Whisper of Scandal
May 1811. Commodore David Ware has left his widow, society belle Lady Joanna, and his closest friend, Alexander, Lord Grant, a legacy – the guardianship of his illegitimate daughter – on the condition that Lady Joanna, from whom he was long estranged, travel to Spitsbergen to claim the child, currently lodged at the monastery of Bellsund.
Jo has longed for a child and nothing will stop her from voyaging to the Arctic – not even Alex and the inconvenient attraction they both feel for the other.
The author admits that there was no permanent settlement, let alone a monastery, on Spitsbergen in the early 19th century, but then this is the sort of story where belief can be happily suspended.
However, while I enjoyed Jo and Alex’s sparring and later, their deepening relationship, and the author’s sly parallels between celebrity culture and the power of the popular press “then” and “now”, I initially found Jo flighty and inconsistent as a character, and her erstwhile friend Lottie was just wrong. It was as if Sex and the City’s Samantha had donned an Empire-line gown!
I was unconvinced by the Arctic setting of the second part of the book, although the plot rattles along to a dramatic climax as both Jo and Alex find their emotions stripped as raw as the landscape.
I found more empathy with Jo’s character in these last chapters, and, in Alex Grant, the author has given us the perfect romantic hero – handsome, dashing, brave, yet emotionally vulnerable.