Cassandra Dean's Silk series features a trio of aspiring barristers and the women In their lives. Silk & Scandal is the first book and features Thomas Cartwright and Lady Nicola Fitzgibbons, neighbors and childhood friends. Lady Nicola is the daughter of a diplomat and has live most of her life away from London. It is a surprise that she managed to find one friend: Thomas Cartwright, adopted by the Lord Harry and Lady Millicent at a young age.
Now he is studying to be a barrister and Nicola is away again, accompanying her father across the world. It is during this separation that Thomas sees how very disparate their circumstances are: she's the granddaughter of an Earl, and he is a nobody aspiring to be a somebody. She creates scandal wherever she goes and he wants to build a proper career in politics. They've exchanged letters all their lives, and have shared a wonderful friendship, but Thomas makes the painful decision to end their correspondences -- believing it would be best for the both of them.
I don't believe that Nicola intended to be scandalous. I think it's just part of her life tragedy, that, unwittingly, trouble finds her even when she isn't looking for it. She has done her best to live properly, but, I think, the primal need for companionship and friendship sometimes overpowers good sense. It's also very sad that, the one person she expects to understand and accept her has also rejected her.
Well, it appears I have done it again. The Scandalous Lady Nicola, that's what they whisper here of me, when they think my back is turned and I cannot hear.
But, Thomas, I ask you, can I help it if two gentlemen see fit to duel over me? You may be assured I did not lead them on, no more than any other girl here. Perhaps I danced with each more than was seemly, and I may have shown a little more affection than was wise, but they both should have known there was nothing in it. They, as I, saw fit to relieve the unmitigated boredom that is the British quarter in Hong Kong.
Now, Nicola is back and wants answers from Thomas. It's an emotional confrontation between two very good friends and I could really feel Nicola's anxiety over being rejected by Thomas: she really doesn't have anyone else in her life, and definitely not anyone who knows her as well as Thomas does. She's very focused on saving their friendship.
How was it she'd been gone and yet he could still read her? She was overly bright, because she worried about his response. She spoke quickly, because she couldn't bear it if he refused her. Bloody hell, eight years had passed. Eight. How could he still now her so well?
- Chapter 1
* * *
Clearly, he needed her help and, knowing Thomas, he would not ask. Making her way to his side of the desk, she stopped beside him. Without comment, he watched her, back still rigorously straight. Hesitantly, she lifted her hand and smoothed her fingers through his hair.
Instantly, she froze. She would not force him to accept her comfort, and she would not be the cause of any more distress.
- Chapter 3
I wanted to dislike Thomas for not understanding, for not being a better friend ... but, considering his background, I understand why Thomas continues to strive to better himself. Thomas believed Nicola would hold him back, but, in fact, Nicola has the opposite effect on Thomas's life and career.
This short story is a very nice study of the opposites-attract theme. At 5 chapters, this is short, sweet and completely satisfying. I also enjoyed reading the letters between Nicola and Thomas, and the letters seem to be a common theme in this series of short stories. (After I finished this book, I went and read Silk & Scorn , the second book in the series.)