Lady Julia Yardley would do almost anything to divorce her husband. She stops short of killing him, but only because jail would be yet another prison. Justice for an early twentieth century lady with an abusive husband is difficult to find, however, so in the end Julia realizes she has only one way out: adultery. She arranges a seduction of a friend, Aidan Carr, the duke of Trathen, so that her atrocious husband will catch her in the act, and she is granted the divorce she so craves, causing a ridiculous but necessary amount of scandal in the process. But what she doesn’t account for is the fact that Aidan will continue to be drawn to her and, as her feelings thaw from a destructive decades-long marriage, that she will be tempted by his advances.
Reading this in close succession with Wedding of the Season was, I think, a great idea. Both Julia and Aidan are introduced in that book, and therein they absolutely can’t stand each other. Julia is constantly needling upright, proper Aidan, who was engaged to her cousin Beatrix (the heroine of that book). There was clearly something there, but I was genuinely shocked when I realized that these two were actually the stars of this particular book. I shouldn’t have been, though; everyone knows that strong antagonism can be much more than it appears on the surface, and here it’s jealousy and longing in their most potent forms. Scandal of the Year fleshes out the back story of these two characters, so we learn just why Julia is out to irritate Aidan and, simultaneously, why he is the one she chooses to seduce when her situation gets desperate.
I loved the way this series revolves around scandal. None of these events would be anything close to scandalous in our society, unless a celebrity was the one committing them; a woman like Julia would have divorced her husband and had legal protection, no less. But for Victorians, desperate times call for desperate measures, and Julia suffers in a way she never would have done in our world. This isn’t just virgins hopping into bed with dukes without a thought for the consequences, as happens in so very many romances; Julia does think about and suffer the consequences of her decisions. She’s cut in society, she only gets invited to balls by her friends (some of whom abandon her), and she is a proper divorcee. Her previous scandalous behavior is quickly hushed up and she’s speedily married off to prevent gossip. Julia knows that, were she to have children, they will suffer even more. Aidan’s association with her damages his prospects and means his search to find a suitable heiress is vastly more difficult. It doesn’t stop them falling in love with one another, but they are firmly planted within the society of their time.
The romance itself was at times frustrating; I felt Julia clung too closely to her stubbornness, but this was ingrained in her character from the beginning. I could understand why it was happening, but rather strangely I was always on Aidan’s side. I’ve been wondering if that is simply due to my own fortunate experience in the romantic department, and I’ll be very interested to read other reviews and see how other women viewed these two characters.
Scandal of the Year is another wonderful romance from Laura Lee Guhrke; I am definitely eager to read more of her work after these two books and I’m glad to have discovered another good romance author (especially when a few of my favorites seem to have gone downhill these days). I would definitely recommend it to other romance readers.
I am an Amazon Associate. I received this book for free for review from Netgalley.