Before the Scandal is the second book in Suzanne Enoch’s The Notorious Gentlemen trilogy and features Lieutenant Colonel Phineas Bromley who has just arrived home after ten years fighting in the war against the French. An urgent letter from his younger sister informing him that Phin’s older brother, William, is on his deathbed has brought him home but it is not the truth. Instead, Phin discovers that trouble is brewing at Quence Park, his ancestral home.
Alyse Donnelly is stunned to see Phineas. They grew up together and were good friends, and were on the verge of something more, before the accident that paralyzed William and sent Phin into war. Now Phin is back but Alyse is no longer the wealthy and somewhat selfish girl she used to be. The death of her parents made her a poor relation to her family, and then a scandal ruined Alyse’s stakes in the marriage mart. Now she is a companion to her loathsome and cruel aunt. Alyse always dreamed of a happier life but she knows reality is far from fair or even happy. Instead she is trying to save enough money to get out from under her family’s thumb. Phin’s arrival back home is changing everything again, including bringing out a notorious and dangerous French highwayman.
As the stakes rise, Phin and Alyse are drawn together in a common goal: find out who is trying to ruin Quence Park, and maybe, risk giving their hearts to each other forever.
Before the Scandal is another seductive and interesting tale from Suzanne Enoch. While I usually find the romance aspects of her books most fascinating, in this case, I enjoyed the family dynamic of Phin’s homecoming more than anything, particularly his interactions with older brother William, paralyzed from an accident that Phin perceives as his fault. There is a lot of guilt, anger, and love between these two and it tends to overshadow many of the other plotlines.
Of course, the romance is still well written and enjoyable. Alyse and Phin have both had some very hard knocks in life but are making do. Their relationship is far from perfect but it is also more than about “just making do.” Alyse has fallen from the graces of polite society but she seems almost a better character for it as she is more mature and better able to deal with an adult relationship with Phin.
Before the Scandal is engaging on several levels and has really whetted my appetite for Bram’s story, the third in The Notorious Gentlemen trilogy.