Portrait of a Scandal
Harlequin Historical / January 21, 2014 / $6.50 print, $5.99 digital
Her heart and hope long since shattered, Amethyst Dalby is content with her life as an independent woman. With wealth of her own, and no one to answer to, she is free to live as she pleases.
Until a trip to Paris throws her into contact with the one man who still has a hold over her - the bitter but still devastatingly sensual Nathan Harcourt! Living as an artist, this highborn gentleman has been brought low by scandal - and he is determined to show Amethyst that life is much more fun if you walk on the dark side….
Sometimes the setting for a novel becomes as important a player as the protagonists, and so it is with the city of Paris in Annie Burrows's Portrait of a Scandal. The English are flocking to Paris now that the war is over and Amethyst Dalby is one of them. She is there, ostensibly, to find new markets for the business her aunt has left her.
Paris! She was really in Paris. Nothing could tell the world more clearly that she was her own woman. That she was ready to try new things and make her own choices in life. That she'd paid for the follies of her youth. And wasn't going to carry on living a cloistered existence, as though she was ashamed of herself. For she wasn't. She'd done nothing to be ashamed of.
In her youth, Amy had a sweet romance with Nathan Harcourt, only to have him abandon her. Her parents, horrified by the scandal, did the same and Amy was taken in by her aunt. The betrayal and years with her bitter aunt have changed her and now, in Paris, she is suddenly aware of the opportunity to remake herself.
She'd slammed the door shut on that Amy when he'd abandoned her. She'd tossed aside the former Amy, too, the one who was so intent on pleasing her parents. It had been much easier to nurture the anger Aunt Georgie had stirred up. She'd become angry Amy. Bitter Amy. Amy who was going to survive no matter what life threw at her.
. . .
She…sank gratefully onto a chair, wondering all the while which, out of all the Amys she'd been in her life thus far, was the real one? And which one would come to the fore if he should come into this café, looking at her with all that masculine hunger?
She reached for the sticky pastry the waiter had just brought and took a large bite, wondering if it might be a new Amy altogether. An Amy who was so sick of people assuming the worst of her that might just as well be bad.
She licked her lips, savouring the delicious confection. She sipped her drink with a feeling that before she left Paris, there was a distinct possibility she was going to find out.
He, of course, is Nathan, who also felt betrayed by Amy and went on to live a scandal-filled life after they parted. He is in Paris making his way as an artist and finding the life quite liberating.
Once he'd done with her, perhaps he would be free of the bitterness that had steadily grown through his twenties, the rage that made him cruel to his friends, callous towards women and so reckless of his reputation even his father had been forced to agree there was nothing for it but to send him abroad.
Paris symbolizes a new start for both Amy and Nathan, not just in their individual lives, but also, perhaps, a new start for them together.
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Cheryl Sneed reviews for Rakehell.com.