A Little More Scandal by Carrie Lofty is a recently released prequel to the author's Christie family series. Clocking in around 90 pages, this novella does the trick of bridging the gap between last year's Flawless, and the soon-to-be-released second book in the series, Starlight. I'll admit I had some reservations going into this story, as the hero is William Christie, the deceased robber baron father whose final will and testament plays a central role in each of the full-length novels starring the grown children. I'll be blunt, even though he's dead by the time those late Victorian set novels take place, the man comes off as a bit of a hard-ass. Opinionated and not one who believes in compromise. So exactly how is the author going to turn him into a hero for his own romance without morphing him into a pod person?
William Christie is a low-born Scot who has made his fortune the old-fashioned way - which is to say by any means necessary. His latest goal is to revive a struggling London newspaper, and to do that he needs Catrin Jones. A nurse during the Crimean War, Catrin was on her way back to England when the ship she was on sank, killing everyone on board except for her. Naturally now that she's back in London everyone, from the society mavens to the gossip rags, wants her story - which she is loathe to share. However she's a smart girl, and knows that she won't be the flavor of the moment for long. She'll string the wagging tongues along, for as long as she can, in order to land herself a husband.
Where this story excels is with Lofty's historical backdrop of mid-Victorian London. William is barely tolerated, mostly because he can buy and sell almost all of his "betters." So they invite him to parties and balls, but that doesn't mean they're welcoming him with open arms. He's still an uncouth Scot after all, one who has already buried a gently-born wife. Catrin is tolerated only because she's an amusement. A circus freak that society can trot out as a curiosity. And if she won't share with them the salacious details of either the war or the shipwreck? Well, they'll just make stuff up. Watching these two navigate shark invested waters puts a nice spin on the popular depiction of the Victorian era - which is to say everyone was sexually repressed, dressed in black, and keeping the smelling salts handy.
Where this story gets a bit murky is with the romantic couple - who, I'll be honest, are both a bit mercenary. William is classic robber baron and is not above the idea of seducing Catrin in the hopes of her pillow-talking her story to him. Catrin isn't above parlaying her notoriety into landing herself a man, preferably one who can comfortably take care of her and isn't a dreadful bore in (or out) of the bedroom. I can see some readers having issues with both of these characters, although I found them rather refreshing. William is pure Alpha hero and almost hearkens back to the "good ol' days" of historical romances (although he is blessedly not a rapist, so he's actually a step-up) and Catrin is a practical woman who knows exactly who she is, her place in society, and how she needs to spin both to come out ahead. Mercenary? Yes. Boring to read about? Not in the slightest.
This novella succeeds in giving readers an interesting setting, definitely different characters, and tiding over fans until Starlight comes out later this month. Lively dialogue and steamy love scenes spice up the proceedings. A nice, reasonably priced (currently only 99 cents!) read ideal for curious newcomers and readers already hooked.
Final Grade = B