I received this book for free from Tasty Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Series: Scandalous #4
Published by Avon on March 29, 2016
Genres: Historical Romance, Romance
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Olivia Townsend is in trouble and out of options. Pursued by a desperate man in search of a lost treasure, which she doesn’t have, she’s got only two things in her favor: her late husband’s diary, which she was never meant to see… and the man who was her first-and only-love. Losing him broke her heart, though she’s been careful to hide it for the last ten years. But when he comes to her aid and vows to stand by her this time, no matter what, she can’t help but hope things will be different this time.
James Weston has blamed himself for letting Olivia down when she needed him years ago, and he will not do it again. Fortunately, his unusual life has equipped him well to outsmart the villain chasing Olivia. Unfortunately, being so near her again threatens to expose every secret in his heart…even those that should stay hidden forever.
When I reviewed Caroline Linden’s Love in the Time of Scandal last year, I’ll admit that I really found myself enjoying the character of Jamie as well as intrigued by Olivia, so I made a note to check their story out once it was released. With Six Degrees of Scandal, I was expecting a bit of adventure, a bit of steam, a bit of leading-man drool-time, and a bit of a big reveal. I got all of these, but I got one more thing—a bittersweet story of innocent love triumphing over time and the machinations of avarice.
Jamie was everything you could want in a childhood sweetheart you get a second chance with years and years later. That is to say, he’s got a mischievous streak that has turned him into a bit of a rogue, but it’s tempted by that sweet affection that keeps him from being a rake. Reading scenes from his boyhood only helped to underscore the man he had become, and that really rounded out the character for me.
The same is true of Olivia; because I got to see the hope and innocence of her girlhood years, I found myself regretting that she didn’t get the chance to blossom into adulthood but was instead thrust into it by a family who didn’t understand her or love her enough to let her choose her own path. And while the circumstances in which we find her in this novel carry an edge of danger, it felt like she was finally getting the chance to take the reins of her life in hand.
This novel is a case of one and one make three for me, because these two characters alone would’ve been interesting, but what really stood out was the many layers to their love story and the sweet way it evolved through the book. Here, you get two people who have loved each other from childhood but were separated by circumstance and their own naïveté before they got the chance to explore who they might become to one another.
Then something happens, and they are thrown together as adults, and while you might expect a story about falling love again, you instead realize that it’s not so much a rediscovery as a journey into forgiveness and two people building the courage to open doors in their hearts that they had shut years before. As a result, instead of a storm of love and lust, you get a deliberate and sumptuous buildup of heat that makes your insides gooey.
Plus, on a lighter note, we finally learn the truth about the scandalous Lady Constance!
A note for readers: You won’t be able to read this book and not realize it’s one of a series, but the story still works on its own even if you haven’t read any of the other Scandalous books by Caroline Linden. Still, if you want to backtrack before taking Six Degrees of Scandal on, just scroll down for a list of the books in the series.
Feel Factor Rating
Series Reading Order
Excerpt from Six Degrees to Scandal by Caroline Linden
A tapping beside her broke into her thoughts. She glanced out the window and saw the boy who had lured her into trouble, grinning as he crouched out of sight next to the carriage. “Do you walk in the woods?” he whispered.
Alarmed, she shook her head, even though she did walk in the woods every chance she got. Telling him that would only cause her more trouble.
Disappointment flickered over his face. “Oh well.” He stepped back. “Good-bye, then.” He walked back to his family. Olivia eyed them curiously. The father was tall and lean, and his wife was very pretty, with a gloriously beautiful gown. Two girls about Daphne’s age stood beside her, although the blond girl was fidgeting in boredom and ran up to her brother as he approached them. He laughed at whatever she said, the carefree sound floating back to Olivia’s ears. Neither of his parents reproved him for laughing on Sunday.
The Herbert coachman finally snapped his whip and set the horses in motion. Olivia watched the Westons as the coach drove away. Upstarts they might be, but they looked like happy ones.
She had almost forgotten the impudent boy several days later, when she finished her lessons and was able to slip out of the house. Mother wouldn’t approve, but Mother had gone into town to the dressmaker, and Miss Willets, the governess, was fond of sneaking a glass of sherry and having an afternoon nap when Mother was away. This suited the girls quite well. Daphne retreated to the nursery with her dolls, where she fashioned new dresses for them out of scraps of Mother’s discarded gowns, and Olivia stole a book from the library and headed for the woods. Mother said Shakespeare was vulgar and too exciting for ladies, which made Olivia eager to read his plays, even though she was forced to hide away to do so.
There was a quiet little glen not too far from Kellan Hall, the Herbert home, with a fallen tree and enough sun to be pleasant without being hot. Settled on the tree, with her feet propped on a nearby stone, Olivia had just reached the magnificent scene where Romeo revealed himself to Juliet and professed his love in words that would rend the heart of any sentient being . . . when someone spoke behind her.
“I thought you didn’t walk in the woods.”
She gave a little scream and dropped her book. “You—you,” she spluttered. “I am not walking!” It was a stupid thing to say, but he had interrupted at a very inopportune moment. Would Juliet return Romeo’s love?
“Oh, did you come into the woods by carriage?” He jumped over the tree trunk and scooped up the book. “Romeo, eh? Do you like it?”
She glared at him and reached for the book. “Yes.”
He handed it back. “It wasn’t one of my favorites. My sisters wanted to act it out, but Penelope kept giggling when she was supposed to be dying.”
Olivia’s eyes widened. Dying? Which character died? She hoped it wasn’t Juliet. “Don’t tell me any more!”
“I liked that Henry V, though,” he went on. “Smashing good battle. I’m James, by the way. James Weston.”
She gave him a reproachful look. It wasn’t proper for a gentleman to introduce himself to a lady, and he ought to know that, even if he wasn’t a gentleman. “I know.”
He grinned. In the sunlight his brown hair had an auburn hue, and his eyes were sharp and lively. He couldn’t be much more than thirteen or fourteen, but he was already tall in Olivia’s view. “And you’re Miss Olivia Herbert of Kellan Hall.”
“Yes.” She lowered her gaze to her book, hoping he would go away.
“So,” he said after a moment, “if you only walk in the woods to find a place to read, you must know about the waterfall.”
Her eyes stopped taking in the words on the page. “Waterfall?” she asked, intrigued in spite of herself.
He tilted his head and gave her a sly smile. “I can show you.”
Slowly she closed the book. “Is it far?”
And before she knew it, she was following him along a winding track through the trees, to where a small stream splashed over a fall of rocks. It was no taller than Olivia herself, but it brought a smile to her face. She’d lived at Kellan Hall all her life and never discovered it.
Giveaway [US Only]
Get the chance to win a print set of books 1 through 3 of the Scandalous series (Love and Other Scandals, It Takes a Scandal, and Love in the Time of Scandal) by entering the raffle below.