Anne Gracie’s excellent new romance, The Scoundrel’s Daughter, accomplishes the tricky task of telling two love stories within one book.
It begins with a goose, which Gerald Paton, Viscount Thornton, almost crashes his curricle to avoid running over. However, it is the goose girl who truly raises his ire by lecturing him on his reckless driving.
The goose girl, Lucy Bamber, has always been left behind with friends or distant relatives of her destructive, deviant father, Octavius. Deadened by constant rejection and resentment, she is immature and surly with everyone. After multiple unfortunate experiences with high and mighty (or, even worse, handsy) lords, she sees nothing wrong with taking Gerald down a peg.
Lucy and Gerald’s paths would never have crossed again if not for Octavius, who returns to Lucy’s life and ropes her into his latest scheme. He’s come into possession of some scandalous letters that could ruin Alice, Lady Charlton’s life. The widowed Alice has been forced to sell her household goods in order to pay off the debts of her selfish, profligate but thankfully dead husband. Lucy’s father threatens the already-vulnerable Alice with the release of her husband’s scandalous letters to his mistress unless she agrees to not only bring Lucy out into society, but to get her married to a lord.
As it turns out, Alice is Gerald’s aunt, and when she turns to him for help, he realizes that his aunt’s new charge is the goose girl who cost him his latest race. At first, Gerald believes that Lucy is a fraud who is preying on his beloved aunt. But as he gets to know Lucy, he quickly realizes that she is as much a victim in this scheme as anyone. His protective instincts roused, Gerald turns to his former commanding officer, James, Lord Tarrant, for help.
Both of the love stories in The Scoundrel’s Daughter are compelling, but Alice and James’ hesitant, hard-won romance is especially moving. Alice brimmed with life before her marriage, but her husband ruined her confidence and self-esteem by cruelly deriding her and flaunting his relationship with his mistress. The widowed father of three young girls, James has resigned his commission in the army to dedicate himself to his daughters. Gracie makes it clear from the very beginning that his take-charge attitude has been tempered with deep empathy. James’ patience allows him to see beyond Alice’s prickly demeanor, and he is consistently understanding of her fears surrounding matrimony.
The Scoundrel’s Daughter viscerally examines how cruel actions and words from Lucy’s father and Alice’s husband destroyed their young minds and hearts. Gracie carves out space in both romances to demonstrate how both women’s personalities blossom because of the love and respect they’re shown from the new men in their lives and because of their friendship with one another. This only makes The Scoundrel’s Daughter’s balancing act all the more impressive: Within these two love stories, Gracie paints a beautiful portrait of two women becoming fuller, happier versions of themselves.