Despite the word 'Christmas' in the title, this book isn't a Christmassy book at all. The 'scandal' in the title isn't particularly accurate either as although there's a small potential scandal in the book, nothing much comes of it. The scandal is the fact that our heroine, Maggie Pierce, has had to do something rather shocking in order to supposedly reduce her father's prison sentence from five years to one. Unfortunately for Maggie and her mother, it seems that her father will indeed be in prison for five years and they are no longer welcome in American society because of the shame. Not only that, Maggie's fiancé has thought better of it and broken off the engagement. Maggie and her mother Harriet are virtually peniless - fortunately they have enough money to travel to England to stay with the Duchess of Bellingham, Maggie's friend.
Of course, Maggie meets again Edward Hollings, Lord Hollings, who is apparently an Earl although doesn't seem to be the Earl of Anywhere. She met him in Newport previously and it's at this point that I realised there was a previous book in the series which clearly included these characters and which I haven't read. The rest of the book felt a little like I had broken in upon a conversation halfway through as I had missed the initial meeting and in fact initial falling-in-love between these two.
Anyway, Edward doesn't want to get married and Maggie believes that she can't marry him anyway because of the shocking thing she had to do back in New York. So she proceeds to try to win herself an older and safe man as a husband whilst having to cope with her mother's erratic behaviour and their general lack of money and prospects. The first two thirds of the book went rather slowly with various scenes between Maggie and Edward which consisted of them not talking directly but gazing longingly at each other.
The final third of the book picked up considerably and involved Maggie undertaking a trip on her own back to America, before all is resolved. I was very disappointed by the writing of an aspect of her sea voyage which could have been very interesting. Likewise the book didn't really reach a crescendo, more blundered to a stop, with all the foregoing events just sort of fizzling out. However at least there was a bit more action in the final third, even if much of it began to focus on Edward's sister Amelia, undoubtedly the subject of the next book.
Although set largely in England, the American heroine adds a slightly different angle to the usual Victorian story. However I found it rather difficult to like Maggie; she spends much of the first third of the book lying to people, she seems to act very selfishly and to try to attract men although she doesn't really like them, and she seems to have very little care for her mother or her best friend that she is visiting. In fact she's egocentricity personified. Edward was a much more appealing character although the author, being American, wasn't very good at describing English character, behaviour and speech.
Despite the Victorian setting of the book I didn't get much of a feel for life in England or in America and I didn't find myself warming to any of the characters in particular apart, perhaps, from Edward. However this is a good enough book to while away a few hours at an airport or in front of the fire at home.
Originally published for Curled Up With A Good Book © Helen Hancox 2009