After the Scandal by Elizabeth Essex Publication date: March 25, 2014 Publisher: St. Martin's Press Series: The Reckless Brides #4 Goodreads | Amazon| B&N
This unusual romance grabbed my attention from its first line:
Tanner Evans, ninth Duke of Fenmore, should have known he would never truly be satisfied with a bride he hadn't stolen fair and square.
Through circumstance, Tanner Evans was raised to a life of thievery before he became a duke (the why of which I won't reveal), hence he had never belonged in London high society. People can only stare at the reclusive duke, none able to gleam even a fragment of his thoughts, especially not the kind and beautiful Lady Claire Jellicoe, of whom Tanner admires from afar.
Tanner had given up on his eccentricity, his wound forbidding him from revealing his passions to anyone, and with a particular set of skills for observation (think Sherlock Holmes), he sees the deceit and ugliness in many, but never Claire.
He watched her still - his lovely, luminous orchid of a girl. Because watching her gave him a pleasure so imcomprehensible and inexplicable and vast, it was beyond his understanding. And beyond his power to stop. (pg 3)
Lady Claire is innately kind, and smiles because she was raised to be polite. It is as a part of her as her goodness of heart. Claire was so innocent that she never imagined Lord Rosling would try to rape her when he asked her to follow him, nor the reclusive Duke of Fenmore to rescue her.
Afterwards, Claire becomes intrigued in Tanner, and asks him to teach her how to protect herself, and just when Tanner had planned to quietly compromise her to make her more amenable to his marriage offer, they discover the dead body of Claire's maid. This sets off the murder mystery central to this story, and the medium through which Claire and Tanner are forced into more interactions, slowly falling in love.
What is fantastic about this novel is how well Essex develops the mental growth of her characters. Tanner was attracted to Claire's innocence, her openness, and the radiance of her purity because he sees behind people's masks, and she has none. But as Claire learn from Tanner how to read people, her previously dimmed personality comes to life, transforming her into an outspoken person with her own thoughts and wishes, instead of merely playing the role society expects of her. Through this, she no longer retains her naivety, and this becomes Tanner's test, because his previous idol has transformed into someone more real and touchable. Which begs the question: Does his love still exist?
The inner growth of Claire coupled with the fast-paced action of the murder mystery makes this one intense, interesting adventure romance. Although Tanner's strange reluctance to ask Claire to marry him (his original plan, if you recall) later on provided some uneven bumps, overall this is one smooth ride of a novel. Most of all, I am delighted by the turnout of this murder mystery. Elizabeth Essex has crafted a thoroughly interesting novel full of mystery, intrigue, and fascinating characters. I mean, who ever heard of a thieving duke?