How to Disgrace A Lady
by Bronwyn Scott
(Harl Hist. #1104, $6.25, PG) ISBN 978-0373-29704-7
How to Disgrace A Lady introduces us to three heroes who are second sons, have nothing to recommend them and at times have delighted in their dubious reputations. At the beginning, the hero is actually a non-hero, a man the reader may not approve of. However, as his story is revealed, he undergoes some changes and in the end, he is a man that one can admire. The heroine is a strong woman who not only positively impacts her man, but she too grows as a person. Their romance is engaging and one to be savored.

Merrick St. Magnus decides to go to a house party at the home of a school friend in order to avoid confrontation with his father, an earl who tries to throw money at his second son, but has never really shown real affection. In fact, Merrick has determined to be exactly opposite his father, whom he considers a hypocrite. Merrick spends his time drinking and whoring, although he does so with some moderation. His reputation is worse than his actual exploits, but he makes money off the bets that are laid for his challenge.

Lady Alixe Burke is a twenty-six year old soon to be on the shelf spinster who is the daughter of an earl and the sister of one of Merrick's friends. She is a bluestocking and often engaged in studying the history of the local area. One of her current projects is translating an old English document which may put light on a bit of local folklore. She is strong and at times, stubborn. She has turned down multiple proposals of marriage and her family despairs that she will ever marry. For Alixe, she would rather not marry than have someone marry her just for her dowry. She has become the master at hiding her beauty and seeming to be "invisible" at events.

Merrick and Alixe meet when she stumbles upon him when he is enjoying a naked swim at the local pond. Neither realizes that that meeting will set the stage for their whole relationship. Add to it a bet from a local gentleman who is determined to have Alixe for his own - wanting her money - and the stage is set. Found in a compromising situation, Alixe's father agrees to let things stay status quo as long as Merrick helps in acting as an interested suitor in order to show other men that Alixe is a prize. If he can help her find another husband, he is off the hook. If not, they will marry at the end of the season.

Needless to say, while on the one hand both recognize that marrying through force would not be good for either of them, they are attracted to each other and actually find that they can also share intelligent conversation and enjoy each other's company. This is and will be the basis for their falling in love. It is surprising to them both and takes the entire story to fully develop. It is a fun journey and one that is at times, frustrating. The two are determined to avoid matrimony to each other even when it is clear they would both benefit from the partnership.

Bronwyn Scott has written an engaging tale. The climatic event which finally opens everyone's eyes is a bit extravagant but since it gets us to the Happy Ever After, it can be forgiven. I look forward to the tales of the other two rakes, even though there were times these men were not very likable. Given how Scott has taken one unlikable rake and turned him into a hero, I look forward to seeing how she can pull off similar magic.

--Shirley Lyons

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