-- A Romantic Book Affairs Review
Rating: B-/C+ ... Heat: Warm
Life has not been kind to Cleopatra Hadley or her family. When the story opens, Cleo is holding in her arms the body of yet another stillborn half-sibling. Cleo is charged with the harrowing task of taking the tiny body to the undertaker. This is a familiar occurrence for Cleo, who is her mother's oldest daughter--one of fourteen living children and numerous that did not survive. Cleo's life is filled with births and deaths, all at the hands of her stepfather and his rather... prodigious need to procreate.
When Cleo returns home, she finds her mother out of bed and entertaining a strange man who turns out to be a representative for her father--a man she doesn't know and has never met. He is offering to give her mother enough coin to last the family two years... if Cleo agrees to come live with him. For her family's sake, Cleo accepts the offer.
And then everything changes for Cleo--taking her from impoverished with no expectations to an heiress who must marry an English gentleman (her father's request). As Cleo has no desire whatsoever for a handsome face or a virile body, she sets her sights on the elderly (see: octogenarian) Lord Thrumgoodie. As he is both feeble and frail--and couldn't produce any heirs with his previous four wives--Cleo see's him as safe from both consummation of the marriage and unwanted pregnancy.
Logan McKinney is the opposite of safe. Logan's Scottish estate is in need of many repairs, so he is expected to marry an heiress. A seemingly easy task until he is introduced to the vapid ladies on the marriage mart. When Logan meets Cleo, he thinks she is the answer to his problems. And so he pursues her, cajoles and woos her. To say it isn't an easy task is quite the understatement.
Nothing about Cleo is easy.
There are a great many things I loved about Lessons from a Scandalous Bride. Cleo is a clever and resourceful lady who happens to have the weight of the world (or, fourteen siblings and her mother) on her shoulders. Her sense of responsibility and selflessness was endearing. And then there is Logan, who is six feet plus of tall, dark, and handsome, and cares enough for his family and people to give up love for financial security. A man who won't let Cleo hide behind her deeply rooted fears. I enjoyed the development of their feelings and Logan's pursuit of Cleo. I even liked the way things played out with Lord Thrumgoodie.
But there was also a great sense of missed opportunities within the story. I believe the rush to resolve Logan and Cleo's emotional stand-off at the end could have taken place earlier. I don't think saving it for the last 20% worked well for this story. It didn't leave enough time for me to truly believe in their `I love you's'--not after such a long battle of wills. My other (and biggest) complaint is with the way things are resolved for Cleo's half-siblings and mother... It didn't feel right. Or natural. I don't think Cleo would have waited that long to retrieve them. Or even just check on them. It was a great resolution, just oddly timed.
All in all, Miz Jordan gives us a wonderful romance with a rich sense of backstory--filled with tender and touching moments... and a hero and heroine you can't help but cheer for.
Cleo wrapped her arms around his neck and clung as if some great force might pull her away, separate them. Their mouth consumed each other, kissing, sucking...
He groaned her name. "I have to have you, Cleo...please..."