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After I finished reading Love and Other Scandals, Caroline Linden's characters lingered with me, and I was reluctant to let them go, so I picked up the next book in the series and read it. Abigail Weston and her sister, Penelope, are young, beautiful, and wealthy -- but they haven't gotten any serious offers during the season because their family is "new money" and no one knows the source of it. Rumours have ranged from shady deals to illegal activities. In her father's latest bid to "buy respectability," they have purchased a second house in Richmond.
Sebastian Vane is a recluse, but not by choice. His father, a once-well-respected member of society went mad, then disappeared one night -- and everyone thought Sebastian had killed him. The estate is near-bankrupt, but it is Sebastian's only legacy from his father, so he remains in Hart House, a presence that is barely tolerated.
The second novel in Linden's Scandals series features a very unique love triangle between two former friends, and the woman that surprisingly forges a bridge between them.
Sebastian is the tragic victim of rumors and speculation, and it's admirable how graciously and honorably he reacts to people's rudeness. When he meets Abigail for the first time, it is a renewing experience for him -- Abigail had no idea of the scandal that surrounded Sebastian and treated him with politeness and courtesy. It made Sebastian yearn for a different time in his life -- before the war, before his injury, and before his father's madness and disappearance -- he was popular, sought-after, and accepted. It is a dangerous dream for Sebastian, because he knows he has nothing to offer Abigail -- not even his good name or respectability -- but the heart wants what the heart wants -- and Sebastian is very fortunate that Abigail returns his feelings. The problem with Sebastian is that he doesn't know what to do with the love he has been given because it has been a very long time since Sebastian experienced any sort of affection, and he is, understandably wary. The bittersweetness of Sebastian's encounters with Abigail are very keenly-felt. It's amazing how the author was able to tinge each moment with both happiness and sadness.
She was also young, innocent, and wealthy. Beauty and innocence had no place in his life, and while the wealth would be a welcome change, he knew that was as likely as the King coming to call on him. He would have to avert his eyes when she passed and remind himself of the myriad reasons why she wasn't for him.
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I love Abigail. I love how practical and self-aware she is -- and I love how she doesn't allow her future to depend on any man. Abigail genuinely likes Benedict, and Benedict is really attracted to Abigail. Abigail knows she loves Sebastian, but, when she sees Sebastian's reluctance to take their relationship to the next level, she does not hesitate to consider her other options.
"It's not the same," he retorted.
"No, not at all." She glared at him. "You don't get to decide what I deserve. I would like you to show me passion -- and I know you could. But I want more than that."
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Benedict Lennox is the third part of this triangle. He also happens to be Sebastian's former best friend. What I love about Linden's triangle is that all sides are equal. The quarrel between Sebastian and Benedict started long before Abigail entered the picture, and Benedict clearly has the upper hand, but I appreciated how nicely he treated his rival. Despite their disagreement, he still gave Sebastian the benefit of the doubt. He doesn't stand in the way of Sebastian and Abigail, but he also isn't stepping aside either -- he genuinely believes that he and Abigail would deal well with each other, and he is just waiting for her to make her choice.
It Takes a Scandal highlights a character's agency and ability to exercise his free will. Sebastian had almost surrendered his life and had isolated himself already, and it took Abigail to make him realise that he had a say in how his future would pan out. He could've given up on Abigail and continued to wallow in the disdain and indifference of his neighbours -- or he could pick up the pieces of his life and try to move forward. Benedict could've blindly followed his father's instructions, but that would have meant losing his childhood best friend forever -- but, he chose to see with his own eyes and listen with his own ears, and make his own decision. But the author rewards her beloved characters for their determination -- and provides closure for everyone in her story.
His mouth firmed and he closed his hand around the cameo. He was an idiot. If he wanted the girl, he would have to win her. Every lady deserved to be courted, pursued, made to feel wanted. Through his own stubbornness and pride, he had made his task harder, but that didn't change the one settled fact in his mind and heart: he wanted her. He needed her. He loved her.
And if he had to fight to win her, he would fight to his last breath.
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What stands in the way of her characters' happily-ever-after is the question of Sebastian's father's disappearance. I thought the author was able to provide a good resolution to this.
It Takes a Scandal is book 2 in Caroline Linden's Scandal series. To find out more about Caroline Linden and her books, click below: