Prelude to A Scandal, Once Upon A Scandal & The Perfect Scandal are a trio of books from Delilah Marvelle that are being released in early 2011. While considered a "series", the books are completely independent of each other in terms of story line (one slight carry over from book 2 to 3, but nothing that matters to the basic story) and can be read essentially in any order. What links the series is a book - a book of etiquette or young women, which plays a role in each story in some form or another.
Before I summarize each book let me do an overall review. I like Marvelle's writing style for the most part, and I enjoy her characters. They are likable, independent and her books all have unique story lines (I read her School of Gallantry series, so these were not the first by her I'd read). I get sucked in to the story hard core -- I read all three books within two days. I like that investment into a story, and I think it bodes well for a book and an author. I also have to say that I thought all three have great covers...I read ebooks, so I didn't have them in hand to see, but the screen versions are beautiful.
That being said, part of the reason I couldn't put the books down is that I'm left wanting at the end of each. The way the story ends, I'm left wanting more. I just don't quite feel satisfied with all I've invested in the previous 200 or so pages with how things are wrapped up. That's both good and bad. Could it have been solved with an epilogue? Maybe. I'm not sure. Maybe I just liked the story and the characters enough that I wanted the next book in the series to have involved them somehow.
Prelude to A Scandal (January 1, 2011) - Justine Palmer is the daughter of an Earl, but she spent most of her life with her parents in Africa as her father researched and explored the habits of the native animals. Upon their return to England, her father's writings end up getting him imprisoned. Out of desperation, Justine turns to the one person she thinks can help - her father's key patron, the Duke of Bradford (who, is also the man that Justine has been falling for ever since she first met him. Justine offers herself to Bradford, who declines, but counters with an offer of marriage. However, Bradford has his own secrets that will challenge them as they attempt to move forward and earn a happy ever after. Bradford's addiction, which plays a central role in the book, is one that is no doubt real, and serious, yet the way he (and it) are portrayed, makes it almost unnecessary. He comes off like any other arrogant, entitled, alpha male who has too much responsibility at too young an age with no family support. That is something we see often in the genre. Using the addiction as the reason is one way to make it unique, but it just wasn't something I felt contributed a whole lot to the story. The battle of wills between Justine and Bradford is interesting, as we see them both come into their own.
Once Upon A Scandal (February 1, 2011) - Marvelle's version of a fairy tale, this is a story of lost lovers reunited after years apart. Victoria Emerson has not yet "come out" to society when she and Jonathon, Viscount Remington, fall in love and reach an understanding -- on the eve of his trip to Italy. Due to forces (somewhat) beyond his control, Remington's trip ends up with him becoming the ciscebo of an Italian woman in order to pay off debts and save his family. Because of the woman's husband (an evil man) and because of his shame, Remington essentially cuts off all contact with Victoria, breaking her heart. Fast forward five years, and Victoria's father is on his deathbed. In order to fulfill his final wishes, and receive her inheritance, she must choose one of three gentleman that her father has identified and marry within a week. Little does she know, that one is Remington, who has been in touch with her father. Of the three, two end up withdrawing for various reasons, and while Victoria does not want to have anything to do with Remington, she ends up capitulating and becoming his wife. Her plan though is to have it be a marriage in name only; Remington, however, agrees to this only if she gives him a month in Italy. As they try to move on from the past and look forward, it's not an easy journey with several challenges thrown in. An interesting story, I enjoyed it, but it was probably the least favorite of the three.
The Perfect Scandal (March 1, 2011) - Tristan, Marquis of Moreland, has structured his life to avoid scandal at any cost. That is, until he meets his new neighbor, the beautiful Polish Countess Zosia. Zosia has been sent, supposedly, to England under the Prince's protection, for her own safety and to be wed. However, as she and Tristan determine whether or not they should move forward and act upon the attraction they undoubtedly feel for each other, other forces are at work that challenge them. Zosia may be more than she appears, and there is a Russian officer with an interest in her as well, for a number of reasons. When Zosia and Tristan's attempt to escape is foiled, the truth comes to light and we see Zosia and Tristan evaluate who they are, what they believe in, and how to become the people they want to be yet remain true to their hearts. It's a wonderful story with great characters, wrapped in with a lot of history.