by Stephanie Laurens

Septemeber 2001
ISBN: 0-373-83479-9
Reviewer Graphic Button Harlequin
Mass Market Paperback

A SEASON FOR SCANDAL consists of two previously released complete, separate novels. In the first novel, TANGLED REINS, Dorothea Darent had resigned herself to spinsterhood at the “advanced” age of two and twenty. She didn’t mind this fate at all – she liked her independence and hadn’t met a man yet who could make her want to give it up for the respectability of marriage. That all changed, however, when she shared a passionate and unexpected embrace with the Marquis of Hazelmere.

Hazelmere was not one to tamp down his impulses and when he saw Dorothea picking berries on his estate, and looking ripe for the picking herself, he could not resist taking her unawares by stealing a kiss. However, he was the one surprised when he discovers that she is not the blacksmith’s daughter she appeared to be, but is in fact a lady and close friend of his now deceased great-aunt.

Despite being unable to forget Hazelmare and the equally unforgettable kiss they shared, Dorothea knows that they do not run in the same social circles and does not have high hopes of meeting him again. However, Hazelmere always seems to appear just when Dorothea needs him most – much to her relief and chagrin. When Dorothea and her sister arrive in London for the Season, she is most surprised that Hazelmere seems to be courting her, a simple country girl. Nevertheless, she is unsure of his motives and will settle for nothing less than love.

Hazelmere knows that Dorothea is the only one who will do for his wife, and being one who has always gotten his way, he has no doubt that she will indeed be the one he weds. However, when a plan to abduct Dorothea becomes evident and a scandal appears imminent, all of his well-laid plans just may go awry.

A SEASON FOR SCANDAL is a light, entertaining read in which the plot mainly delves into the growing relationship between Hazelmere and Dorothea, with only a small section devoted to the mystery of who is trying to abduct Dorothea. The kidnapping aspect of the story appeared to be almost thrown in to add some excitement to the story though I didn’t feel as though it was necessary and the villain was too easily recognizable to add any perceived needed surprise.

Despite the predictability of TANGLED REINS, it does have its good qualities. The abduction scene proves to be more humorous than suspenseful, which was a nice twist and the dialog between Dorothea and Hazelmere was often witty and engaging.

In the second novel, FAIR JUNO, Martin Willesden, the Earl of Merton cannot believe his eyes or his good fortune when he stumbles upon a goddess fighting off two apparent abductors. However, when he intervenes to save the day, his goddess rewards him only with a hard right to his jaw, which knocks him temporarily unconscious.

After momentarily mistaking the Earl for the man who hired her abductors, Helen contritely accepts the Earl’s offer of assistance, even though it means sharing a shockingly improper, unchaperoned night alone with him in a deserted barn. Helen feels her only chance to retain her respectability is to remain anonymous to Martin so despite his repeated attempts at discovering her name, she remains known to him only as his “Fair Juno”.

After arranging for Helen’s safe return to London, it only takes Martin a short period of time to discover the true identity of Fair Juno. Helen is positive that Martin’s apparent interest in her will wan after he learns that she is a widow, with a slight scandal attached to her name - after all, Martin is an Earl and needs his Countess to be beyond any hint of reproach. However, Martin has never cared for propriety’s dictates and sets about to prove to Helen that she is the one he wants.

Unfortunately, Martin has a scheming brother who will be next in line to the Earldom – provided that Martin doesn’t marry and provide an heir in the meantime. When Martin’s brother sees the romance blossom between the Earl and Helen, he will seize any opportunity to put a stop to it and he does so by appealing to Helen to end their relationship by telling her that Martin will lose everything if he marries Helen.

Of course, Helen cannot tell Martin the real reason for ending their love affair, which results in a bevy of misunderstandings and hurt on both sides. Fortunately for Helen, Martin isn’t about to take no for an answer and sets all of his considerable charm on gaining Helen as his bride. Throw in an over-zealous suitor of Helen, a jealous jilted past acquaintance of Martin’s and he may get more than he bargained for!

FAIR JUNO starts out strong and full of adventure. Unfortunately, it never really regains the same appeal throughout the rest of the novel. I found the lack of communication that resulted in the misunderstandings between Martin and Helen more frustrating than entertaining and Helen’s unreasonable feelings of inadequacy because of her great sin of being a widow exasperating.

Readers of Ms. Lauren’s more recent works, will find both novels in A SEASON FOR SCANDAL much more tame sexually, with nothing more than kisses and glossed over sex scenes – especially in TANGLED REINS, which may or may not be a good thing, depending on your preference.

The leading characters from TANGLED REINS and some of the secondary ones also, reappear in FAIR JUNO which may have been the reasoning behind re-releasing these two novels together, but I cannot help but feel as though it was nothing more than a lucrative tactic for a hot author to sell more books.

Reviewed in April 2002 by Nicole.

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