Title: Before the Scandal
Author: Suzanne Enoch
Stand Alone/ Series: This is book 2 in a trilogy called The Notorious Gentlemen –about three friends that met in the army while fighting Napoleon. Book 1 is Sullivan’s and it’s called After the Kiss. I don’t think you need to read book 1 to be able to enjoy Before the Scandal. But the reviews for book 1 are so good – Dear Author’s / Book Binge’s – that I plan on getting it anyway.
Summary: It Was a Scandal Waiting to Happen . . .
Colonel Phineas Bromley is a legend—on the battlefield and in the bedroom. Though he’s won many wars, and even more hearts, nothing could prepare him for his new life. When Phin discovers that someone has been pushing his family toward ruin, he assumes the role of a legendary highwayman. Riding out in the middle of the night, hidden behind a mask, Phin heads straight into trouble . . . and into the arms of the ravishing girl next door.
Coming face-to-face with a masked man did not frighten Alyse Donnelly as it should have. Instead, she finds him rather dashing. But her foolish heart has led her into trouble before, and helping a fugitive may mean jeopardizing her own plans, no matter how enticing his kisses. Now, as the danger grows, Alyse must make a choice between freedom . . . and the chance for true love.
Why did I read the book: I received an ARC from the publisher.
At 17, Phineas Bromley, the younger son of a wealthy family, was the local hellion.Drinking and shagging around without a care in the world. His closest friend and companion was his neighbour Alyse Donnelly. One day, befitting the low expectations everybody had, he does something Really Stupid that ends with his brother trapped in a wheelchair for life. Phineas, stricken with guilt and shame flees without saying goodbye to anyone and joins the army in a sort of suicidal mood to fight against Napoleon. He is to never return, to never look back.10 years later, now a respected Colonel he receives a letter from his sister insisting that he should come home because his brother is on his deathbed. He rushes madly back only to find that his brother is safe and well and that his sister had lied to him in an attempt to get him home because they need him: something is amiss in their property. Things are shrouded in mystery though, there are talks of attacks to their grounds, they have been losing money with their failing crops – but no one will talk to him, enlighten him. His brother is scornful and hostile and has forbidden his sister to tell him anything about what is ruining their lives. He is adamant that he will find out what is going on and help his family no matter what – and to do that he concocts a plan that will allow him to get around find other people’s secrets which will lead him to discover who wants his family gone and why: he dons the disguise of The Gentleman, a mythical highway man and asks the help of his two best friends Sullivan and Bram (who run to the rescue towards the end of the novel) .
Phin fully expected hostility from his family, but still he gets frustrated that everyone treats him as the young fool he used to be. Every one that is, except for Alyse. Of all the things he expected when he returned, he never thought Alyse would still be there and unattached. It was always expected that, as the daughter of a viscount, she would marry really well – a Duke or a Prince, they used to joke. But she is not only single but also ruined. Right after Phin left, Alyse’s parents died and their fortune, being entailed passed on to the nearest male relative. Alyse’s fiancée at the time, unwilling to carry on with their attachment ignored her when she showed up with her travelling gear willing to elope, which resulted in the scandal in the title.
Alyse then passed on from house to house until her cousin and new Viscount invited her to come back home to be her aunt’s companion. As a veritable Cinderella, she gets to sleep in the attic, to work for her aunt without any of her former pleasures. But Alyse is resilient and has a plan: she has been saving every possible penny she can find and/or steal so that one day she can leave and start her life again. She figures in one year she will be able to finally be on her own. But then Phin comes back and puts everything in jeopardy by enlisting her help.
He starts to play the part that everyone expects him to even if that it’s destroying him inside but he must keep all suspicions away from his family in order to protect them. He just can’t keep away from Alyse and that is tearing him apart – he needs a friend, he needs her. And the more time they spend together (many stolen kisses behind doors), the more they realise how much they like each other.
What I loved about this book is that there is no sudden realisation of an undying love, there is no one walking around screaming I Shall Not Surrender – in fact, even if the circumstances require a bit of suspension of belief (the Logic of the Romance Novel: There is Trouble, ergo the ONLY way to solve it is to become a fake highwayman), the romance felt very real. The trust issues between them, the dynamics of their relationship and the doubts that both had feel organic and the more serious tone was reminiscent of Mary Baloghs’ One Night for Love.
They were both uncertain of the future and for once the fact that they loved each did not necessarily mean that everything was alright. Phin did not know whether he would go back to the war leaving her behind again and she did not know whether she was prepared to accept being left behind …again.
This is a slow burner of a book instead of a fiery tale. A story of friends turned lovers and of the redemption of a hero that was no longer a rake but who had really done an awful thing in is past.
Notable Quotes/ Parts: I really liked when the two brothers were finally able to have a real conversation and say everything that they wanted and needed to say to each other and finally clear the air and move on. That was very touching.
Additional Thoughts: Book 3 can not come soon enough. The protagonist will be the third friend, Bram – a rake, possibly alcoholic, careless and jaded – I smell a redemption story coming! What can I say? Repobrate Rakes in need of redemption are my favorite.
Verdict: Really nice romance with a couple of endearing protagonists. The romance has a more serious tone that people who liked Mary Balogh’s One Night for Love and a Summer to Remember will appreciate.
Rating: a solid 6 – GOOD.
Reading next: No idea!