Author: Bronwyn Stuart
Scandal’s Mistress is my introduction to historical romance and the debut offering of Bronwyn Stuart. I also need to mention that it was my first e-book so it was a very different reading experience for me. I’m not sure if it is a common practice for all e-books or if it’s only a Carina Press practice but I also had a word count going in which was new to me.
At 88,000 words and 229 pages this was a quick and easy read, the perfect length to read in one sitting if you have the time to sit and read without distraction, which unfortunately I don’t.
Set in 1805 England it is very much a story of the classes and the aristocracy in particular. Justin Trentham, third son of an Earl, is at the centre of the story and determined to scandalize the family name to the point of being disowned. His life to this point has not been one to envy and makes us question the most important things to us through childhood. Does a life of wealth mean anything if you grow up feeling unloved and unwanted?
His scandals have become legendary throughout the ton with each one more outlandish than the last but none enough to achieve his ends. He has one last trick up his sleeve and has spotted the perfect accomplice to aid in his final scheme, an Italian opera singer.
Carmalina Belluccini has the ability to enthrall an audience with her glorious voice and that’s not all that has captured Justin’s attention. Carmalina too has had more than her fair share of hardship and that has lead her to the London stage.
Justin and Carmalina form a mutually beneficial business agreement that should see Carmalina able to start a new life at the end of the agreement and Justin disowned. Both parties are adamant that this is a business agreement and set down the conditions they feel are imperative to success.
Not all is as it seems with our hero and heroine and this story will take them further from who they thought they were than even they could ever have imagined.
Justin is completely focused on achieving his ends, to the exclusion of all else at times, and his mission blinds him to what is around him. This makes him come across as extremely self-centred because nothing is as important as achieving his goal, regardless of who he takes down on the way. We also see that side of him that is passionate and made to be a lover. Carmalina sees a vulnerability in him, a glimpse of the man buried under a lifetime of pain and insignificance.
Carmalina is complex, even she isn’t sure who she is or what she wants. What she does know is that it took a lot for her to accept Justin’s proposition, knowing the likely consequences, and even though she took the offer she isn’t willing to relinquish control.
These two characters are flawed, and determined to stick to the spirit of their agreement even if only through sheer stubbornness of will but it isn’t long before the stakes are changed. Are either of them strong enough to see this through?
Carmalina is an opera singer in a time where there is a very distinct class line and a member of the theatre is viewed in the same light as even more scandalous female professions but Carmalina is far from what you would expect. She is strong willed and more than happy to stand up for herself and for what she believes in.
The story is easy to immerse yourself in and contains a couple of intriguing twists, some that surprised me more than others.
Carmalina and Justin both deserve a happily ever after but on more than one occasion it looks like it may never happen. Just where will this scandal lead them? I recommend you grab a copy and find out for yourself. I will definitely be on the lookout for future Bronwyn Stuart releases.