Finishing school taught Amelia Wheeler how to put on a well-mannered performance—when she’s not bored and looking for trouble. Lady Grantham’s is behind her and now it’s time for Amelia to keep her promise to her dying mother: marry a title and leave her wild days behind. That promise would be much easier to keep if Nate Smythe hadn’t just reappeared in a London ballroom. The son of an impoverished sailor, Nate—Natty, as he used to be called—has grown up to become handsome, rich and polished. He claims to be looking for a proper bride who can advance his business interests, but that doesn’t stop him from seeking out Amelia every chance he gets. Challenging her. Kissing her. Suddenly, struggling against her simmering passion is the least of Amelia’s problems—one of her titled suitors is hiding a desperate secret that could stop Amelia from pleasing her parents or finding happiness with Nate. As a weeklong house party threatens to derail her hard-won future, Amelia must decide: fight against disaster or act like the lady she’s promised to become?
Dear Sophomore Slump,
I hate you!
I came into this read expecting the same level of awesome I got with book one, A Duchess in Name. What I got was a strong character read with a rather weak and predictable plot. Yeah, so not what I expected 😦
Amelia Wheeler may have a finishing school education but she has a tomboy mentality and Lord help anyone who bows up on her. As a child, Amelia learned to defend herself which she had to do on a regular basis thanks to her penchant for finding trouble. While her parents had high hopes finishing school would work the rambunctious right on out of her, Amelia shows no signs of slowing down or staying out of trouble. Case in point, the moment she launches herself into the arms of her childhood friend, Nate Smythe in the middle of a society ball. Really, what else could she do after not seeing her friend for a decade?
Nate Smythe has spent more than a decade travelling the world and building his shipping empire. He came from nothing and in the past decade, he has amassed a fortune and is now looking for a titled family to marry into. With no title of his own, an advantageous marriage to a titled woman is the only way he will ever break into the exclusive world of the English peerage. Nate is almost mercenary in his desire to marry well and he quickly sets his sight on Lady Julia Hyde. Lady Julia’s father owns and operates the largest shipping company in England and Nate wants in on the action. In order to make that happen, he has to win Julia’s affection and try to forget how Amelia Wheeler being back in his life makes him feel.
In what is eventually outed as a huge set-up, Amelia and Nate find themselves as guests at a week-long house party. Due to their particular circumstances, Nate is obviously pursuing Lady Julia and Amelia is courting the affection of Lord Radwill. In the moments when they are together, Nate and Amelia not only bait one another but fight a serious physical attraction. As the week wears on, both Nate and Amelia grudgingly admit to themselves that being with someone other than the other person will make for a most unsatisfying life. Unfortunately, both feel bound to their path and commitments and it isn’t until they are forced to say the words aloud that they realize how pointless it is to fight fate.
The Bottom Line: I very much liked Nate and Amelia and the banter between them. They have known each other since they were children and know how to push each other’s buttons. As adults, they still know how to push those buttons but the stakes have become even higher. There are commitments and future happiness to consider as well as other people who have been pulled into the storm that is Nate and Amelia. Amelia is strong enough to be a true partner to Nate and that makes her an oddity in her time and place. Her penchant for trouble is seriously amusing and Nate’s responses to her ability to find trouble in an empty room are just as entertaining. In truth, Nate and Amelia are two very strong characters that have been put into a somewhat ridiculous plot. At nearly every turn, there is some new bit of stupidity playing out that forces a reaction and/or response out of Amelia and/or Nate. Between the titled men acting like damn fools and the drama with Amelia’s family, there isn’t any real substance here other than Nate and Amelia. I have said it before and I will say it again, strong characters can carry a weak plot and that is exactly what happened in A Common Scandal. With that being said, the first book in this series was so good and I think this second book just fell victim to the dreaded sophomore slump. I’m in it for the long haul and have already pre-ordered book three, A Reluctant Betrothal.