SECRETS OF A SCANDALOUS MARRIAGE – Valerie Bowman
A Perfect 10
Secret Brides Trilogy , Book 3
St. Martin's Paperbacks
London, December 1816
Kate Townsende had a happy childhood growing up on her parents' farm. Then, at eighteen, she was seen, courted by, and wed to the Duke of Markingham. However, it wasn't long after the fairytale courtship and wedding that the marriage lost its luster. The duke became bored and left his naïve young wife alone in the country, paying ever fewer visits to her and making no effort to hide his infidelities.
Now, ten years later, Kate sits in the Tower of London, where many royal heads once resided...and a queen lost hers. Kate's accused of murdering her husband and awaits trial and execution. Kate saw no child or happy future for herself and wrote the duke a letter asking for a divorce. Markingham lost no time in rushing to confront Kate…bringing along his latest mistress! Someone shot the duke after a fierce argument by husband and wife. Kate had the misfortune of being the one who found him dead, and what is worse, she was found with his body by the mistress. The now notorious duchess is widely hated by high and low alike. The mob would like to lynch her…or burn her.
In contrast to Kate, James Bancroft had a childhood that was not happy at all. His mother died at his birth and he could never please his critical father no matter how he tried. Though his father is dead and James is now Viscount Medford, he still does everything right…so much so that Society calls him Lord Perfect. Yet James has a secret rebellion; he owns a printing press and publishes popular—and scandalous—pamphlets. He offers Kate money and help with her defense if she will write her story. It's to be called Secrets of a Scandalous Marriage . Kate doesn't care about money or reputation. What she wants is to really live in the time she has left. A bargain is struck, and James gets permission to take personal responsibility for her. Kate's surprised to find herself not in some country place—like her last ten years—but in Lord Medford's own London townhouse. Kate's story, as told to the barrister provided by James, had me glued to the pages.
Characterization in this work is deep and well done. Kate and James are highly likable characters, and so are his friends from previous books: SECRETS OF A RUNAWAY BRIDE and SECRETS OF A WEDDING NIGHT. (I had the pleasure of reviewing the first of the trilogy, but somehow missed the middle book and plan to get it soon.) Sisters Lily and Annie, now the Marchioness of Colton and Countess of Ashbourne, befriend Kate. They and their husbands add much to this riveting tale.
SECRETS OF A SCANDALOUS MARRIAGE works beautifully as a tale of suspense as well as a conflicted romance that blooms slowly under most difficult circumstances. I'm giving it one of RRT's rare Perfect 10s.