M. E. Almaguer
There’s something so loveable about the bluestocking/rake trope, even though I’ve read it countless times. As long as writers find new and interesting ways to make each story unique and original, I’m happy to read them. And a bluestocking scientist is even more fun. Pippa from Sarah MacLean’s wonderful One Good Earl Deserves a Lover and Minerva from One Week to Be Wicked by Tessa Dare come to mind. Here, in Suzi Love’s very amusing Scenting Scandal, we encounter another smart young woman (along with her intelligent and scientifically-minded siblings) who is determined to find her perfect mate by his smell. Yes, you read that right, by his olfactory qualities. Lady Laura Jamison is an aromatherapist who uses herbs and carefully documented scientific experiments to conduct her tests but the one man she is inexorably drawn to doesn’t match her olfactory trials, darn it! If this sounds a bit silly at first, you won’t be laughing long when you read this thoroughly charming love story.
"Something about his soap-scented linen shirt nagged at her senses, a tiny incongruence she’d ponder later in her distillery." (p30)
Richard, the Earl of Winchester—and I couldn’t help but think of Jane Austen’s family joke about the name, Richard, as I read it—is an old friend of the family, a typical gentleman aristocrat who has taken mistresses over the years and is now charged with acting as protector to the two youngest Jamison daughters, Lottie and Laura, while his cousin, Sherwyn, a duke, and the ladies’ sister, Becca, are on their honeymoon. He doesn’t relish the idea, but he doesn’t mind in the least being close to “Luscious Laura.” He is terribly attracted to the raven-haired beauty and their good-natured and provocative sparring is the best part of this sweet romance.
But Richard has a shameful secret that he’s terrified the intellectual and brainy Laura will discover, so he pushes away all his feelings for her, desperately trying to not become too involved with her. But he cannot help himself as her fire, her intelligence, and her wit utterly fascinate and beguile him. And eventually undo him.
“To his misfortune, he noticed everything she did or said.” (p20)
Laura is a strong and willful heroine, as astute as she is attractive. She has a lovely no-nonsense quality about her that allows her to pursue her scientific interests yet leaves her time to tend to her close-knit family and her bravery surprises Richard at every turn, especially when they encounter danger. She is no man’s fool and can tell a simpering dandy from a mile away.
“It wasn’t in her nature to expect a gallant knight to scoop her up and carry her across a muddy road. She’d rather grab whatever was on hand and build her own bridge across.” (p43)
What is odd, however, but perhaps in keeping with Richard’s determination not to deflower a virgin—not to mention her brothers would kill him—is that their love is never fully consummated! They do pretty much everything but the deed and this surprised me considering how highly-charged their encounters were. I can’t help but feel a wee bit let down but the story is so fun to read, the pace moves along at a nice energetic clip, and the hero, heroine, as well as all the minor characters, are all interesting and enjoyable to read, that I can’t mind too much.
Richard is a smooth, funny, and magnetic gentleman, the perfect strong and protective foil to Laura’s inquisitive nature, one that drives him to distraction. The very qualities that vex him—her keen curiosity, her meticulousness, and her desire to explore more of the world—delight and captivate him. He knows a life with her as his wife will never be dull, which makes his ridiculous determination to seek a dull and boring wife all the more silly. And her unwillingness to consider him as a suitor because he doesn’t match her scientific experiments makes for some hilarious moments.
The humor in this book is lighthearted and infectious. The Jamisons are a loving and close-knit bunch, despite the fact that the patriarch of the family prefers to be away on archaeological digs. Their loyal and quirky servants are all former criminals, saved from a harsh life, Lottie provides comfort to Laura while Aunt Aggie manages the home fires.
“It was a Jamison family joke that even if the sky was falling to earth, Aunt Aggie would still manage to ring the bell for tea and cakes.” (p126)
The mystery element in this story is secondary but it becomes the impetus for our hero and heroine to fall in love. They are thrown together in their search and determination to stop a greedy woman from forming an illegal share trading syndicate and the dangerous moments make for an entertaining and exciting read. It also allows both Laura and Richard to see each other in a new and attractive light.
Though this is the second book in a series featuring a family of scientist siblings, I didn’t feel I was missing anything and can be read as a standalone.
”’Sweetheart, if anything happened to you, my heart would forever be empty.’” (p116)
“'I don't think love remembers to follow any of the rules of science. Love veers off the straight and narrow pathways simply to trick those of us with analytical minds. The strategy then is to recognize when we've been wrong, admit our mistakes, and move on.'” (p276)
If you enjoy witty and sizzling conversation, a meeting of the minds of two people destined for each other, and a mystery to boot, you will find much to like in this engaging romance.
A modified version of this review first appeared on Romantic Historical Reviews.