Forever / January 7, 2014 / $5.69 digital
Proper young ladies of the ton—especially ones who have very small dowries—are not encouraged to have an interest in intellectual pursuits. Indeed, the only thing they are encouraged to pursue is an eligible bachelor. Preferably one with both a title and a fortune. So, the headstrong, opinionated Sloane sisters must keep their passions a secret.
Cara Elliott's Scandalously Yours uses the plot from the Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan movie Sleepless in Seattle as a starting point, specifically the bit where Jonah (Hanks' son) calls into a radio talk show in an effort to find his father a new wife. One of my favorite aspects of that movie is the father/son relationship.
Prescott's mother died more than a year ago while his father John, the Earl of Wrexham, was in Portugal, fighting in the war. John is home now, but things are a bit strained at the Manor.
“Yes, I miss her awfully.” Prescott swiped his sleeve across his eyes. “And Father never laughs anymore, and the Manor is always so quiet. I overheard the housekeeper say that we need a lady's touch to add cheer to our lives. Mayhap she's right, but…” He blew out his breath. “But I have to prevent Father from making a Big Mistake.”
John has been thinking of remarrying and has set his sights on Lady Serena, a very proper young lady whom Prescott has dubbed “The Steel Corset.”
“Though I'm not supposed to say it aloud. That's what Lucy and I call her, on account of how she walks and talks.” Sucking in his cheeks, he stiffened his face into a hideous grimace. “Wrexham, fetch my smelling salts! Your son has a spot of jam on his chin.”
This will not do at all, so Prescott sends an advertisement for a new mother to a London newspaper. His letter becomes all the rage and he is inundated with replies, selecting the one from “Lady Loose Screw” as the perfect candidate.
“Just read it, Father,” insisted Prescott. “Please.”
John rang for a fresh pot of coffee before gingerly picking up the paper.
“Who the devil is Lady Loose Screw?” he finally demanded, once he had read over it twice.
“My new mother,” blurted out Prescott.
John nearly dropped a cup of the scalding brew in his lap.
“Of all the applicants, she is the only one who measured up.”
Undaunted by the earl's oath, the boy went on in a rush, “As you see, she likes books and philosophy, she knows how to cast a fly and ride astride, she doesn't mind frogs and mud. And she is really quite funny. In a word, she's perfect, Father.”
Mother. Applicants. Replies. The words stirred a dire foreboding.
“Do you mean to tell me it was you who placed the advertisement in the Morning Gazette?” John spoke softly, trying to keep his outrage from boiling over.
“Yes.” The tilt of his son's chin was no doubt a mirror image of his own tightly clenched jaw.
John is horrified, but also saddened to realize how much his relationship with his son has deteriorated.
Had he turned to naught but a martinet in his son's eyes?
The notion cut to the quick. He wanted desperately to do the right thing, but perhaps, after so long away on the battlefields of Spain, he had lost all sense of how to be a good father.
In his desperation to keep an appointment with Lady Loose Screw, Prescott stows away on the mail coach to London. When he learns of it, John is terrified and races after the coach, catching up to just outside London.
“Scottie!” His fingers, stiff with cold and fear, fumbled with the knots of the canvas covering the boot of the mail coach.
Near dizzy with relief, John yanked the cording free and pulled his shivering son into his arms.
“I'm sorry, I'm sorry,” gulped Prescott, his voice sounding very small within the folds of the earl's greatcoat.
“It's alright, it's alright.” Hugging the boy tighter to his chest, he tried to stop his hands from shaking.
“Y-you can birch me until my bum is black and blue, but please don't take me back to the Manor, Father,” begged Prescott. “I must go to London. I have a very important m-meeting with Lady Loose Screw, and a gentleman m-must always keep his appointments, isn't that so?”
John felt a lump form in his throat. Until now, he hadn't truly fathomed the depths of his son's despair. No doubt, Lady Serena would counsel a firm hand and a firm rod, but at the sound of snuffling against the wet wool he couldn't harden his heart to the appeal.
The Sleepless in Seattle parallels end about halfway through Scandalously Yours, for, if you remember the movie, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan don't actually meet until the last scene, and we can't have that in a romance, nor do we want it. John and Olivia (aka “Lady Loose Screw”) meet in the first chapter and have many encounters before either of them realizes their Prescott Connection. But I really enjoyed reading the growing relationship between father and son in Scandalously Yours.
Learn more or order a copy of Scandalously Yours by Cara Elliott, available January 7, 2014:
Cheryl Sneed reviews for Rakehell.com.