William (Will) Jellicoe and Antigone Preston meet at a private ball. They recognize each other as kindred spirits and instantly embark on a friendship while falling in love. There is just one little problem…
Antigone’s father has just passed away and she has been precipitously promised in marriage to a man three times her age and fifty times her immorality. Her mother, a panicky, long-game playing schemer, wants the advantageous match for Antigone to help facilitate an even better one for her other daughter, Cassandra.
In the Regency tradition of younger sons, Will Jellicoe is in the Navy, but is currently between engagements with Napoleon’s forces. He doesn’t know that last part yet, but the passing reference to “Elba” means Will may think he is out, but they are going to pull him back in. For now, he is on forced leave at half-pay and determined to get back to sea as soon as possible. Will meets Antigone when they choose the same library to hide in during a ball. Essex does a great job of portraying the spark between them, going so far as to have them call each other by their surnames as would have been the custom for male friends at the time. If I were an Antigone, I’d want to be called by my last name, too. It’s an endearing detail and indicative of the often droll style of the writing. Essex often repeats how much Will likes “Preston” and enjoys her company. Preston, for her part, thinks he’s great fun as well.
A Breath of Scandal got off to a quick start with banter and adventure, and did not stint on the villainous mustache twisting. Antigone’s fiance is indeed a vile adversary and her mother isn’t far behind. Despite the genre’s obligatory ridiculously compressed timeline, things lost a bit of momentum for me and the promising opening petered out to a fairly standard, if intense, ending. Overall, the writing was clever and I enjoyed the book. I borrowed A Breath of Scandal from my library. It was good enough that if the price were right, say $2.99 or less, I would likely buy more of Essex’s other Reckless Bride books for my Kindle, in particular Almost a Scandal which was the recommendation that had me looking for her work in the first place.
In other news, the hero’s name guaranteed I had the following P.G. Wodehouse Mike and Psmith quote stuck in my head throughout my reading: This…confirms my frequently stated opinion that Comrade Jellicoe is one of Nature’s blitherers.