|This book is one of the best I have read this year and I am sure it will make my Top Ten of 2011 list. It has been a while since I have enjoyed a historical novel so much. Eleven Scandals to Start to Win a Dukeís Heart is the third book by Sarah MacLean about a group of male friends who have all succumbed to wedded bliss. You donít have to have knowledge of the first two to enjoy this one.
Juliana Fiori is an unusual debutante. She is the daughter of a Italian storekeeper and a woman who used to be part of the ton, who had been married to a marquis. She had left her husband and two sons, Nick and Gabriel Ralston. After the divorce, she went to Italy. After she had Juliana, she left Juliana and her father, too. Juliana is now of age and has come to England seeking her half-brothers following the death of her father.
Nick and Gabriel embrace her and are determined she is ready for a season. Both have come into inheritances; Gabriel is the Marquess of Ralston. Juliana resides with Gabriel and his wife Callie. But she just doesnít fit in. She is too boisterous, too willing to say what she thinks and looks too much like her mother for the ton to ever fully accept her. Yet here she is at her brotherís home during a ball.
Juliana goes out to get air and is attacked by a drunken lord. As she is running out, she hides in a carriage. It just so happens to be the Duke of Leightonís carriage, a man known as the Duke of Disdain for his somber attitude, prudish nature and apparent concern for his reputation above all else.
Simon Pearson, the duke, is taken by surprise to find Juliana in his carriage but to keep things quiet, he ends up taking her home with him and calling for her brother. He discovers that his first impression of her was correct. She is beautiful and yet totally without the guile, the polish and the lack of scandal that he needs in a duchess. He rejected her once when he first met her and has not changed his mind now. But she is a damsel in distress and despite his reputation, Simon is a caring man.
For his trouble he gets popped in the face by Ralston, who misinterprets what he sees. Gabriel and Simon have a history and they also have a present that involves a secret that could tear the Dukeís reputation to shreds.
Simon and Juliana are well matched, even if it is not apparent at first. Simon brings knowledge to help Juliana make sense of the ton and understanding of propriety. Juliana brings him spontaneity and enjoyment of life. Simon reluctantly agrees to help Gabriel keep an eye on Juliana.
During it all, they become friends and ultimately lovers. Juliana swears she cannot live her life in the fishbowl of the ton and Simon swears he must marry a woman who will bring such respectability to his title that no one will quibble about a scandal involving his sister. Simon is a great hero because he is so pompous; it is fun to see Juliana bring out his human side. Juliana is a great heroine, because Simon helps her see that she is more than just a woman trying to live down the scandal that was her mother.
This book is engaging, fun to read and filled with adventure after adventure while two people slowly realize that they are attracted and that they have fallen in love. They work hard to make their HEA a thing of beauty.
MacLean has written a keeper with Eleven Scandals and it makes me want to seek out her other stories which highlight Nick and Gabriel. I will definitely keep an eye out for this author in the future.