A Perfect Scandal
by Tina Gabrielle
(Zebra, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 978-1-4201-0849-1
*****
A Perfect Scandal is a historical romance that contains a suspense/mystery storyline and is one of the best books Iíve read lately. This is only Tina Gabrielleís second novel and I was impressed by the quality of storytelling.

The story takes place in London in May, 1814. Isabel Cameron is a fourth year debutante and her father, Edward Cameron the Earl of Malvern, is anxious to have her married off. Isabelís dreams are to live with her aunt in Paris and study watercolor painting, which is frowned upon by society. Her father has chosen Lord Walling, 33 years her senior, to be her husband and Isabel will do anything to dissuade the match.

Marcus Hawksley is the younger son of Lord Ardmore, therefore, not the heir to the earldom. Marcus has a roguish past of drinking, gambling, and womanizing. He reformed himself, but sparked even more scandal by becoming a successful stockbroker in the London Stock Exchange, which is frowned upon in the upper class. He has not mended the rift in his family and does not want to rely on them for his livelihood. He prefers to keep to himself, but his godmother, Lady Holloway, is throwing a ball so he attends out of respect for her.

When Isabel sees Marcus enter the ball she is attending, she immediately knows he is her way out of Lord Wallingís impeding betrothal. Isabel has known Marcus since childhood and always had a crush on him, even though he is ten years older. She approaches Marcus and boldly asks him to dance, knowing that all eyes will be on them and Lord Walling will no longer wish her to be his wife. Her tactics do not work.

Isabel is more successful the second time, when she approaches Marcus alone at an estate sale and propositions him to have a liaison. Marcus is attending the sale in order to procure the sought after painting by Thomas Gainsborough, Seashore with Fishermen, and is taken aback by Isabelís suggestion. While Marcus is tempted, he does not agree to be a part of Isabelís scheme. Before he can untie himself fully from the situation, the estate guards barge in accusing Marcus of stealing the Thomas Gainsborough painting.

Isabel takes advantage of the circumstances and provides an alibi for Marcus, revealing that they were together in a compromising position during the time the painting was stolen. Even though Marcus did not agree to become Isabelís lover, the situation is enough to start the scandal Isabel is after. Because Isabel saves Marcus from being accused of the theft, Isabelís father insists that Marcus marry Isabel to save her reputation.

Isabel is happy to be out from under Lord Wallingís desires, but the betrothal to Marcus is not what she expects. Marcus is also not looking for marriage. They both agree to marry and after six months when the scandal has passed they will go their separate ways, Isabel to Paris and Marcus back to his bachelorhood. They both concur that their mission during that time will be to find out who stole the Gainsborough painting.

A Perfect Scandal tells a great story of suspense, mystery, and romance. Even though the book is somewhat formulaic, Tina Gabrielleís writing is engaging and exciting. The characters are authentic and likable. Their struggle against love is standard, but the story flows in an interesting way. The dialogue is formal, which is usual for the historical period the story is set, but it is believable and emerged effortlessly.

Besides the romance, the main story line also involves solving the mystery of the stolen painting. The mystery does not overshadow the romance, but only strengthens it by leading to the suspense of Isabelís safety. The threat of her safety keeps the story attention-grabbing while allowing the author to infuse the continued romance throughout the book.

A Perfect Scandal is the second book in Tina Gabrielleís debut series. I did not learn this until I finished reading this book and it had no bearing on the storyline. I do predict that there will be a third book involving two of the secondary characters in this one and I will be excited to read it. The secondary characters were fascinating in and of themselves and added another dimension to the plot.

I enjoyed this book immensely. I hope you enjoy it as well.

--Nichole Howell


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