Rein Montgomery, the duke of Wroxly, live as a commoner? His late uncle's will is painfully clear: Rein must survive without his wealth or title in the meanest of London's streets for one month, or else lose his entire fortune. Luckily, his ability to charm the ladies have never failed him anywhere, anytime. And he has his newest conquest in sight: a beguiling market girl named Anna Rose Brooks.
Anna's heart is kind and her intelligence keen, but she's not sure what to make of this dashing stranger lost in the rough district of St. Giles. Is he gentleman or rake? She offers him shelter for one night, but he wants thirty. She tries to keep her distance, but he tempted her to share his bed. She give in to scandal by becoming his mistress, but he wants her soul. Anna is no fool, she knows the men who come to ST. Giles do not often stay. And now she is faced with her biggest fear: that when he leaves, he will take her heart.
A Romance Readers at Heart top pick for 2004
Selected by Barnes and Noble.com as one of the Best Books of 2004
RT BOOKclub top pick for July
"Shades of My Fair Lady color this farcical Regency from Britton...a fairy tale that succeeds." - Publisher's Weekly
"I found it difficult to put SCANDAL down. Romantics at heart should add Pamela Britton's latest offering to their reading lists." - Roundtable Reviews
"Scandal is a page-turning romance that will engage your attention from the very first chapter...With a deft touch of humor and a dash of danger, Scandal will enchant and entertain readers who expect the best in historic romance. Pamela Britton delivers in spades!" - Paula - Five Roses - A Romance Reviews
"Pamela Britton has a unique ability to combine pathos and humor in a way that makes me love her writing...Her characters are wonderfully written and make you ache to comfort them. Except for one point which seemed a contradiction in terms to me, I loved this book." - Carolyn., Rakehell.com
"Pamela Britton has shown herself a past master at crafting intriguing tales of historical romance and this is no exception...Scandal is a treat to read." - Bookloons.com
"For a well-written story that will hold your interest until the very end, pick up a copy of SCANDAL." - Joyce Koehl, Romance Reviews Today
"Scandal very nearly becomes the third consecutive keeper of mine by Pamela Britton...Ms Britton's ease with humor is easily her strongest point about her writing and the fact that her characters are refreshing twists on romance archetypes only make her work more enjoyable." - Everything Romantic (Mrs. Giggles) Rating 84
"Scandal, the newest novel by Pamela Britton, is a delightful Cinderella story with oftentimes smooth and fun writing and characters who possess the perfect blend of qualities readers want in a hero and heroine, with a touch of self-centered humanness that often made me chuckle." - All About Romance - Rating B (Lori Sowell)
"What can I say - I loved this book! For me, this was a total read and Pam Britton retains her status of being kept on my 'auto-buy' list!" - Marilyn, Historicalromancewriters.com
"Sexy, lively, and irresistible, Britton's latest is reminiscent of the Mel Brooks movie Life Stinks and just as endearing, poignant and amusing. Britton strikes gold, taking readers on a roller-coaster ride that brings a smile and a tear." TOP PICK - RT BOOKclub
"Sexy and sensual, this Pygmalion-in-reverse story shows how, with the right woman, a selfish nobleman can become a genuinely nice person in spite of himself. As in Britton's other excellent books, this romance is laced with lots of humor." - Shelley Mosley, Booklist
"Ms. Britton has gifted us with an outrageously captivating story that will steal your heart. The British slang is a riot, along with a treasure trove of unique and wonderful secondary characters. SCANDAL makes you sigh and cry and smile for a mile. It's a breath of fresh air, a dazzling delight, an escape into your heart not be missed." - Suzanne Tucker, The Best Reviews
"This is a novel that anyone who loves a good historical will treasure. Ms. Britton has proven that she can write a story with enduring characters, a great story line, and enough funny moments mixed in with seriousness and sensuality to have you wanting more." - Wendy Keel, The Romance Reader's Connection
"SCANDAL is such a delight that I don't want to spoil your enjoyment [by giving spoilers]. These two characters should go into that small group of memorable pairs including The Rake and The Reformer and An Arranged Marriage. SCANDAL is a novel in which every detail is perfect...Enjoy!" - Jean Hanke, ReaderToReader.com
"Pamela Britton is no longer a rising star in the field of romance: she is a star, and an especially brilliant one...Without a doubt, SCANDAL, by Pamela Britton, is one of the most satisfying and delightful romance books I've read this year. It is NOT to be missed!" - Nancy Davis, Romance Reader at Heart
In March of 1819, at exactly eleven-thirty in the morning, during an overcast Spring day that blew blustery and cold, Anna Rose Brooks rendered the duke of Wroxly senseless.
Of course, at the time, she had no idea he was a duke. Indeed, seconds before the accident, she’d been atop the a roof of her tenemant-the three-story buildings in St. Giles so packed together they formed a sort of field-cursing at her kite because the daft thing was about to sink into the busy street below.
"No," she told the triangular shape that hung in the air above her head, darting and ducking this way and that with a crackle of the canvas material. "You will not do this to me," she added, tugging on the string.
Blast it, she'd spent hours crafting this particular design, but the bloody thing kept insisting on zigging and zagging against the gray backdrop like a ball between two buildings, lowering, and then lowering some more, and then not lowering--diving.
"Ballocks," she cursed, letting go of the string. She ran to the edge of the roof, her heart beating a disastrous thump as she watched her precious invention fall toward the carriage-jingling, pedestrian-clogged street below. A man had just stepped out of a carriage, his hat and walking stick firmly in hand. He must have caught a glimpse of her kite as he stepped out for Anna saw him glance up.
What happened next Anna would swear wasn't possible. Indeed, she would later tell her best friend Molly that it appeared as if the hand of God himself pressed down on her kite. Suddenly, it took on the speed of a battering ram, and even from her perch way up on high, she could see what was about to happen. So, too, could the man, at least judging by the way his eyes widened.
And then widened even more.
The kite whacked him on the forehead like a tree branch bent back by a mischievous child.
Anna covered her mouth. The man fell to the street, arms splayed like Jesus on a cross-without the cross. She stared, waiting for him to move. He didn't. A passerby paused for a second, looked down, then stepped over him as if a prone man was nothing unusual in St. Giles, which, she realized, it wasn't. The pedestrian walked on.
Others had begun to notice, too. Someone from across the street dodged traffic to kneel by the man's side. Another person ran forward. When the first man looked up and crossed himself, Anna darted back from the edge.
And then the magnitude of what had just happened hit her. She straightened in horror.
What if he’s gone to kingdom come?
She lurched to her feet, the cloak she wore getting tangled up in her feet, which made her step back, which then pulled the neckline taut causing her to strangulate for a full three seconds before she sorted her feet, the garment and her wits out (though the last was questionable).
What if I’ve dicked him in the knob?
For a few breathless-nay, panicked moments-she contemplated dashing off in the other direction. Hiding on the next roof over, perhaps, or maybe even pretending she hadn’t noticed her sail was responsible for the man lying in the street. But what with the myriad of carriages thumping and clanging about as they passed, pickpockets and goodness knew what else on the loose, she couldn’t just leave him there.
“Never seen anything like it,” old Ben the cocoa nut trader was saying when she reached the street below-out of breath, marginally less panicked, but cringing when she saw where her victim lay: atop a stream of rotted vegetables, gnawed bones and bilge water otherwise known as the gutter.
“Knocked him clean off his feet,” he added. “Like a rider what got smacked in the head by a branch. Back went his head, up went his feet, splat, down he went.”
“Is ‘e dead?” asked one of the market maids, the wilted purple flower in her bedraggled black hat bobbing as she glanced down.
Aye, is he? Anna silently asked, approaching more slowly now.
“’e’s had ‘is bell rung,” a chimney sweep answered as he knelt to check for a pulse, his ash covered finger leaving a mark on the man’s neck. “But he’s not ready for a bone box yet,” he announced with a look up, his eyes two slashes of white in a sooty face, tall, black hat matching his bedraggled jacket. “Pity. Like to get me hands on those clothes’o his. Bang up to the mark. Must be a gent. Look at them shiny boots.”
Anna almost collapsed in relief. He would live. She hoped.
Old Ben looked up just then, his wrinkled face frowning, and Anna knew he’d spotted her. Worse, she knew he knew who’d been flying the kite. Well, and why wouldn’t he know? On the back of her invention, marked as plain as eye balls, were the words, “If found, return to Anna Brooks, No. 7, St. Giles High Street.” But even without that, everyone in the rookery knew of her fierce determination to win the contest sponsored by the Navy. Aye, and that she'd been flying her sails whenever she took a break from selling her wares at Convent Garden. They all encouraged her. Or at least they had. Now that she’d bashed someone in the knowledge box, they might not be so supportive.
“You’ve done it now, Anna lass,” Ben said, confirming her words.
A glance down at the gentleman who lay there with his arms splayed out like that statue of Jesus at St. Paul’s Cathedral made Anna realize she had, indeed, ‘done it’.
“Look at the size of the knot on his knob,” the chimney sweep said, coming to his feet, which-as sad as it may seem-wasn’t much higher than when he’d been squatting down. Anna followed his gaze, wincing at the red circle imprinted on the gentleman’s head and that very oddly resembled a sundial. An inch and a half in diameter, blazing hot in color, it was exactly the same circumference as the wooden dowels she used as a frame for her sails. Hell’s fires.
“Will he live?” she asked, coming to Ben’s side.
All of them jumped back, Anna almost into the path of an approaching carriage before old Ben pulled her forward, the jarvis yelling at her as he rolled on by with a spray of mud and stinky water.
Green eyes opened, blinked, then closed again. “Tell me I am not laying atop what feels and smells like a rubbish heap,” he said, his aristocratic face flinching, his nose twitching like a rabbit’s. Or maybe it was the tiny flecks of mud that made him look like he had whiskers.
No one said a word.
“I take it from that stunned silence that I am, indeed, laying upon said rubbish heap.”
“I was afraid of that.”
Anna inched forward, watching as her victim opened his eyes again, glanced around, his gaze alighting upon each of them like a dragonfly darting from lily to lily. She held her breath for a second when it alighted on her, but like that winged creature it didn’t linger, instead it came to a stop on Ben.
“What the blazes hit me?”
Ben, the traitor, looked at Anna.
The chimney sweep looked at Anna.
The market maid looked at her, too. Hell’s fires, had everyone put it together that she had ‘done it’?
“My kite,” she said rather reluctantly.
“A kite,” the man groaned, his hand clutching at his head, his words barely audible over the disorderly noise of the street. "Rendered low by a child’s toy. Bloody hell.”
And then he laughed, though to be certain Anna didn’t realize it was laughter she heard at first. There was so much noise and confusion in the road-street hawkers crying out their rhymes, a dog barking as it darted between moving carriages, more than one driver yelling at it as it passed, their voices echoing off the tall gray buildings that surround them-that when the low rumbling penetrated her eardrums it didn’t register at first. But then the rumble became an audible guffaw, one that was abruptly choked off with a wince of pain.
“Well,” Ben said, “seems as if he’s recovered.”
“That ‘e ‘as,” the sweep said, melting into the crowded street.
And then the market maid turned and left which meant Anna had nothing but noise to keep her company, that and wry green eyes that stared up at her, not to mention a knot of guilt as big as her ball of twine heavy in her stomach.
“Would you be wanting some help getting up?” she asked, because it seemed as if she should offer to do something.
“A lovely idea,” he said, after which he moved onto an elbow, the muck beneath him emitting a horrible sucking sound that brought to mind body functions and leaky bellows.
“Good lord,” he said, pausing for a second. “Tell me that didn’t come from me.”
“’Twas the mud,” said Anna, squatting down near to him.
Their eyes met, and suddenly Anna felt like...well, off balance. Like she stood upon on a shore as a wave drew into the sea...as if the whole world moved at a blistering pace around her, but she stood still, alone, yet not alone. And then his eyes moved away and Anna came back to Earth, or rather St. Giles, though she found herself blinking a bit and wondering what the blazes had just happened.
“’Tis me who smells, isn’t it?” he said with a glance at his surroundings, his hand lifting to his head, eyes widening a bit as they felt the bump.
She nodded. “Aye.”
He closed his eyes, tilting his head back, Anna watching and trying to glean just who he was, this colorful dragonfly that had landed amongst the mud and muck of one of London’s seediest sides of town.
“Good lord, this day just couldn’t get worse, could it?” He opened his eyes, looked heavenward. “You’re up there laughing yourself into hysterics, are you not? Or perhaps you’re down there.” At which he glanced down, saying, “Bastard.” But when his gaze caught her own, his expression grew wry again. “I smell like a sewer.”
Who had he been talking to?
Oh, lord. She really had damaged his brain box. The ball of twine grew bigger.
“There’s an inn not far. Mayhap the bluffer will let you change there?”
“Bluffer?” he asked, brows lifting. He had extraordinary eyes. Green as the patina that colored an old piece of brass. Green like glass bottles when stacked six deep. Green like-
Lord love you, Anna, you’ve gone as crackers as your grandfather.
“Inn-keeper,” she said, realizing that he was still staring at her in confusion. Well, of course he’s struck all amort Anna, love. He doesn’t speak like you. For despite the mud on his clothes, ‘twas as plain as pikestaffs that he was a gentleman. Aye, she’d never seen fabric so fine as his dark blue jacket, the collar covered in fancy velvet that looked so soft, Anna longed to drag her finger across it to see if the nap would reverse. And though she hadn’t heard a person speak with the distinctive flat syllables and well-enunciated vowels of the hoity-toity in ages, she recognized it now, marveling that her own words had once sounded so pure and untainted. Aye, a long time ago.
“A lodging house. Capital idea,” he said.
“Here.” She stood, offering a hand, though she felt the usual pang of embarrassment she always felt at her work-worn fingers. She shoved the embarrassment aside, the smell of the busy street somewhat less cloying when inhaled from the great distance of five-feet-three inches. He accepted her assistance, his fingers slipping into her own as naturally as a glove, his hand warm and soft and so large it completely enveloped her own from fingertip to palm. And as he stood she found herself wondering just who the blazes he was? And noting that he was tall, and-she swallowed crookedly-handsome.
Aye, that was the reason why she’d reacted so strangely earlier. And it wasn’t merely a handsomeness of his dial plate, though there was that what with his arrogant cheekbones and aristocratic nose. Rather, it was something in the way he surveyed the world, in the way he looked around him as if he knew whatever he wanted was his for the taking. Power. That was what he exuded, like a bird of prey emitted power in just the lofty way it hung suspended in the air over the world. And like that bird of prey, there was also a rapine air that made Anna shiver in...what? Fear? No, not fear. Something else.
“Who are you?” she found herself asking.
“I-” He looked down at her, green eyes narrowing for a second. His mouth opened again, then closed. “I’m afraid I can’t say,” he said at last.
Panic hit her square in the heart then, the organ slapping her chest with enough force to make it hard to breathe for a moment.
“Where am I?” he asked, looking around them.
Oh, lord. Oh, saints above. She really had damaged his idea pot.
“St. Giles High Street,” she managed to say, though it felt rather like her mums had gone numb.
“St. Giles?” he exclaimed, the well modulated words as foreign a sound as a Turkish accent, and then he winced. “Good lord.”
“Steady now,” she said as he swayed on his feet, counterbalancing him with her own weight. It was then that she realized his walking stick and hat had been pilfered. Blast it, though she supposed she should be grateful that he hadn't been picked clean like a piece of carrion.
“It seems as if I’ve been hit harder than I thought.”
Ach, she thought, it would seem so. “Here,” she said. “Lean on me a bit."
"My walking stick."
"Gone," she said.
He looked around. "So it is."
"And you hat," she added, in case he looked for that, too.
"Good lord. Who would take a hat?"
"You might be surprised," she muttered, then gently pushed on his back. "C'mon, Gov, I’m going to take you to me ken.”
She translated for him, “The tenement I share with my grandfather.”
“Would it be closer than the lodging house, by chance?” he said, looking suddenly pale.
“Then I would be most obliged.”
“You don’t, by chance, live on the moon?” Rein asked a few moments later when they headed up yet another flight of spectacularly dirty stairs, the third set to be exact.
He glanced down at the woman who’d added a crowning glory to his splendiferous day. Young, she was. Obviously of the lower orders if they were in St. Giles. Lord, he still couldn’t believe he'd been dropped in such a place, and that his hat and walking stick had been stolen. But the woman before him seemed confirmation of the low place he had landed. She wore the uniform of the poor: gray cloak and battered half-boots. Fifteen, perhaps sixteen years old. Too young to suit his taste, though in another lifetime perhaps not.
“Some days it feels that way,” he heard her murmur, clutching that silly child’s toy of hers like it was her only treasure. And perhaps it was.
Rein looked away, the anger chipping at his cheek again. Damn them. He'd been dropped in St. Giles of all places. Why not the docks? Or Whitechaple? Gracious, if his uncle wanted him dead, there were easier ways to do it. And for half a moment he thought about going back to the solicitor and telling him exactly how he felt. Outraged. Angered. Furious. Surely any court in the land would see the ludicrous nature of the Will. He should contest it immediately.
Only the idea of giving up so quickly stung. No, it rankled. His uncle had obviously thought such a challenge beyond Rein. Rein would be damned before he proved his uncle right.
The sound of a child's cry rang out from the landing below, the plaintive wail one that brought to mind hunger. Other sounds could be heard, too. Coughing, yelling, a cacophony of noise that filled Rein’s ears and made his head ache like the very devil. The wooden stairs they climbed were scuffed with marks, as if a thousand heavy feet had scaled them with soles as hard as stone. They creaked with every step, the sound echoing off the narrow walls that had been plastered at one time or another, but had long since lost that plaster to clenched fists or age.
“I’m afraid my grandfather is away for the moment,” said the small sprite next to him as they came to what must have been her landing, her kite balanced on a finger before her. “I should warn you,” she added, “our rooms are a bit-” He glanced down, but she wasn’t looking at him, rather she looked at the door and frowned, the cloak she wore so battered and worn he knew it’d been years since it was new. “Rather at sixes and sevens,” she finished.
Rein didn't move, just waited for her to open the door. She seemed to have to force herself to do so, reaching out to give the door a turn and a tug.
Sixes and sevens, Rein decided a second later, did not begin to describe it.
Strange contraptions covered every available surface of the small, small room. Odd things like a table with a ladder affixed to the side of it, and a giant wheel with stirrups attached to a huge-truly huge-fireplace bellow pointed directly at them. Shelves covered every available wall, odd bottles and devices on surfaces not taken up by books.
But beneath it all lay a poverty no amount of machinery could disguise: a bare, wooden floor, each board as nicked and scarred as an old penny. Three windows-dirty, he might add-stretched across the front, one equally threadbare armchair-also brown-sitting near a hearth crouched low in one corner.
“My grandfather is an inventor,” she said in a solemn little voice.
"What does he invent?”
“Things," she said. "Or he used to, before he became ill.”
“I see,” he said.
She peered up at him, then back into the room again, perhaps seeing it from his perspective for the first time, for she frowned, her teeth-very healthy teeth, he might add-nibbling her bottom lip.
And well she should look askance, not that he’d be rude enough to point that out to her. “It is-“
“Don’t say it,” she said. “I know. I do me best to keep it clean, but it never seems to work. Grandfather comes fumbling in and messes it all up. Here. Sit down,” she guided him toward the armchair. “But first let’s see about getting you cleaned up.” She reached up and undid her cloak, removing it as she turned away from him so she could hang it by the door, and when she turned back to him, Rein received his second shock of the day.
Egads. “You’re not a child, are you?”