As the head of his family, Robert Beckford, the Earl of Masten, was accustomed to dealing with various problems his siblings had caused of one sort or another. However he wasn’t prepared when his cad of brother ruined and then abandoned a young lady. To right the wrong, Robert married the girl himself; but his chivalry only went so far. He didn’t want a wife, and most certainly not a scandalous one. So after repeating his vows, he sent her packing, off to a secluded estate and expected her to stay put.
After years of mistreatment at the hands of her family, Lydia was prepared to be an accommodating wife; but her rigid and unforgiving husband asked too much of her. After languishing for years in her opulent prison, Lydia leaves her country estate for the glamour and excitement of London—and unfortunately her husband’s path.
Robert Beckford, Earl of Masten has always been aware of appearances: how he looks, how he is received, how his family is perceived and, above all else, the reputation of he and his family. When Robert’s younger brother, Luke was caught in a compromising position with the young and impressionable, Lydia well, appearances and reputation had to be considered. Luke certainly wasn’t going to do the right thing and so, in an effort to save everyone the humiliation and protect the family name, Robert Beckford married Lydia.
For five long years Lady Lydia has been hidden away at Lord Beckford’s Blackstone Manor, safely removed from polite society and any gossip that may tarnish the Beckford name. Determined to come out of hiding, Lydia returns to London to stay with her remaining family and spend the season among polite society. After five years of not seeing nor hearing from her husband, Lydia really couldn’t care less what he thinks about her reappearance. She is bound and determined to live her life and find some happiness, no matter the cost. It takes very little time for Robert to discover Lydia’s presence and if it weren’t for appearances, fireworks certainly would have flown.
Robert Beckford is livid over the presence of his troublesome wife and wants nothing more than for her to remove herself and be gone from his sight. Even more troubling is the fact that his once quiet and unassuming wife has grown into a confident and beautiful woman – a woman who will certainly cause more scandal and bring down the family name. In an effort to get Lydia out of town, Robert calls her to his home and announces he will take her on a tour of his various homes and she can choose her next gilded prison. While Robert’s intention is to be rid of his wife he also knows he needs an heir (his brother certainly won’t do!) and decides he will let her know he intends to have an heir from her and then she and the child can live away from him. What Robert doesn’t count on is Lydia’s attitude regarding family and her refusal to be with a man who doesn’t even like her, let alone, love her.
Robert quickly figures out if he wants his heir, he is going to have to get his wife on board and in order to do that, he is going to have to get to know her. What Robert discovers is a woman who not only knows her own mind, is resolute in her belief that a child should have a mother and father and, she is surprisingly kind and forgiving given her experiences. Robert is surprised to discover his wife is quite likeable and before long he finds he wants nothing more than to forget everything about her past and focus on her future with him. More surprising, Lydia is amenable to Robert’s suggestion and when they arrive at his favored home, both are ready to give married life a true and proper go of it.
Things aren’t always easy and while their nights together are generally enjoyable, the days take some work. Robert realizes his wife is a good woman with a troubled past and though Robert wants to forget the past and move forward, the past has a way of coming back to haunt him. Robert does his best to shield Lydia from as much of the scandal as possible but Robert can’t be everywhere all the time and when Lydia’s life is threatened, he is damn near too late to save her.
The Bottom Line: What a fun Regency read! Stone has paired two of the most unlikely people in Robert and Lydia and “watching” them make their way toward an HEA is as times frustrating, at times humorous, at times naughty and, sometimes even sweet. I rather enjoyed the fact that their road to an HEA isn’t smooth and easy but something each had to work at. A marriage isn’t always easy and when the foundation is shaky to begin with well, there is work to be done, trust to be earned and, love to be found. Lydia’s past is constant bone of contention and as Robert grows to like and even love his wife, he works harder than ever to help her overcome that past. The obstacles provide a good deal of drama and entertainment and work nicely with the characters and the overall plot. With a fine cast of characters, A Scandalous Wife makes for a very good start to this Regency series.