Thanks to a bout with insomnia last night, and to having downloaded this book to my Kindle just hours before, I sped through the first of my Holiday Reading Challenge books in no time. Scandal of the Season, the fourth book in a series by Christie Kelley, is a wonderful read set during the holiday season. Even if I hadn't been unable to sleep last night, I doubt I would have been able to put the book down until I was finished.
Of the group of women that make up the core heroines of the series, this book focuses on Victoria. Victoria hides many a secret from her friends, all that is except Sophie, a medium who knows more about her friend than Victoria realizes.
We also have Anthony, Viscount Somerset, who is troubled by an encounter with an unknown woman ten years ago. That same night he uncovered some shocking truths about his family, and the events of that night led to the man we've met in the previous books...one that appears hard, callous and on the fringe of acceptability. Sophie is his illegitimate half-sister, and previously he's been her accomplice in her matchmaking schemes. However, his participation was built in large part on Sophie's agreement at some point to tell him who the mystery woman he has so much guilt over is. In addition, we learn that Tony hates Christmas and December. In his mind, nothing good EVER happens during the holiday season, and when he lists all the reasons why he thinks so, it's not hard to really see why.
And that's where we find Victoria and Tony, ten years later. I loved their story. Full of mistrust yet passion and fiery interactions, the story just seemed real in the sense that it was the emotions and interactions that I can see these two strong, independent characters engaging in. The supporting cast was also well done, as we follow Tony's and Victoria's story.
The basic premise, in addition to the history between Tony and Victoria, is that Tony is also an agent for the Crown who enlists Victoria's help, somewhat unwillingly and unknowingly, for his final mission -- unraveling a plot to murder the Prince. Posing as his mistress at a house party, we see the relationship between the two develop, even though both believe there is no future. Tony needs to wed someone respectable and from high society in order to repair his reputation in society. Victoria (or Anne as we come to find out) does not fit that description for a variety of reasons. Yet of course, that does not keep them from falling in love.
The story itself is fabulous. There is a dark turn at the end, that while shocking and horrifying, is well-done in the sense that it truly is a continuation of the story up to this part. While some of the basic premises of the tale might have been foreseeable, the details certainly were not and kept me engaged all the way through.
In addition to the story of Tony and Victoria, there is the underlying drama surrounding Tony's family, which is still playing out ten years later, and unknown to both of them, ties the two of them together in additional ways. I thoroughly enjoyed Scandal of the Season and very much look forward to the next in the series, which I hope, is Sophie's story.