Review of BEFORE THE SCANDAL by Suzanne Enoch (see her website)
THE NOTORIOUS GENTLEMEN
Avon, August 2008
Colonel Phineas Bromley ran away from home to join the army when he turned seventeen. Ten years later, he's back. It could be a string of bad luck, but Phin doesn't believe it...too many disasters have struck his brother's estate and Phin means to get to the bottom of it before he heads back to the army. The minute he sees his childhood buddy, Alyse Donnelly, all grown up but socially ruined and orphaned, he realizes there's something else he needs to explore. Of course, when his chief suspect turns out to be Alyse's cousin, things get complicated.
Alyse hates her cousin and her aunt, but without them she'd be homeless. So, she contents herself with stealing whatever she can, hoping for the day when she can get away and set up a place of her own. She lost any opportunity for marriage when she made a fool of herself over a fortune hunter...at least that's what she thought until Phin returned to her life.
Author Susan Enoch creates an intriguing damaged hero, riven by guilt over the part he played in the injuries that left his brother paralyzed, hardened by his years fighting Napoleon in Spain, and a stranger now to the world he left in. His decision to play the role of a highwayman to investigate, though, came across to me as driven by the needs of Enoch's story rather than anything a rational man would have chosen. Surely Highwaymen are not sought after gossips. I found Alyse's hatred for her cousin and aunt off-putting as well. Certainly they treated her badly, but they offered her a home when otherwise she would have been out on the street.
Once I got past the first few chapters, Alyse mostly settles down (although her occasional anger at Phin also seems over the top) and the highwayman angle works its way into the story (couldn't he have decided to become a highwayman when he realized he needed to hold up coaches, not before?), Enoch deliveres an enjoyable and sexy tale.
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