"The Scandals of An Innocent" is book two of Nicola Cornick's early regency period trilogy. This series is set in Fortune's Folly, a fictional town in Yorkshire where the greedy 'Lord' has reinstated a Middle Ages 'Dames Tax' which will allow him to take up to half the fortune of every unwed woman of marriagable age after one year. Needless to say, every fortune hunter in the country has made his way to Fortune's Folly in an effort to wed an heiress; and the women of Fortune's Folly are literally under seige!
Alice is the young maid-turned-heiress who inherited a fortune from her last employer. While the money certainly made the lives of her, her mother, and her brother much easier, it has also brought about their horrible situation of 'not one nor the other'. They aren't ton, but they're not servants either. Alice HAS made some good friends, and she considered herself heartsore but lucky when the fortune hunter she cared for dumped her to woo a richer heiress. Unfortunately for her, now HE's back and still in need of her fortune...and he's got her over a barrel this time.
Miles has inherited not one, but two bankrupt estates. It's certainly not fair that HE wasn't the one to bankrupt them, but now he's saddled with trying to keep his family out of the poorhouse. A family estrangement and the horrors of war have removed every trace of caring from his being...at least that's what HE thinks. His situation is becoming desperate when he finally gets the break he needs--so he promptly blackmails Alice into an engagement.
I think most women like to read about 'bad boys'. We love our tormented heroes, our hard Alphas, and our regency rakes. BUT, we DO want to see them reforming. My beef with this story is that he really doesn't reform until the last few chapters of a 360-page read! For the vast majority of the book, he was a total A$$--constantly trampling Alice's feelings, not protecting her from the snobby locals, and being a jerk to just about everybody! How in the heck do I try and like a guy like that? Over and over again, he stressed to Alice that: 1-he was marrying her for her money; and 2-he was also happy that he would get to 'bed' her. What a guy, eh?
On the other hand, I did like Alice. She tried her best to deal with the jerk in a reasonable manner, even under duress. So having confessed that I hated the plot (well the nature of the hero and whole blackmail thing anyway), I CAN say that Nicola Cornick writes with lovely pacing and there's always a reason for the ongoing action in her stories. There's a bit of mystery (WHY is someone trying to kill Alice?) with small clues thrown here and there. I didn't figure out the 'bad guys' til the author did the unveiling at the very end. The supporting cast was a mostly likeable mishmash of family and friends that were first introduced in book one, "The Confessions of a Duchess". This story can stand alone with no problems, and as long as you can tolerate the jerk of a hero, you'll probably enjoy "The Scandals of An Innocent" much more than I did!