How to Start a Scandal (The London School for Ladies)

Written by Madeline Martin
Review by Ray Thompson

Lady Violet Lavell’s father confronts her with two unappetizing options. Either marry before the season ends, or retire to the country to serve as governess to her sister’s four ‘unruly, spoiled’ children. Meanwhile Seth Sinclair, her neighbor next door, has returned from the Napoleonic Wars as the new Earl of Dalton after the death of his older brother. He would have preferred to remain a soldier, but cannot avoid his unexpected responsibilities, one of which is to marry and produce heirs. Might they not solve each other’s problem? Especially since they were friends, even as children?

There are, unfortunately, obstacles. He suffers from panic attacks after the Battle of Waterloo, while she is plump and has a dark secret. Both feel unworthy of each other.

The novel demonstrates the damage caused by low self-esteem and unforgiving social attitudes: as a soldier, Seth is ashamed of his PTSD and his struggles to conceal its symptoms; though attractive, Violet feels ashamed of her body and hearty appetite. Unkind mothers don’t help, nor the reluctance of everyone to be honest about their feelings. Interesting material here, but the elements are less well integrated than they might have been.