SLIGHTLY SCANDALOUS
Mary Balogh


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Dell, June 2003
Reviewed by Barbara Fielding

Lady Freyja Bedwyn, the younger sister of the Duke of Bewcastle, is taking a holiday in Bath. She has accepted an invitation as the house guest of her dearest friend Charlotte, in order to avoid having to attend the christening of Viscount Ravensburg's firstborn. A year earlier Freyja expected to be the Viscountess of Ravenburg, but a broken betrothal left her heartbroken and publicly embarrassed. A proud and self-possessed woman of twenty-five years, she prefers the boredom of Bath to the christening of that particular child.

On Lady Freyja's journey to Bath, her sleep is interrupted by a midnight prowler who slips into her suite at the inn. He says he's merely a gentleman trying to escape a trap set for him by a father and daughter seeking to snag a titled lord into marriage, but Freyja recognizes a rogue when she meets one, and she is every bit his match. After aiding his escape, she gives him a bloody nose and forces him out the window of her second story room. Afterward, she has a good laugh admitting to herself she enjoyed the absurd incident.

Joshua Moore, the Marquess of Hallmere, is going to spend a week with his grandmother, Lady Potford, in Bath. He shows up on her doorstep with nothing but the clothes on his back after a spot of trouble at an inn the previous night. He's been traveling the Continent for several years, avoiding the duties of the estate and title he's inherited from his late uncle. However, Joshua runs straight into further lady troubles when his late uncle's wife and beautiful cousin arrive in Bath. His formidable aunt has her cap set on marriage between the cousins. When Joshua meets the feisty charmer, Lady Freyja Bedwyn, in Bath, the same one who rescued him at the inn and then bloodied his nose, he seeks her help in avoiding another marriage trap. They announce a fake betrothal, thinking they will end the matter in a few days, but when her brother the Duke gets news of the announcement, things don't go exactly as they had planned.

SLIGHTLY SCANDALOUS is the third novel in the Slightly series featuring the Bedwyn family. The story arc of Freyja's broken engagement with Kit Butler, Viscount Ravenburg, began in A SUMMER TO REMEMBER. With minor roles, Freyja has been featured in SLIGHTLY WICKED and SLIGHTLY MARRIED. However the story arc is sufficiently recapped in the introduction of SLIGHTLY SCANDALOUS. I only mention the other books because the depth of Freyja's character is more dramatically experienced due to the slow build up in the previous novels.

The fake betrothal is an overused plot device in Regency period books, but Mary Balogh is an excellent storyteller, and she breathes fresh life into this story through her multi-dimensional character development. Joshua Moore comes across as a Regency Rhett Butler type character who laughs and teases the proud and prickly Lady Freyja into going along with this crazy scheme. But Lady Freyja is no Scarlett O'Hara; she is described as a handsome woman, born with the Bedwyn nose. She may not be a classic beauty, but she has hidden depths and qualities that will likely win a reader's heart. These characters are truly delightful, and I believe this novel is my favorite in the series.

SLIGHTLY WICKED, featuring Morgan, Freyja's younger sister, was released in January 2004. Two more books are scheduled for release this year; SLIGHTLY SINFUL due out in April, followed by SLIGHTLY DANGEROUS, which will be published in hardback in June 2004.

 

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