member of the Royal Navy, stumbles his way home after a late night at Whites Club. He stops to relieve himself on Lady Ashington's flowers and notices a mousey young woman glaring at him. After a few colorful remarks to her, he wends his way home to be met at the door by Wilson, the long-time family butler who gives him the usual lecture.
When Mary finally agrees to go out, it's to a literary salon given by the Ashington family's friends. So dressed in one of Eleanor's gowns, she hopes to meet Mr. Dickens and a lady author, but the crowded room sets her fleeing to the library the hostess mentioned. The affair is being held for the benefit of St. Bartholomew's Hospital to build a charity ward for returning veterans of the wars. The hostess happens to be West's sister Clare who married a doctor. She asked West to come as a favor. He's all for helping veterans—he's one himself and knows there is a need—so he came. As he looked around, he became curious about a woman in blue who appeared to be all alone and leaving the room. Now that interested him more than literary blather, so he followed her. And that is how Mary and West meet again. It's not at all the thing for a maiden to be caught alone with a man, so when West hears voices at the library door, he pulls Mary behind some drapery. Two things of note occur, the two are attracted to each other—though the innocent Mary doesn't fully understand what is happening—and they hear a few words of what seem to be plans for a future assassination!
West bears a small scar on his shoulder, but both he and Mary have deep invisible scars, his from his stint in the navy, and hers from the tragic killing of her brother and later of her father while she was still small. They both carry feelings of guilt for not being able to stop the tragedies, and they refuse to let another take place. It won't be easy. West and his best friend have a history of practical jokes. When he approaches the authorities, no one takes him seriously. Even Mary's sister attributes her tale to her wild imagination from reading too much.
Oh, and by the way, Mary and West were seen alone in the library after the curtain episode, and the news made the next day's gossip papers. Oddly, her resulting bad reputation has a freeing effect on Mary. No longer the shy, retiring person she was, her spine begins to stiffen and her mind to sharpen. While West insists she stay home where she'd be safe, she insists she will join in the investigation. With little to go on but the fact that one of the conspirators was called “Your Grace”, they begin.
THE PERKS OF LOVING A SCOUNDREL is full of interesting characters and their interactions, especially those between West and Mary. There is also plenty of suspense concerning the assassination. The era is also a change from the Regency that so Dominates British historical romances.