Forget the debutantes in this clever new historical romance series starting with “The Scandalous Ladies of London: The Countess,” by Sophie Jordan. This series isn’t about the teenage girls (because aren’t seventeen and eighteen-year old girls still pretty much children?), but rather about their mothers and other women who are not quite in their prime. While these “ladies of London” are not still in the early blush of youth, they are mature women who want to have romance and love in their lives.
But the ladies who grace the pages of this delightful romp don’t have romance in their lives. Lady Gertrude, the Countess of Chatham, is married to a man who charmed and courted her, married her, and then went to live on his own with a succession of mistresses at hand. He visited her enough to beget a son and daughter, but when no more progeny were forthcoming, those visits stopped. Basically, the Earl and the Countess of Chatham live entirely separate lives. He married her for her family money, and he goes directly to her parents to get additional monies to fund his extravagant lifestyle. That way he doesn’t need to ever see his wife.
However, now his daughter is on the marriage market, and he recognizes a chance to cash in. He’s ready to “sell” her to the highest bidder. Any male interested in marriage, with the deep pockets to continue the Earl’s dissolute and ostentatious way of living, will get a chance to marry his daughter. Basically, whoever has the most money gets Lady Delia’s hand no matter his age or background. It’s all about the money.
Unfortunately, Lady Delia’s mother Tru (Lady Gertrude’s preferred nickname) is helpless to do anything about this situation. Her heart aches for her daughter, and she does not want her daughter to end up like her, in a loveless marriage. But the plot thickens as Tru meets a mysterious stranger at a gathering of the ton, and she is afraid that her image as the “Cold Countess,” because of her emotionless, straight-laced demeanor will be cracked as she is undeniably attracted to this handsome, irreverent stranger.
The plot is not terribly innovative as Jasper, the stranger, turns out to be the suitor that the Earl wants to marry his daughter. But it’s the uniqueness of the characters and the dialogue and the narrative that make this romance one worthy of reading. Jasper is more attracted to Tru than he is to her younger, inexperienced daughter. Also unique is that Jasper is a few years younger than Tru.
With Jordan’s capable narrative, we soon realize that Jasper, in spite of humble beginnings, is noble, and he possesses ethics and morality that the Earl does not. It’s difficult not to root for Jasper, in spite of the obvious obstacle—the husband. In those times, divorce was just not a possibility. And Tru does care about her family’s reputation.
We really don’t see a way for it to end happily, but Jordan does come up with a lovely ending, one that is a must in every romance. A happily ever after. And by the time we finish this book, we have met the other “scandalous ladies of London” who are Tru’s friends. They certainly will be the subject of future entries in this series, and their exploits will definitely make for enjoyable reading. There is even a bit of a mystery begun in this novel when the husband of one of the other ladies is found dead at the bottom of the staircase at the Chatham’s house party. I’m sure that a future novel will delve into that death.
This is a perfect Regency romance novel for those of us “of a certain age” who are tired of reading romances simply because so many of them feature girls of an age we can’t relate to. I love Bridgerton, the books and the series, but I relate more to the parents of the debutantes than the young girls themselves. So this new series is just what I need—a romance series I can relate to.
This review was first posted on Bookreporter.com.
Please note: This review is based on the advance reader’s copy provided by Avon Books for review purposes.