Scandal of the Year

Laura Lee Guhrke
Scandal of the Year
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Harper Collins, Inc
Release Date
January 2011
Book 1 of Abandoned at the Altar Series
Historical Romance

One tryst was all she wanted . . .

From their very first meeting, Julia knew that Aidan Carr, the oh-so-proper Duke of Trathen, had a bit of the devil in him, a devil who secretly yearned for what he could not have, a devil who harbored a desire for her. So when she needed to be caught in a compromising situation, Aidan was the answer to her prayers.

One tryst just wasn't enough . . .

Aidan is supposed to be looking for a bride, yet his scandalous liaison with Julia is all he can think about. Hot, erotic memories of kissing her skin, falling into her bed, pulling her naked body on top of his own continue to torment and tempt him. What is it about this brazen seductress that he finds so hard to resist? And how can he stop himself from falling into her bed a second time?

Book Review by CarolAnn
Aug 10, 2011   [ OFFICIAL REVIEW ]
209 people found the following review helpful
The second book in the Abandoned at the Altar series, SCANDAL OF THE YEAR is a beautifully crafted love story from the very talented Laura Lee Guhrke.

"On the afternoon of August 21, 1903, I had intimate relations of a sexual nature with Aidan Carr, the Duke of Stathen."

With these words Julia, Baroness Yardley, is finally free after twelve long years of a loveless marriage. But her freedom has come at a price because, seeing Aidan Carr as she leaves the courtroom, she is overcome with guilt for the way in which she has used him and ‘compromised his honour and stolen his self-respect'.

Several months pass and, mindful of his duty, Aidan must start looking for a wife again. The fact that he has been jilted twice and rumours surrounding the divorce scandal are still circulating does not exactly fill him with confidence. Added to which, he finds himself constantly thinking about Lady Yardley and can ‘still imagine the texture of her skin, like warm satin against his mouth'. He is determined to consign her to the past where she belongs but it isn't easy when their paths seem destined to cross.

Julia is keen to make a fresh start but first she needs to settle the debts accumulated over the years, after her husband cut off her allowance. She needs a job and, knowing of his business acumen, she approaches Aidan hoping he might have a solution to her problems. Aidan offers her a job as his social secretary to aid him in finding a suitable wife, but working so closely with Julia, he finds he can longer deny that she is the only woman he truly wants. Certain the attraction is mutual, Aidan is determined to pursue Julia until she admits her feelings for him. But he finds he must uncover her deepest secrets before there can be any future for them.

Having met Julia and Aidan in Wedding of the Season, the first book in this series, I was really intrigued to see just how Ms Guhrke would bring two such dissimilar people together. Julia is brash, impudent, immoral, dances until dawn, smokes and drives too fast. Aidan is a gentleman, honorable, kind, understanding and always striving to do the right thing. Not exactly a match made in heaven! However, I discovered that there is far more to Julia than meets the eye and that Aidan's thoughts are not always honorable.

I love Julia because she's such a complex and fascinating character. As her secrets are gradually revealed, it is like fitting the parts of a jigsaw puzzle together and it is only when the last piece falls into place that the real Julia is fully revealed. Gradually I saw beyond the facade of a woman scandalizing society with her outrageous behaviour and numerous affairs, to discover a very vulnerable woman desperately trying to escape a hellish marriage, which has left her with deep emotional scars.

But she also shows strength, resilience and courage by choosing to fight back rather than be a victim of her husband and I really admired her for this stand. When she finally reveals the truth about her marriage to Aidan, it does put all her actions into perspective and I could fully sympathize with her plight. It also reveals the attitude prevailing at the time towards women and divorce. Yardley's behaviour was not considered grounds for divorce by the lawyers of the day and, if Julia had tried to reveal publicly what he was like, she would have been condemned for her lack of discretion because ‘wives aren't supposed to air their dirty linen in public.' It does make you glad to be living in the 21st century!

I adore Aidan and I'm sure it must be something to do with that handsome face and those warm, steady eyes that Julia has always been drawn to. He's honorable, honest and trustworthy with a deep sense of duty. In fact, he's the epitome of a gentleman with only one weakness – his desire for Julia. In flashbacks, we learn that they met each other when they were both seventeen and it had a definite impression on him:

He'd never before been given a view like this – a view of shapely calves, delicate ankles and slender feet boldly displayed in broad daylight. Adolescent lust began coursing through his body in the space of two heartbeats, a sudden, powerful wave that disconcerted him, embarrassed him, and robbed him of the ability to think or even breath.

Although their lives go in very different directions, when they meet again many years later, Aidan fears that ‘when it came to Lady Yardley, he was in fact hopelessly depraved.' I love the fact that thinks he can discipline himself in mind and body to conquer his desire for Julia but fails completely.

The final love scene between Julia and Aidan is a wonderful combination of eroticism, sensuality and tenderness. Knowing her fears about her sensuality, I adore Aidan for the way in which he is determined to make everything as pleasurable as possible for Julia. He constantly coaxes her into saying what she's feeling so he knows what pleases her and this makes for some very steamy moments! Ultimately, it is an emotionally and sexually healing process for Julia and I love the way she expresses how she feels afterwards:

She was awake and alive, and the world was full of new beginnings and glorious possibilities. She was still a bit wobbly and weak like a colt trying to walk on shaky legs. But with Aidan's arms around her, she didn't mind any of that, because for the first time in over twelve years she was truly free. She was free, she was beautiful and she had just made love with a man for the very first time.

Julia let the tears fall.

Julia and Aidan's story dominates this book but I do have soft spot for Julia's ill-mannered, belligerent, man-hating bulldog, Spike, who provides some wonderful moments in the book. My favourite is the scene in which Aidan is determined to prove that Julia is attracted to him despite her denials and challenges her to meet him in the maze at midnight and prove that she can resist his advances. What he doesn't count on is for her to arrive with Spike in tow! What follows is a hilarious moment when Aidan suddenly takes on the unsuspecting Spike:

With a savage sound that caused Julia to jump back in alarm, Aidan moved. Within the blink of an eye, he'd taken Spike by the muzzle and hip and pushed him down onto his side in the grass and using his superior body weight, he kept the animal firmly pinned. "No," he said in a calm, firm voice. "No, Spike".

What a memorable picture that conjured up in my mind!!

My only complaint about the book is the ending seems a little too abrupt. I feel there should have been more tension before Julia finally accepts Aidan's marriage proposal given their exchanges in the previous scene. But this in no way detracted from my enjoyment of the book and I can forgive Ms Guhrke for any shortcomings when she gave a wonderful Happy Ever After to two people who truly deserved it.

SCANDAL OF THE YEAR is a compelling and emotionally satisfying love story with a hero and heroine who will surely capture your heart. I can highly recommend this book to all lovers of historical romance.
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