Lady Ciara Sheffield is a young widow with an eight-year-old son, Peregrine "Perry". The serious-minded scholar is an expert in chemistry. This is how the rumors of her husband's death began. The inquest of Sheffield's death showed no proof of foul play. Yet Sheffield's horrid relatives have helped rumors spread that Ciara had poisoned her husband. The nephew, Arthur Battersham, and his mother are trying to reopen the inquest. They are high in Society and well connected. With their whispering into the right ears, they could very well succeed in their attempt. Arthur has gambled himself into debt, which is why Ciara believes the Sheffield relatives are campaigning to steal away her son, by proving her unfit to be a mother. Should they win custody of Perry, they would also control his grand inheritance. Being called the Wicked Witch of Pont Street, Ciara keeps to herself and shields Perry from Society's barbs. Her close friends are the five women, two of which are elderly, which make up the Circle of Scientific Sibyls, affectionately known as the Circle of Sin. The other "Sinners" decide Ciara needs to get a fiancé with enough stature and connections in Society to counter the malicious machinations of Sheffield's relatives. And who better to play the part of a sham courtship than Lucas Bingham, the Earl of Hadley.
Lucas has never cared what Society thought of him. No matter how outrageous he behaves, Society loves him. Everyone loves nothing more than to read the morning paper to see what wild thing "Mad, Bad Had-ley" has recently done. However, Lucas does have a soft spot. His love for his uncle, Sir Henry Phelps, clearly shines through to those who know Lucas. Sir Henry has recently discovered what seems to be a lost manuscript by Hippocrates. Confined to a Bath chair, Sir Henry asks Lucas to ask Ciara to help decipher the manuscript. The "Sinners" convince Ciara and Lucas to make a deal. Ciara will tackle the enormous task of deciphering the manuscript and Lucas will escort her around Society to squelch the slanderous rumors that threaten to have her hanged. But soon the sham engagement becomes something more and then the accidents begin to happen. Lucas is determined to protect the brilliant widow and the adorable little boy he is coming to care way too much for.
***** FOUR AND A HALF STARS! Author Cara Elliott has created a magnificently compelling read! She has paired a scholar and a scoundrel. Well, science does show that opposites attract. This story follows that logic and I had a wonderful time watching the chemistry of these two main characters mix. This author has made a new fan in me! *****
Reviewed by Detra Fitch of Huntress Reviews.